Illustrated Talks 2023

Main image: Graffiti covers the image of Robert de Shurland, Minster Abbey church, Isle of Sheppey.  Photo © W Perkins 2020.

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Illustrated Talks 2023.

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Friday 3rd February 2023, @ 7.30pm £5

‘The Medieval & Historic Graffiti  in the Borough of Swale.’

Effigy of the ‘Unknown Yorkist,’ Minster Abbey, Isle of Sheppey. Photo © W Perkins 2020.

The Swale encompasses the Isle of Sheppey as well as the towns of Sittingbourne & Faversham, all of whom have their own array of unique churches. Surveys undertaken in these ancient buildings have recorded a fascinating corpus of medieval and historic graffiti (including inscriptions and figurative art) which will be discussed in this illustrated talk.

Many of the marks are so-called ‘ritual protection marks’ – also known as ‘apotropaics’ (from the Greek, ‘to turn away evil’) whose purpose appears to have been was to defend the buildings against evil spirits, to protect them from the evil eye and, in some cases, to act as counter-witchcraft measures.

Many of the apotropaic marks concentrate around the doors and windows of the Abbey Minster Gatehouse. Photo: © W Perkins 2021

The talk will begin with a study of the medieval buildings within the area of the Swale and then expand the discussion to compare the corpus of graffiti and inscriptions with regional, national and international examples.

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

‘In persononly

Sheppey Little Theatre, Meyrick Road, Sheerness ME12 2NX

Hosted by: Sheppey Little Theatre

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Tuesday 14th February 2023 @7.30pm


Ightham Mote. Photo: © W Perkins 2020

At Ightham Mote, Kent, a preliminary survey of the 14th century moated manor uncovered a series of apotropaic marks & evidence for past ritual practices. It appears that the intention had been to ward against the evil eye and to act, in some cases, as anti-witchcraft measures.

Apotropaic graffiti was found cut into the masonry of the building and many timbers displayed ritual ‘taper burn marks’ intended to inoculate the house against fire, lightning and ill-fortune.

Intentional ‘taper burn marks’ were found on both ‘portable’ objects like this chair as well as on structural timber elements that comprised the building frame itself.
Photo: © W Perkins 2020

Further evidence came to light for the deployment of magical objects such as old boots and shoes concealed within the fabric of the building.

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

In Person & Zoom

Ightham Village Hall, Sevenoaks Road, Ightham TN15 9HA.  Signposted with car park.

Hosted by: Ightham Women’s Institute


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Thursday 16th February 2023 @ 7.45pm for 8pm.

The Sittingbourne Cache of over 500 objects. Many were soiled or broken whilst the fabric items had been tied in a knot -another ‘ritual’ act within the act of concealing the objects themselves.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021

Archaeologists regularly discover large collections or ‘caches’ of clothing deliberately concealed within the fabric of 16th & 17th century buildings.

Much of the clothing is heavily worn, soiled and patched, showing numerous repairs whilst many of the objects have been deliberately broken or ritually ‘killed.’

The term ‘spiritual midden’ was coined for such a collection of objects. A well-documented cache was discovered during the demolition of the Old Plough Public House in Sittingbourne, Kent by two members of the Sittingbourne Museum team. Over 500 objects were recovered which included old & patched clothing, tools & children’s toys.

A set of 17th century women’s stays – worn, repaired but which had been placed ‘with care’ below the floorboards of the house.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021

What do spiritual middens constitute? Foundation deposits? Sympathetic Magic? Apotropaic evil-averting agents? Were they considered to possess a protective function against incoming malevolent forces? Were they created to counter the threat of the witch’s familiar?

*In an archaeological context, the word ’midden’ is used to denote not only a ‘rubbish heap’ but perhaps a deposit composed of specifically chosen and curated objects. In some instances, different objects are juxtaposed against other items which to create new ‘meanings’ or ‘symbols.’

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

A Zoom Presentation

Hosted by: Viktor Wynd & The Last Tuesday Society.


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Tuesday 28th February 2023 @ 7.30pm

‘John Schorn: the Rector Who Conjured the Devil Into A Boot.’

14th Century Pilgrim Badge depicting John Schorn.
Courtesy of Lionheart Replicas.

