Devon Historic Graffiti Survey

The Devon Historic Graffiti Survey is a Devon Archaeological Society project. Its aim is to identify and record the historic graffiti in Devon’s churches. It is one of a number of county surveys inspired by the pioneering Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey, which was set up in 2010. It is hoped that all the results will eventually be fed into a national database.

The surveys are showing how widespread the phenomenon of church graffiti is and challenging formerly held beliefs about it. The findings are fascinating and provide, among other things, a rare insight into the concerns and beliefs of ordinary parishioners, through something that was created directly by them.

There are more than 600 parish churches in Devon, some 475 of which are ancient. Investigations to date indicate that the vast majority of churches have surviving graffiti, and that much of it is of considerable interest.

We recognise that there are also many examples of historic graffiti in domestic and agricultural buildings throughout Devon, much of which could usefully be compared with church graffiti for type and potential function. For the time being, however, the Devon Survey intends to focus on churches.