St James’ church is believed to have been built in the 12th century; surviving Norman fabric includes the south doorway, the carved font, and two ornate capitals built into the east wall of the aisle. The rebuilding of the chancel and the construction of the tower and porch may date to the 15th century, with the north aisle being much later. The church was restored in the 19th century.
There is interesting graffiti on the porch, including the date 1606, a large merchants mark, an article resembling a downward pointing dagger, and many probable initials – some of them deeply cut. High on the east side of the porch doorway moulding there is a mass dial, consisting of 5 feint lines radiating downwards from a large gnomon hole. The quoins lower down to either side of the doorway also have fairly large holes/indentations, but seem to have no signs of radiating lines suggestive of another dial.
Within the west side of the porch is a curious deeply carved circular device, which appears to be in its original position (so not a former dial, despite the central hole), as it is cut into the doorway moulding. Later lines, forming something of a triangle, have been carefully scored across it. It seems possible that it had some apotropaic meaning, or at least the ‘reworking’ of it by the addition of lines. Circular features with central holes/indentations are not uncommon finds in church fabric, and were clearly not all former mass dials.
Graffiti on the priests’ doorway includes a pattern of holes
(possibly apotropaic), score marks and initials.
Inside the church, on the benches, there are a number of hexafoils, circles and initials. There are apotropaic marks (multiple letter M’s, often referred to as Marian marks) on the piscina and probable letters on the Easter sepulchre.
The lead of the tower roof was partly obscured by algae at the time of the site visit, but at least two shoe outlines (one feint, not shown here) and many initials were evident. There may be further graffiti beneath the algae.
The manor of Broadhempston was originally a Saxon settlement
and it is thought that a Saxon church may have stood on the site of the present
church building. The tower is the oldest part of the current church, and some
13th century fabric survives in the restored chancel. The building otherwise mainly
dates to the 15th century, including the screens, and was restored and parts rebuilt in the late
19th and early 20th centuries.
Most of the graffiti is found on the limestone piers and the screens. The marks include names and initials, probable apotropaic or protective marks including series of score marks and holes, a Marian-type M, a saltire cross, a ladder and a merel or asterisk-type motif.
The male stick figure scored into a pier is particularly interesting and although it could be the result of idle doodling, it is possible that it had a more serious purpose or meaning, perhaps representing someone. In other churches strange rudimentary figures have been found that seem likely to represent a particular character of folklore, or other story.
The church of St Andrew is mostly 14th century in date,
including the tower. The high altar was consecrated in 1318. Traces of an
earlier building include a reused Norman tympanum over the north doorway. There
is a carved and decorated 15th-century rood screen.
The earliest graffiti is on the wonderful c. 16th century
oak south door and on the rood screen. The south door graffiti includes
probable initials, but also a typical Marian type M, or inverted W – an apotropaic
or protective mark. Scored letters on the rood screen are again probably mostly
visitors’ initials, although the form of the M in the letters MP looks like a
Marian mark, and a letter W cut into the font could likewise have been perceived
On the rood screen there is also a deeply cut crossed I (an
old form of the letter J), possibly someone’s initial, but perhaps more likely
a Christogram, representing Jesus – like
a shortened version of the more well known IHS. Lone crossed letter I’s are not
uncommon in church graffiti.
There is a good deal of 20C graffiti and scribbling on the organ casing, including names/initials and occasional dates. In the clock chamber, a pencil inscription records clock maintenance in 1941.
The chancel of Littlehempston church is believed to be of
14th century date, but most of the present building was constructed, or
rebuilt, in the 15th century. The red sandstone font survives from an earlier,
There are three 14th century recumbent effigies in the
church, although it is thought that these may have been brought from another
parish. Some interesting graffiti survives on the limestone piers and on
The male effigy close
to the south door has concentric circles scored on the side of the head, that
seem likely to have had some apotropaic (protective) meaning. Other marks
include series of holes, and these are also found on some of the piers. There
is feint graffiti on the northern effigy, but much is difficult to decipher,
and some is on the inaccessible side close to the window, as the figure is not
in its original location. The most notable item visible is a small simple merchants
Graffiti on the piers includes compass-made circles, and arrows, both of which are probably apotropaic. A few feint scored marks containing remnants of red colouring survive on one of the southern piers – a reminder that piers and walls were once painted with colours – rather than the bare scraped clean stone we see today.
The letters V:X:Z at
the base of a pier in the north arcade are intriguing and seem likely to have
had some official function or meaning rather than being casual graffiti.