‘John Schorn-the Rector Who Conjured the Devil into a Boot’ recounts the story of one of England’s ‘folk’ saints to whom many miracles were attributed!

In the 14th century his shrine became the third most popular after Canterbury & Walsingham yet, mysteriously, he remained uncanonised!

‘Master,’ ‘Maister’ or ‘Sir’ John Schorn(e), Rector of North Marston, Buckinghamshire died 1314, reputed to have miraculous powers of healing sickness. He is said to have struck the ground with his staff from which a spring gushed forth. The water was said to be excellent for curing the ‘ague’ (malaria) and gout!  

Medieval drawings and wall paintings show him carrying a boot containing a small devil which he made appear/disappear as symbol of his power, supposedly the origin of Jack-in-the-Box.

Following his death, the little church of North Marston became a place of pilgrimage. A number of wayside Inns held the name ‘The Boot’ as pilgrims made their way to and from North Marston on their way to Canterbury.

Join us in the ‘Territory of Grace’ en route to his shrine and delve deep into the psychogeography of the pilgrims’ mythic landscape and learn the truth behind the John Schorn legend!  

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins.

‘In Person’ only

Hosted by: London Fortean Society

Venue: The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street E1 7EX (Tubes: Liverpool Street, Aldgate, Aldgate East)

Tickets: £5/£3


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Saturday 11th March 2023 @ 1pm.

‘ Historic Graffiti & Ritual Protection Marks in the Worcestershire Churches’

Copious amounts of graffiti create a palimpsest of symbols, letter and initials within the porch of St Nicholas, Pinvin, Worcestershire. The church claims that the reclaimed stone blocks were re-used following the demolition of Evesham Abbey.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021

An ongoing survey of the churches within the county of Worcestershire has recorded a large corpus of Medieval and historic graffiti and inscriptions. As well as recording a large quantity of initials and dates, a number of so-called ‘ritual protection marks’ or ‘apotropaics’ have been identified which seem to have been added to the building to provide another layer of protection. These may have been made to address a range of cultural fears of the day which would have included a desire to avert the evil eye (or being overlooked), the presence of unwanted spirits or demons or the threat of malignant witchcraft (malficium).

A partial ‘daisy wheel’ or six-petalled rosette design cut into the pews at St Nicholas, North Littleton.

Photo: © W Perkins 2020

The talk will illustrate a range of these within the county then open out the discussion to compare the corpus with regional, national and international examples.

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

‘In Person’ only

Hosted by: South Worcestershire Archaeology Group (S.W.A.G.)

Venue: Callow End Village Hall, Upton Road, Callow End, Worcestershire WR2 4TA

Tickets: Members free. Guests £2


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Friday 17th March 2023 at 7.30pm

‘Historic Graffiti & Ritual Protection Marks in the Church of the Holy Cross, Waltham Abbey’

View east down the main axis of Waltham Abbey towards the altar.
Photo: © W Perkins 2022

The Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross and St Lawrence has been a place of worship since the 7th century. The present building dates mainly from the early 12th century and contains some fine examples of Norman architecture.

The Legend of the Holy Cross

At the beginning of the 11th century, the church and manor of Waltham were held by an Anglo-Danish Thegn called Tovi the Proud. A legend, recorded in the 12th-century De Inventione Sanctœ Crucis Nostrœ (“The Discovery of our Holy Cross”) or “Waltham Chronicle”, relates that, in about 1016, the blacksmith at another estate belonging to Tovi, at Montacute near Glastonbury, found a large black flint (or marble) crucifix buried at the top of a hill, after a dream.

Tovi had the cross loaded onto an ox-cart, but the oxen would only go in one direction and continued every day until they reached Waltham, a journey of some 150 miles. This Holy Rood or Cross was installed at the church and soon became the subject of pilgrimage.

Tovi is said to have rebuilt the church, but modern evidence suggests that he probably retained the 8th-century fabric of the building.

Concentrations of graffiti on some of the north east piers are palimpsests or aggregations formed over long time periods and incorporating a bewildering variety of symbols.
Photo: © W Perkins 2022

Waltham was one of the largest church buildings in England and a major site of pilgrimage; in 1540 it was the last religious community to be closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is still an active parish church for the town.

The present-day church consists of the nave of the Norman abbey church, the 14th-century lady chapel and west wall, and a 16th-century west tower, added after the dissolution.

