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The writing on the wall

Alongside SpaceForAll, Wokingham U3A is researching the history of the church building and community, to help bring the story of All Saints to a wider audience. I was interested in the building. I’ve also been watching the lunchtime talks given by the Churches Conservation Trust, and by chance saw a fascinating talk about the graffiti in Winchester Cathedral. I had seen a lot of graffiti in All Saints so I decided to do a complete survey.

I found and photographed around 200 intelligible items (along with some unintelligible scrawl). A few are carved on pews but most are carved into the soft chalk stonework. That is more abundant in the tower, where 90% of the graffiti are. The remainder are in the body of the church with a few outside. Most of those in the tower are in the clock room, which as well as plentiful soft stone provides a quiet place to do the carving.

Collecting any historic artefact leads on to wondering about who created it, and why. Some of the marks were made by craftsmen who had worked on the church and wanted to leave their mark, in the way many companies today post signs on buildings they have repaired. Some were people frequenting the tower to provide a service, like winding the clock or flying the flag. Others might have been casual visitors.

Most just left their initials but over 30 of them left a name. Nearly 50 of the graffiti include dates – from 1613 to 2018 – around half of which are since 1900, so almost within living memory. Here are some examples:

J (or E) HOUSE March 1903 ... FB AP PAINTED FLAG POLE MARCH 5 1910 ... P DAY 1930 ... GC 1931 ... R Gastell M Stonard Plumbers High Wycombe JUNE 1930 ... E Munzel 1947 ... T H LANGLEY 1948 ... J Prince 1958 ... WJP 1958 ... S PAXFORD 1984 ... 1984 M HILL ... C SERMON 1985 ... N HUSSEY 1986 ... BEL 2018.

If you recognise any of these people, or are interested in the work, please get in touch with me: 0118 978 5520 or

John Harrison (Feb 2021) 


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