Waltham Saint Lawrence, Graffiti Survey

Proposal for a Berkshire Medieval Graffiti Survey 
at Saint Lawrence church, Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire

This project is inspired by the recent interest in graffiti being ‘discovered’ in many churches around the UK.  It aims to bring the survey of graffiti in Berkshire under a structured scheme with the objective of encouraging the discovery, appreciation and preservation of graffiti.  This church, St Lawrences, Waltham St Lawrence, is the first in the series and will be a primer to establish the BAS approach to Graffiti Surveying.

This project is one of many examples of how according to its aims the Society and its partners undertake joint initiatives for advancing public education in the archaeology and history of the county of Berkshire.

This project is not only a learning opportunity for BAS members to survey the graffiti, but will also create opportunities for the church community and local residents to learn more about graffiti in general and specifically the graffiti present in this church.  The church will benefit from the knowledge of the location and type of the recorded graffiti and possible a new area of interest in the church.  Both the local communities and the church’s new knowledge and interest should go towards building a lasting appreciation of the existence, and hopefully preservation of the graffiti. 

It is expected that the graffiti discovered will contribute to and extend the interest in the local history of the village, through the possible the discovery of names, dates, initials and pictures (amongst other things).

May 2023

Ten BAS members enjoyed their graffiti training, learning to find and record medieval graffiti; this took place on Friday 12th and Saturday 27th of May at Waltham St Lawrence parish church as part of the ongoing recording of the graffiti there.

Initially James took people through what graffiti can be found in Berkshire, what those graffiti may represent and where in a building they are often found. We then explored the church discovering graffiti, finding people’s initials, dates, roman numerals, butterfly symbols, crosses, a horse/stag and stylised bird, some possible music… These were found on the exposed stonework of the columns and piers, at ‘human height’ (some 0.5 to 1.5m) by using a ‘raking’ light (a torch shone at a shallow angle across the graffiti). 

Taking photos with raking light

We looked at how to take photographs to record the graffiti, making sure we took a good record shot. Ensuring the photograph was ‘square on’ to the graffito and included a photographic scale for reference. Several photographs are taken of each graffito with the raking light coming from different directions to highlight all the scratches of the graffito.

Example of graffiti

Waltham St Lawrence is a good hunting ground for graffiti – many items have been discovered both inside and out. We hope to be running some more graffiti discovery events for BAS members and the local community at the church in the near future and hope to be able to contribute when the church takes part in Open Heritage Days in September. With a team of trained graffiti surveyors, we now are planning to survey more churches in the county. 

Please contact James Peddle at  BMGS(at)berksarch.co.uk   if you are interested, giving which of the days you would prefer.

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Exploring the archaeology, history and heritage of Berkshire