King Harold Godwinson, who died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, is said to be buried in the present churchyard.

An Illustrated talk by Wayne Perkins

In Person & via Zoom.

Baptist Church, Paradise Road, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1RL.

Hosted by: Waltham Abbey Historical Society

Details & registration:

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Tuesday 11th April @ 8pm

Intentional taper burn marks in the rear of the south door at Hoo St Werburgh, Hoo Peninsula.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021

For the last 25 years archaeologists have been recording taper burn marks on Medieval and historic building timbers. They are now understood to be the material trace of applied ‘pyro-technology’ – a ritual act intended to protect the building from harm.

A taper burn mark can be identified by its ‘tear drop’ shape – not unlike that of a candle flame – being round at the base and narrowing to a point, which is the result of the way the flame was applied to the timber.

Its characteristic shape is the result of a ‘controlled’ flame having been deliberately applied to a timber element within a building using a taper. A taper is described as a long, thin candle used for lighting fires, whose design was intended to create a long, steady flame.

Intentional taper burn marks located high up in the roof of Bredon Manor Barn, Worcestershire.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021
Intentional taper burn marks located high up in the roof of Bredon Manor Barn, Worcestershire.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021

Early interpretations for taper burn marks concluded that they may have functioned as inoculation against fire through an act of sympathetic magic. However, their apotropaic potential has also been acknowledged.

In the 16th century, a leaflet claimed that the burn marks on the back of the door at Blythburgh church were the work of the devil dog Black Shuck.

Spatial analysis of each assemblage of taper burn marks has revealed that concentrations often occur predominantly on the fireplace lintels of the buildings as well as around timber door and window frames – apotropaic marks added to ward against the unwelcome guest.

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

A Zoom Presentation

Hosted by: Viktor Wynd & The Last Tuesday Society.


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Friday 21st April 2023 @ 7.30pm.

‘ Incendiary Behaviour: Evidence for Ritual Protection Marks at Lullingstone Castle’

The gatehouse to Lullingstone Castle contained a high level of ritual activity (c) W Perkins 2022.

Lullingstone Castle is a historic manor house, set in an estate in the village of Lullingstone and the civil parish of Eynsford in the English county of Kent. It has been inhabited by members of the Hart Dyke family for twenty generations including current owner Tom Hart Dyke.

The gatehouse was constructed in the late 16th century. Built by Sir John Peche, it is believed to be one of the first in England built entirely of brick. Only the outer gatehouse remains – the inner gatehouse was demolished in the 18th century.

Ritually-applied taper burn marks on one of the bressumiers (timber fireplace lintels) in the Gatehouse (c) W Perkins 2022

A recent survey of the building’s fabric by the author has revealed a large quantity of ritually-applied taper burn marks to the timber elements of the castle, along with small corpus of graffiti symbols and inscriptions. The marks have been interpreted as ‘ritual protection marks’ (otherwise known as apotropaics) whose intention was to add another layer of protection to the building against spiritual – rather than physical – threats!

Following on from the Zoom presentation on medieval graffiti given to the FELHS in 2020, the author now examines one of the areas iconic historic buildings.

An Illustrated Talk ‘in person’ by Wayne Perkins (BA Archaeology, ACIfA)

In person

Members Free, Guest £3

Eynsford Village Hall, High St, Eynsford, Dartford DA4 0AA

Hosted by: Farningham & Eynsford Local History Society

Details & Registration: / Helen Smith 01322 864234.

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Tuesday 13th June 2023 @ 8pm

‘A Little History of Witch Bottles’

Bellarmine, Bartmaan or ‘Greybeard’ salt-glazed bottle.

One of the most immediately recognisable forms among the repertoire of concealed objects is the ‘witch bottle’ – notable for its anthropological form with its bearded face (or mask) decoration on the neck above its bulbous ‘body. Their contents are equally startling, often comprised human urine and nail clippings along with bent nails and pins suggesting a malefic act.

However, more recent close examination of the contents has shown that there is a far greater variety of contents than hitherto recorded. The contents provide a clue as to the intention behind their creation.

Archaeologists are now systematically recording stoneware bellarmine (or Bartmann) jugs found buried under thresholds or hearthstones from 16th and 17th century houses as well as from a variety of other contexts.

