Shimpling is a great name. It *sounds* like it ought to be standing proud on a spit of land somewhere on the coast; a diminutive David against the grey swollen Goliath of the ocean.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In reality it belongs to St George, and is tucked neatly inland, accessed by an avenue of lime trees and a pretty troll bridge.
 I have to say it, the church has good glass.
The 15th c tracery of this window shows a very visual representation of that *three in one* Holy Trinity idea (three circles interlocking with a triangle). It is a neat way of explaining how you can have something that is singular and tripartite all at the same time. There may have been a Trinity guild in Shimpling which would have had a guild chapel. I google it on my phone and find the odd oblique on line assertion that this is the case, but nothing really solid.
At this point I have given up and am busily reading the church notes, "The chevron shield on the left is a Hanningfield one". Not far away there is a Hanningfield green and a Hanningfield Farm (apparently a corruption of *hanging field* - how charming is that?) 
"The shield on the right is attributed to the Morley family" and the blue shield; well even I recognise the three crowns of St Edmund.

There are also beautiful sculptures in the church; a standalone mausoleum outside the church...

It has everything you could possibly want...
 .... including a detached fainting house in the churchyard.
Oh yes - this sensible looking building set apart from the church - is where you go to pass out if your corset is too tight. I kid you not ... go and google fainting house or fainting room and wonder at the strange repressed world of the 19th century female. This one even has a fire *for comfort*!

I have a feeling that fainting was a socially acceptable but very passive aggressive ruse to be employed against the patriarchy. Things get a bit too much? Retreat into unconsciousness. Not that I'm saying that corsets weren't dreadfully restricting; but you do see illustrations of women managing all sorts of strenuous actives in them without blacking out. However at the first sign of stress -  *THUMP* on the floor you fall (while the male in your life is left rummaging for the smelling salts).

The wasp waist may have left the building with the Victorians but the wasps are still welcome. Up in the tracery, minding their own business building their magnificent, sinewy spouted house. I watch them for a good 10 minutes pondering about the adjective *waspish* and how it is still applied to the female of my species.

The bulk of Shimpling's graffiti comes post corset and shows how, at times of high emotion people don't just faint, they carve out their hopes and wishes on the wall as well. Nice that there is a proliferation of love hearts.

The only piece of old graffiti I can find is a heavily abraided daisy wheel on the door jamb. Of course there may be more good stuff in the tower, but I'm here by myself and the door is locked.

There is some 18th c carving relating to a John Negus, of whom I can find nothing very much.
That and a tiny Marian mark, which surprises me as I thought there would be more.

Who were you Mr Negus and how did you end up carving your details here?
Were you married? Did you have to carry smelling salts?


Home is where the heart is (Erwarton)

The heart of a Queen nonetheless. Anne Boleyn's heart. Reputed to be buried within the Cornwallis vault that sits beneath the organ of Erwarton church.

It seems that where your heart ends up matters, even if that is a sentimental notion; and legend has it that Anne wanted hers to come back to the Shotley peninsula where she had been happiest as a child.

Suspending my disbelief I feel a great deal of sympathy with that notion. The peninsula has a very special atmosphere and I can think of far worse places to rest up. Driving out I pass church after church that I was itching to stop and look in, but I was already nearly an hour from home and the light was fading. I hadn't phoned ahead, I had little petrol and less phone battery.

So back to the narrative;  if Anne's uncle by marriage Sir Philip Parker did bring her heart back I wonder how he petitioned for it, and how it was given to him. The heart of an adulteress, incestuous, traitorous witch. Can I get a receipt for that?

Which is why I'm not convinced her heart is here - such a high profile prisoner would have left some kind of documentary reference should her heart have been released from her body.  But let us keep up the theme and speculate that maybe the seat of Anne's passion returned in a ship.

Because while there may or may not be a heart there are certainly ships at Erwarton. Faint echoes of ships locked away behind the panels that partition off the newly refurbished tower. Hulls, masts, rigging...all sea faring and ready for the off.

Ship graffiti reworked by M. Champion Norfolk/Suffolk medieval graffiti survey
These ships are old, but just to maintain the pedigree, there are some newer nautical scratches on the pews.
I find this graffiti while I'm waiting for the most lovely lady to come and open up. It seems that she has heard of the survey, and we gossip easily. She even lets me run up and down the tower while she waits and the dark gathers over the water.
After the ships there is a small amount of graffiti in the nave to capture.
A caricature...
kids flying kites..
.a date and set of initials
A shield scored with a few tally marks.
Finally the modern stuff. Look, there are hearts after all!

When I leave I ask my phone to find me a petrol station. With it's last flicker of battery it confidently informs me that the nearest petrol station is 2.7 miles away - in Harwich - over the estuary...
where is a ship when you need one?