The stick type figure on a southern pier is a nice find,
although it is not clear what it represents, and we don’t know how old it is. It
seems possible that it represents a cadaver or skeleton with ribs, or, perhaps
less likely, a figure holding a shield with chevron ornament.
The lead on the tower roof has been renewed, but there are a few older pieces on the doorway threshold that have early 20th century names and dates.
There has been a church in East Budleigh since Saxon times. The present building originated in the 13th century, was rebuilt in the early 15th century and restored in 1884. It is built of sandstone, with original Beer stone, and Victorian Bath stone, detail. The font is 15th century and there is a remarkable set of early 16th century carved bench ends, all with secular imagery.
The piers in the church have been scoured clean, probably during the Victorian restoration, but graffiti survives on one close to the south door. Marks include some letters, tiny circles, and a number of deliberately made conical holes. Such holes are fairly common in churches and could possibly result from the removal of stone for its perceived curative or protective qualities – a practice that continues today in some places. There is also graffiti on the doorway to the tower, including a ladder type motif, and letters and other marks on the porch benches. Outside the church there are intriguing multiple marks on the SW corner – possibly including initials and dates, but difficult to decipher.
The chancel of St John the Baptist church is of 13th century date and the remaining parts are 15th century, including the screen, although this has been much added to from screens elsewhere. In the 19th and early 20th century the building underwent a number of restorations.
The fabric of the church is granite with volcanic stone and granite detail; the piers are granite. Given the hard nature of the stone it is not surprising that graffiti is only found on the woodwork of the screens and benches.
Items include Marian-type marks (W) and other lettering, including probable initials. There are a number of examples of notches cut into the edges of bench bookrests and also some on a screen. It is possible these are just the result of idle whittling, but there are many examples of such graduated lines and notches in the stonework of churches too, and it seems likely that at least some had a serious, perhaps spiritual, meaning or function.
The medieval church of St Mary was associated with the Pomeroy family, who were granted the manor of ‘Berri’ in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. The range of buildings with Berry names immediately north of the church may have been the site of the original manor house.
In the 15th century the church was rebuilt, possibly by Sir Richard de Pomeroy. The tower still has a 13th/14th century west doorway. The church was restored in the late 17th century and the late 19th century.
The older graffiti is found mainly on the limestone piers and doorways, the tower stairs, and the rood screen. The arrows on the south doorway are unusual, and probably apotropaic. There are some fairly modern names and initials on the benches. In the room above the porch an inscription has been cut into the plaster above the window. The letters above the 1720 date are presumably initials, but it is not clear what the inscription commemorates.
St Nicholas’ church is of 13th century origin, although the
survival of a Saxon or Norman font suggests an earlier building existed. The
church was largely rebuilt in 1622, remodelled by 1790, and underwent later
alterations and refurbishment. In 1903 following the construction of a new
parish church (St Peter’s) in Shaldon, St Nicholas’ was re-designated as a
chapel of ease.
Given the past rebuilding and refurbishments it is not surprising that little graffiti
survives. These include though an interesting but feint small cross on the
outside north-east corner, which has been underlined by a deep score mark –
perhaps to draw attention to it. It seems possible that this is a re-dedication
cross, related to one of the rebuilding episodes.
The other graffiti is on the top of the font, where scored marks in the lead include a possible apotropaic or protective mark in the form of a letter W.
St Nectan’s church is probably largely 13th century in date,
with the north aisle being added in the 15th century. There was restoration and
some rebuilding in the 1820’s, and the interior was refurbished in 1885.
No graffiti was found on the stonework of the church, but there are a number of marks on the benches. Most are probably initials, although one or two of the lone W’s or V’s could possibly be apotropaic (protective) marks.
The earliest part of the church of St John the Baptist is the
13th century chancel, with the remaining parts dating to the 15th or early 16th
centuries. The Norman font survives but has been built into a later surround.
The sub-circular shape of the churchyard and the presence of
an inscribed memorial stone of c. 6th century date (Datuidoc’s stone) strongly suggest
that this is an early religious site.
The church is built of granite and the graffiti is found
mainly on two of the medieval limestone effigies, and on the parclose screen. The
graffiiti on the effigy in the south transept includes what appears to be a strange
Oddly, there are several examples of the letter N, and something resembling it but with the strokes detached – looking more like I V and V I. There are also what appear to be tally marks and remains of feint large letters on the parclose screen. On a bench at the back of the north aisle there is a deeply carved W followed by a cross – perhaps reserving that seat for a particular person (?the Warden).