The insertion of human organic matter and the selection of ‘prepared’ items included within its their contents have all the hallmarks of a non-Christian, even heretical ‘ritual act.’ One suspects, therefore, that it would not have been undertaken lightly, and it is more likely that they were created for a client by a cunning man or wise woman.  

The Thames Witch Bottle containing human urine, a felt heart along with bent pins and nails.
Image (c) R Merrifield 1987.

The careful examination of both the archaeological provenance of the witch bottle and an analysis of its contents reveals the variety of practice within the long tradition of folk magic in the Early Modern Period.

Although the composition of their contents is now better understood, questions remain as to whether they were intended to act as a decoy, spirit trap or as a counter-measure against bewitchment and witchcraft….

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

A Zoom Presentation

Hosted by: Viktor Wynd & The Last Tuesday Society.


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Tuesday 15th August 2023

‘Ritual Protection Marks & Apotropaic Graffiti in the London Churches’

View across to the north triforium, St Bartholomew’s The Great, Spitalfields, London. A wide range of graffiti can be found within the triforia.
Photo: © W Perkins 2020.

An ongoing survey of the London churches has recorded a surprisingly varied corpus of medieval and historic graffiti of which ritual protective marks (or apotropaics) make up a substantial part. Protective compass-drawn circles, Marian Marks and saltires are among just a few of the varied symbols and motifs so far recorded.

Two simple saltires or crosses acting as ‘occlusive’ apotropaics, St Bartholomew’s The Great, London.
Photo: © W Perkins 2020.

This illustrated talk takes you on a virtual tour of the capitals major religious monuments and their attendant graffiti and inscriptions and explains how they are now being understood in light of new interpretative frameworks.

Devotional or protective Crosslet cross, Westminster Hall, London.
Photo: © W Perkins 2020.
A range of apotropaic motifs cut into the wooden memorial to Sir William de Vallence, Westminster Abbey.
Photo: © W Perkins 2020.

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

A Zoom Presentation

Hosted by: Viktor Wynd & The Last Tuesday Society.


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Tuesday 10th October 2023

‘The Devils: A Case of Demonic Possession & Witchcraft in Loudun, France’

A still from Ken Russel’s ‘The Devils’ depicting one of the possessed nuns.
Photo: © Warner Brothers Film Studios 1971.

In 1617 the priest Urbain Grandier rode into the town of Loudun in France to assume his role as both the priest of l’ Eglise St Pierre du Marche and as the Canon of the collegiale church of Sainte Croixe. Ordained into the Jesuit priesthood only two years before, he was a relatively young man to be taking such a prominent role, but his time spent with the Jesuits had been exemplary and he had exceeded their expectations with his hard work. Tall, handsome, he was considered to be both an attractive and imposing man. On arrival he was much feted and welcomed into the upper class households of the prominent families in the town. Once ensconced amongst the higher echelons of society his intelligence and wit were much in demand.

 Yet, seventeen years later he was found guilty of sorcery, of having made a pact with the devil and responsible for the demonic possession of the Ursuline nuns residing in the town’s convent. His trial and sentence culminated in his torture and being burnt alive at the stake. How could such a turn of fortunes have occurred in such a short space of time? And how could a man of God come to be accused of maleficium? It is one of the most famous and strangest cases of witchcraft in France and probably Europe.

A survey undertaken by the author has recorded a large corpus of graffiti not only from ecclesiastical buildings but from houses and walls in the town.
Photo: © W Perkins 2021.
The author believes that this could be one of the most important works of folk art ever discovered – a blocked window at Loudun surrounded by apotropaic symbols.
Photo: © W Perkins 2020.

An Illustrated Talk by Wayne Perkins

A Zoom Presentation

Hosted by: Viktor Wynd & The Last Tuesday Society.


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Further information regarding each of the above events will follow shortly or please contact


    1. Hi Annaliese thank you for your interest! If you click on the link to the Plaxtol Local History Group (at the bottom of article) they will be glad to help. In this instance the group have decided to set a fee that in turn gives you a years membership to their group for a year-a very fair way for them to increase their membership and help finance the talks. For that you get access to their archive, news on projects and, I believe, access to all their Zoom talks for a year (but please verify this with them). Different groups have a different approach to the way they fund their talks. Looking forward to seeing you online!


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