Assington Jam

Well that is what it says, quite clearly....on the pillar.
"JAM" in big letters.
It's clearly a warning to all parents. Be careful what you name your child, because initials matter!
Now this is rather facile and silly of me - I know that. But relating to graffiti doesn't always have to be high brow and serious. I'm not a professional archaeologist, I can afford to crack the odd smile. 
Some of the graffiti isn't serious either!
Assington Church is lovely, just by the A134, and not always open: but there are wild herbs growing in the graveyard and on a late summer afternoon your footprints will crush them just enough to make them smell divine. This might sound somewhat rose tinted and romantic, but that doesn't stop it from being true. 
The graffiti isn't obvious, you have to poke about a bit and look. Which is good, it takes some (but not much) work. Provides a sense of achievement.
 So I might have let out a little squeak of pleasure when I came across this face. Because truly I wasn't expecting him to be hiding around a pillar - I thought I'd found all the graffiti. With his mouth open he's captured, mid word. 
 I'm not sure which came first, the eye or the face. The metal corrosion gives him a bleary red stare, as if he had one to many on the Saturday night in the Shoulder of Mutton and is now finding explaining the sermon hard work................
Bless him, I want to feed him a quintessentially English jam sandwich..

I went to Lidgate and all I got was these three photos

I could have done better, Lidgate is full to the brim with graffiti of all kinds! In my defence I went on  a Heritage open day and as a result I didn't have the place to myself. 

So I decided to leave the camera in its bag and listened instead to Matt Champion tell us all about the graffiti. He's the sort of person who is really passionate and knowledgeable about his subject but doesn't mind sharing it with enthusiastic and untutored.
While I flashed my ignorance for a bit, the rest of our party bought a reasonable amount of life to the churchyard - there were four kids, frogs and colouring (not on the frogs I hasten to add) and a small child who did quite a lot of shouting and falling over (she was adorable). One of the children made up his own graffito of a ship, and he was pretty good; which was uncanny seeing as there are no ships at Lidgate to copy.
At some point I realised that the children don't get hold of compasses in primary school, there they were colouring in the daisy wheels with never a thought as to how they were drawn.
 That's something I can remedy I thought. Compasses, kids, and a Monday morning mission (blunt ended compasses, I hasten to add, no children will be harmed in the teaching of geometry). We might even splash out and make a graffiti wall?

Before we went I did go around the outside of the church and picked this piece of graffito up. In the north door jamb was the word Histon. I know Histon, I had a summer job there. It is right next to Impington and not far from Girton, both good graffiti churches. 
Histon goes on the list :)


I like churches - no one else in my family likes then quite as much as I do. Brigit has a fondness for gargoyles and Agnes is partial to a bit of graveyard hide and seek, but I basically have to negotiate with everyone before I can feed my church graffiti habit.
This means that I don't have the luxury of flitting around. So I try to identify which churches might have graffiti in them. My Cautley gets pored over in bed of a night time. I look for the presence of wall paintings (because hopefully the place hasn't been lime washed to death), I plot aged fonts and the such like, then I plan and I hope.
This is a post about how that very sensible methodical approach totally fails.
Alderton has lovely Marian initials...

and good evidence of the presence of five pointed stars being congruent with Christian tradition (the five wounds of Christ).

The Wildman with his ragged staff is still chasing the now rather badly worn dragon around the top of the door arch...
                                              but there is stuff all graffiti in here.

I had hopes, hopes that there might be something in the porch, or in the ruined tower. I knew the church body had been rebuilt but the tower must have something. Sadly there was a sign saying that the tower was unsafe; and to add extra emphasis I was told the story of the poor 18th c cow who was in the wrong place when the tower decided to fall on it. Apparently this was during a service too, so there would have been lots of witness testimonies to the event. Bet they were glad the tower didn't collapse into the Nave. That would have given the coroner and the sexton a headache!
Time was I would have ignored the warnings and snuck into the tower anyway. But I decided that this would set a bad example to the children so I behaved myself.

No - that's a lie - I didn't behave myself. I grumped around inside and consoled myself with this substitute. It felt a bit like putting saccharine in your tea when all you want is two lumps of sugar. "Here lies the body of Harvey someone who died in November sometime". Distinctly underwhelmed.

I think the lions are laughing at me

Then I managed to find a tiny piece, very small on a tower pillar through a sort of grating 
A single 17th c letter J

Goodbye Girton

I had this half baked notion that I could catalogue every last little piece of graffiti in Girton and share it.

 I can't, I admit it. I was foolhardy and arrogant. So I'm giving up, gathering what modicum of grace I can muster and admitting that Girton will always be a place apart, if for no other reason than I spent time here as a child.

The Girton I knew as a little girl hasn't yet gone. Outside the church is the *rec* where we used to chase each other with stinging nettles and push each other into the ditches. Funny what you remember.

Anyway this church certainly gave me lots of scope to practice taking pictures. The clergy and parishioners were particularly welcoming  and I hope one day to come back and do the graffiti justice.

This is where the sacristan sits

The sacristan in this church is lovely, warm and accommodating. She has sat next to this pillar for 40 years, and yet she never noticed the graffiti. She comes to look with me.
I think it looks like a chalice, and a weather vane atop a building. I start to ask her what she thinks but when I turn to her I find that she is looking at me with wide eyes...
...and looking at the pillar before looking back at me again. She can't quite believe that she hasn't seen it before. I'm secretly enjoying it the moment, because I've experienced it myself and it is wonderful.

There are lots of other pieces of graffiti on the pillar but this is the one that really stands out, despite having being lime washed over...
                (and that's before I show her that I've just found a bowl design as well).

Truth be told - you don't really find anything in Girton, you sort of try not to fall over too much of it in one go.