Ritual Marks On Timber…a late example or re-used timber?

Historic graffiti can be found etched into various materials other than masonry and an example exists here, at St Peter & Paul’s, Schorne in Kent. A number of large compass-drawn circles – along with a row of neatly interlocking forms – can be discerned among a palimpsest of initials and the usual choirboy nonsense cut into the wooden paneling of the late-19th century organ. The marks are almost concealed by the parclose screen which divides the main chancel from the north chancel (and aisle). Late survivals of graffiti are known (but rare) and it is generally agreed among experts that most graffiti symbols – specifically those used as apotropaics – fade from use by mid-to-late 19th century. On the surface, it appeared that marks had been made onto an organ casing installed in the 1880’s, so this would have been quite a rare example indeed. However, a little research has shown that the organ had been installed to replace a much earlier ‘barrel’ organ bequeathed by a Mrs Keating around 1815. It transpires that a panel of this first organ was recycled and used to supplement the paneling of the replacement (Allen 2019). As the marks appear to be restricted to one area of the casing, this may explain the presence of the ritual protection marks which had been made at an earlier time and on the original paneling. The church contains a wide range of graffiti from apotropaics to initials, dots, faux heraldry and crosses – with a particular concentration around the north-west pillar in the north aisle which once housed a chapel to St John the Baptist.

A series of overlapping, intricately cut compass drawn circles c. 20mm in diameter
The smaller circles are accompanied by a whole palimpsest of graffiti – some mundane initials included – as well as several large overlapping circles.

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