Monday, 23 June 2014

Victorian Graffiti at Christ Church, Norwich

Whilst walking along Denmark Road in the North of Norwich, I noticed some Victorian graffiti etched into all of the ashlar stone dressings in the church's graveyard wall. In particular, this finely carved name - 'H. Cooke 1857' - caught my eye. 

This stone, with the etched lines containing the writing, looked almost like the work of a Victorian school child. Intrigued, I resolved to return later and take a proper look at the church. I'm glad I did!

Returning, I approached the Victorian gothic west face of the church and then made my way over to look at the ashlar on the interior of the graveyard wall. 

Straight away I saw this lovely little graffito carved by a 14 year old in 1875. Strange to think of him standing on this very spot, carving away. I must confess, I didn't hold out much hope of finding anything of interest graffiti-wise on the exterior of the church itself. However, I was to be very pleasantly surprised...

Among the plethora of names carved on the brick dressings of the buttresses was this intriguing concentration of extremely high-quality graffiti. The level of technical accomplishment, together with the date (1841), immediately made me wonder if these names were carved by the original builders of the church. Researching this, I was delighted to find that the church was completed in 1842, thus tying in beautifully with my thesis. These are, then, most probably a form of 'foundation stone' left by the builders themselves. Indeed, the records probably survive that could corroborate this. 

I find it pleasing to see the 'hand' and names of those who built the structure memorialised in this way. Strange, also, to think that when they were building this church it would have stood in open land. Nowadays, it is part of an inner-city suburb, bounded by busy roads. 

Finally, among the many names carved into the bricks, I noticed this single 'J'. Why was this never completed I wonder? Was 'J...' caught in the act of carving this and deterred from continuing his (it was probably a 'he') endeavour? Fascinating!

~ Munro Tweeder-Harris Esq ~

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