Thursday, 24 November 2011

Andrew's Horse...

Figure 1: Please click on image in order to enlarge

Members of the Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers were among those who assembled on Saturday 19th November at the wonderful church at Barton Turf, Norfolk, to learn more about medieval graffiti. The archaeologist and author, Matthew Champion, from the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey, led a fascinating training session for a group of over twenty people.

Later, we explored the church in search of pre-Reformation images and inscriptions. One pillar in particular proved to be a graffiti 'hot-spot'. A small group were huddled around this area when Andrew, standing slightly behind the rest, observed that there was a horses head graffito immediately below the cluster of intersecting circles - and there it was...

... a beautifully rendered head of a horse! A real beauty! These ancient walls are full of surprises. I was particularly struck by the wonder of this discovery, as I had done the preliminary survey of this church and had missed this little gem entirely. There are some lessons here perhaps. Sometimes we need many pairs of eyes in order that one can see what is staring us in the face. Another conclusion might be that it sometimes pays to stand back and see things from another perspective. It also pays to ask questions. For instance, if someone took the time to draw this horse, did it once have a rider? Matt Champion was intelligent enough to follow this line of enquiry and mentioned it to me. I suggest that you take a good look at figure 1 (above).

I think I see the very faintest trace of a helmeted figure just to the right of the cross-hatching above the circles. Whether this and the horse are related I am not sure. What I do know is that for those Ragged Ramblers present on that cold Saturday, Andrew's horse was the highlight of the day.



  1. My names Dot and I live in the East End. I say cut their hands off!

  2. Dear Pernickety Snicket,

    In answer to your question: I have, on occasion, received reports of R.S.A.R. members fervently licking the wall of an ancient building. I am not quite sure as to the motivation behind this curious bevaviour, but imagine it to be a frenzy of the imagination leading to an attempt to commune and conjoin with the site's ancient past through imbibing, and becoming one, with the structure. Such is the nature of this diverse, unruly, esoteric collective... Huzzah!

  3. That's a nice horse-head. The compass-drawn circles are absolutely everywhere - it must have been a bit of a fad, like the way youths used to bore cup-holes in the walls of cinemas with a coin in the 40s and 50s, whilst queuing up to see a film.

  4. An interesting view Tom and one that can't be dismissed. Certainly as Matthew Champion states, graffiti does attract grafiti, but is it simply slavish copying, or are there still symbolic practices going on here? Perhaps a bit of both