The Scarlett Merchant Mark part 1



Dragon from Wiston (wallpainting of the Dragon/ Wyrm)
People go to Wormingford to romanticise about Dragons . After all, it was a dragon that terrorised the countryside and gave the village its name.

Bures, Wiston and Wormingford all lay various claims to this beast, and the locals postulate about whether the Wyrm was really a dragon, or an escaped crocodile from the royal menagerie in London... and whether or not the body of the Dragon lies in the silty bottom of the Mere.

 But I went to Wormingford because it is mentioned in Violet Pritchard's book "English Medieval Graffiti".
 
17th c "JS" "CS" and "RT"



I wasn't expecting to have my imagination captured by several sets of  17th c initials and a date of 1673... despite it keeping good company with something called a "Merchant mark". The graffiti scratches are sometimes light, sometimes heavy. I had to use a really strong raking light and lots of contrast to get some of them. That globe shape with a flag or a backwards number 4 protruding from the top would appear to be the merchant mark of the Scarletts.
 



"TS 1673" and merchant mark
Merchant marks are different from Mason's marks, often being more elaborate than the straight angular lines made by the masons. The merchant mark was used by individuals, families and guilds to identify themselves and their wares.

I've seen merchant marks before. They aren't that unusual. The Springs of Lavenham used quite a numeric looking mark (they were involved in the cloth trade and were wealthy enough to have their bequests to the church memorialised on a boss incorporated into the rood screen).


Paycockes' merchant mark


The Paycockes of Coggeshall employed a three ball split stave as their mark.  I like the way that the Paycockes' mark is contained within a shield. It is like a poor man's coat of arms (or should I say a *well to do* middle class but *not quite knightly* faux coat of arms).

 
 



"SH" "T Scarlett 1673" and merchant mark
The merchant marks at Wormingford would suggest that the Scarlett family have been busy.
T. Scarlett appears twice with the merchant mark and at least once with just his initials. I suppose that this doesn't mean that the same person scratched all the TS graffiti. I'm assuming here that T stands for Thomas. But Thomas could have been a name shared by grandfather, father and son.

So I started with an assumption and a date. It is as good a place as any to start, and if nothing else gives a bit of context. The restoration of Charles II had occurred some thirteen years previously. The Great Plague and Fire of London only eight and seven years before. The Test Act of 1673 which excluded from public office all those who refused to take the oath of allegiance, or receive communion according to the rituals of the Church of England and renounce the doctrine of transubstantiation showed how much religious tension there was within the kingdom. 

Then I decided to go sideways. Where would I find online records that would be likely to capture wealthy merchant families? What resource could I use? Then I realised, I had spoken with the keyholder who had told me quite a bit about his life including his schooling...Check the schools!
very faint "C Scarlett 1673"

Well actually check the one school. The Colchester Royal Grammar. The same school that the keyholder had attended has provided some sort of education for the surrounding district since 1206.

This is what I found...firstly a C. Scarlett who was admitted to the school on the 25th of June 1672. That wasn't the name I was looking for but it did marry up with one of the other Scarlett names.



Then C Scarlett became one "Christopher Scarlett" and was joined by a "Thomas Scarlett" and finally a "John Scarlett". Interesting, not in the least because the funny I initial with the cross bar is the seventeenth century way of representing a J.

So we have a JS a C Scarlett and a T Scarlett all in graffiti in the pillars, all cropping up in the Grammar school records.
Very faint "TS"

Finally I found that the sons of John Scarlett (gentleman) and Frances (his wife) the first being born at (West) Bergholt in 1659, the second at Wormingford born 1660 and the third at Copford? born 1662 were all admitted to the Grammar. The first in his 14th year, the middle boy in his 13th year and the third in his 11th year.

This might all be pure co-incidence, but if it isn't then why were three Grammar schoolboys scratching their names, and a merchant mark on the pillars of the church where the middle boy was born?

A middle boy who it is recorded "excels the two others in ability and industry".... and the trail doesn't end there - there is a 17th c house called Scarletts in West Bergholt that needs some investigation.