The Writing's on the Wall: St Mary's, Maddington

“Restored in 1854 by TH Wyatt” is not a phrase that resonates well with Wiltshire Medieval Graffiti Survey. Often restoration involves the heavy cleaning of stone and the liberal application of lime whitewash, which hinders efforts and indeed loses the graffiti until the next round of restoration unveils it. St Mary’s hasn’t succumbed as much as others, however, and has revealed some gems. 

These include compass-drawn, apotropaic hexafoil, which had been deliberately left incomplete. This is an historic symbol steeped in spiritual protection, capturing the evil eye. Hexafoils allow the housing of many geometric shapes and angles within the circle which may enhance the protection ability, but also offer understanding on a more material plane of geometry, angles and architectural construction.

© WMGS

The porch at Maddington hosts a small tribute in the form of shears or scissors. This may be indicative of textile or agriculture, both important local components of industry.

There is also some belief that some inscription may have been made with this versatile tool which as in the case of scissors could be a permanent fixture in daily apparel. This is a rare inscription in Wiltshire with so far only one comparable example recorded.

© WMGS

A piece of finely inscribed scripture that requires further scrutiny was also recorded. This eroded piece has been placed at a peculiar angle so that it is not visible to general traffic, however its position near to a window may allow visibility at certain times of the day or year. For now it remains an enigma.

© WMGS

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This information was provided by the Wiltshire Medieval Graffiti Survey (WMGS). In late 2015, this group began recording graffiti in churches under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust in Wiltshire. Their work has involved fortnightly visits by a dedicated team, where local people are invited to take part and gain an alternative view of the fabric of their church.

The variety of historic graffiti has been immense from personal initials, often with a date, to enigmatic symbolism that has its roots in protection of a sacred space.

To record the inscriptions, a multi-LED torch was used at a sharp, oblique angle in order to emphasise shadowing of the incision, often referred to as a “raking light”. The result can “reverse” the incision into a positive relief rather than negative, making for easier interpretation.

Further detail can be captured using Photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (R.T.I).

Each image taken is referenced on a photo log sheet detailing the surveyors, a brief description and the all important photo frame number.

The group's work has been submitted to the Historic Environment Record. It has been submitted in a standardised form to ensure consistency in reporting. The advantages of this include access to, and correlation of material on a national level will enhance understanding across the country not just on a county level.

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