Church of Our Lady of Egmanton
The church at Egmanton was heavily restored in 1895 meaning a lot of graffiti was almost certainly lost, given the presence of some interesting bits that survive – 25 crosses were recorded on two pillars alone!
The South Porch doorway also had, unsurprisingly, several examples of graffiti. What was interesting, however, was the cluster of crosses of different sizes (see image below). These ranged from several centimeters in height down to just 1cm, with smaller ones appearing to be linked to the larger versions. Some crosses were simply scratched into the stone and thus had quite simple forms, others were quite ornate with each terminus ending in a circular depression. Identical cross designs have been noted at Southwell Minster, for instance, although here they have been deemed as Mason’s marks by previous researchers (see Jenny Alexander’s Southwell and Nottinghamshire: Medieval Art, Architecture and Industry, 1998).
Also in the porch was a piece of graffiti that appears to resemble a person, and another that may be a building, and so potentially a memorial image as seen in other locations, for example the South Porch at Hawton or the loft at the Old Magnus building, Newark.
Further graffiti took the form of incised ‘dot’ depressions, some of which clearly formed wider circular patterns, with others again appearing to be linked to the cross designs (see image below).
Inside the church, pillars N3 & N4 had the bulk of the graffiti, with the majority of this being crosses in a similar design to those in the porch. The level of preservation varied, with some being deep and fresh, others faint and some barely visible, suggesting different levels of inscribing and/or that the crosses were created over a long time span.
A couple of Mason’s marks were also noted and recorded, and a possible bird motif with ‘chevron / hatching’ design used to represent the feathers (as at Hawton). Further cross designs were recorded on both sides of the South Transept, but these were limited to the corners where the Transept meets the main body of the church, suggesting some importance here (perhaps altars or shrines that have now been removed?).
The 17th century tomb of Nicholas Poutrell has also had graffitos added, including initials, letters and crosses, and a few of the church pews also had graffiti in the form of carpenter’s marks and more general graffiti.
The presence of such an abundance of cross designs marks Egmanton out as special, especially given the lack of survival of almost all other forms of graffiti that we would expect to have existed initially. At some point before the 12thC a local woman is said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary at nearby Ladywood. This led to the creation of a shrine at Egmanton church and presumably the dedication to ‘Our Lady of Egmanton’ dates from this time. The church became a place of pilgrimage from far and wide and it is claimed that these pilgrims inscribed crosses to mark their visit. The shrine was lost at the Reformation but an 1895 restoration reinstated the shrine on the north wall of the chancel. Given the preponderance of crosses on two pillars in the north aisle it may be that this is an indication of the original site of this shrine.
Further work and research on this subject will form part of our next phase of work beyond the Pilot project.
Below are a selection of some of the images from Egmanton church – Image One has the photo descriptions attached to it.
All images are copyright Involve Heritage CIC.