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30 September 2021

The first talk of the 2021-22 season was also the first time members were able to meet in person at our usual venue - the Friends' Meeting House in Cowl Street - since the start of the year in the interests of avoiding overcrowding, attendance at the talk was limited to Society members only; however members of the public - as well as Society members who did not wish to attend in person - could watch proceedings via Zoom.

Carmel Langridge, the Society Chairman, welcomed everyone present, as well as Zoom attendees, who included enthusiasts from Sicily, Canada and other parts of the UK. The geographical spread of these lookers-in reflected the wide interest in the subject of the evening's talk - medieval graffiti in the Evesham Churches. The speaker, Wayne Perkins, is an archaeologist of more than twenty years' experience who has worked in France and England. He currently lives in London where he undertakes Historic Building Surveys and supervises urban excavations in the City of London as well as rural excavations in the surrounding counties. He is currently researching medieval graffiti, ritual protection marks and ritual practices in the medieval buildings of England and France.

As well as mason's marks (and what we usually understand by graffiti nowadays) markings carved into the walls and other stone surfaces of medieval buildings can have a ritual significance and were intended to protect the building and its inhabitants from natural disasters and malignant forces. Such protective carvings include crosses (the saltire), Marian marks (the letter M, for Mary, and two inverted "Vs" (W meaning Virgin of Virgins)) and flower shapes with five or six "petals" - and can be found not just in the doorways and stone window sills of old buildings but at any point, such as chimneys, where entry may be gained by evil forces from outside. Crosses can be found carved on the doorstep of Welford-onAvon church, for example, and in the doorway of St Lawrence church, Evesham. The outline of the sole of a shod foot is also very common in medieval graffiti - shoes are associated with pilgrimage - and Wayne told us that a whole lecture could be devoted to the significance of footwear. Such carvings may be seen in the Lichfield chapel of All Saints Evesham, and at St Giles church, Bredon. Shoes are frequently found under the floors in medieval houses and seem to serve some protective function. Wayne showed the 17th century shoe found under the floorboards of the Abbey gatehouse in Evesham during its conversion to flats and offices: the shoe may now be seen in the Almonry Museum.

Also to be seen in the Almonry (and Wayne mentioned the Simon de Montfort room in particular), are intentionally made teardrop shaped bums (taper bums) made in the wood panelling to protect against fire by some process of sympathetic magic. Another example is to be found on a wooden door at Badsey church.

So interesting was the talk that the audience were reluctant to allow Wayne to finish, but finish he did, and there was a lively question and answer session involving those present and Zoom attendees

Medieval Graffiti in the Evesham Churches - by wayne perkins: What's On
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