News for Autumn 2016

Thoroton Society Of Nottinghamshire - Publicity And Public Relations

The Thoroton Society is looking to raise its profile and increase public knowledge of the Society by establishing a number of public relations and publicity roles, or a team of members to share this important area of activity. This is crucial because we need to continue to widen the membership base, attract local historians and archaeologists into active membership and encourage greater member participation in the Society's many activities. At present there is little co-ordination in publicising the Society, its work and its activities to a wider public. We are greatly attached to the Society's name but unfortunately it is not something which is widely recognised by non-members, and many people do not know of Dr Robert Thoroton and his importance to the history of Nottinghamshire. We hope to address these issues by this new area of voluntary activity.

The aim is the establishment of an Honorary PR Secretary who would take an overview of PR and publicity activities but would be supported by a team of other members who could pursue specific areas of the remit. A first task would be to devise a strategy designed to heighten the Thoroton profile using whatever means they feel appropriate and to allocate tasks between members of the team. The remit of team members, depending on numbers, interests and skills, might include the following:

We look forward to hearing from members interested in helping with this important area of activity for the Society. Please contact Barbara Cast in the first instance - or 01636 830284.

Medieval Graffiti Survey

Members may recall that in the Winter 2015 (issue no 82) of this Newsletter we reviewed a book by Matthew Champion on mediaeval graffiti in English churches.

Graffiti in the church of Hawton All Saints.
Graffiti in the church of Hawton All Saints. Clockwise from top left: 'daisy-wheel'; various dates and initials; drawing of a bird within a circle; an heraldic shield. All pictures © Involve Heritage CIC, reproduced here with permission.

There is now a Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Mediaeval Graffiti Survey, which is under the auspices of Matt Beresford of MBArchaeology. The survey is funded partly by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Started in 2015, it is a two-year pilot project which seeks to identify, survey and record examples of mediaeval graffiti in Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire and explore the concept and possible meaning of this through arts and heritage-based workshops. The project brings together specialists in heritage, archaeology, church buildings, art and community involvement. One aim of the project is to involve local people in the two counties and provide training & support to help them undertake this important survey. Several churches have now been surveyed, including Hawton All Saints, Southwell Minster, Edwinstowe St Mary's, Egmanton Our Lady, and also the Bishop's Palace, Southwell. Some of the graffiti identified may be possible mason's marks, but others consist of a variety of designs which are more elaborate than those usually associated with the stonemasons. At Hawton All Saints, there is an extensive array of mediaeval and post-mediaeval graffiti inscriptions, including a number of compass-drawn circles, animals, apotropaic symbols (including pentangles, burn marks on the tower door, daisy wheels around doors and on pews, double-V 'witch marks'), initials, dates, text, crosses and heraldic crests. Other churches are in process of being examined.

For further information, see

'Past-Fest' at the University of Nottingham

The University's annual Archaeology Day has now morphed into 'Past-Fest', a fairly large-scale celebration of history and archaeology with something for everyone. There was a great deal of hands-on activity, with several volunteers in the University Museum allowing visitors to examine and in some cases handle a wide range of portable antiquities. There was a demonstration of flint-knapping, a Roman doctor explaining his rather gruesome surgical instruments (praise be for modern anaesthetics...) and a local hairdresser was doing ladies' hair in a variety of Roman styles. Children were well catered for with activities. For those of us with a rather more serious interest there was a large number of stalls representing societies from all over the East Midlands. The Thoroton stall was well patronised. We signed up one new member and sold a number of back-copies of Transactions and several books from the Record Series. Many thanks to Penny Messenger and Margaret Trueman who helped us on the day. The Past-Fest is now well established as an annual event and is an accompaniment to the very successful and well-attended 'Archaeology Now' lectures at the University. More information on these lectures can be found at

John and Janet Wilson



In May of this year the Thoroton Society went on an excursion to St. Martin's Church, Bilborough, Nottingham [See report in this issue - Ed]. Our main interest was in the restored, early post-war murals on the east wall, but there were other displays that also caught the eye. These were the three illuminated cabinets fixed to the wall under the tower, which contained examples of graffiti left in the lead of the tower roof that were removed before the roof was renovated in 2011. We did not have enough time to study them in detail as we had to get to Southwell, but I have since returned to have a better look.

I met again with Hilary Wheat, who is the project manager of the Hidden Treasures project at St Martin's. Hilary gave me access to the displays and even arranged for me to go on to the tower roof, (in the rain, but I can't hold that against her).

The 'graffiti' consist mainly of the outlines of shoes and hands either scratched or dotted [pounced] with a pointed tool. Many also contain initials and dates. The footwear and hand shapes intrigued me so I did a bit of online research. The two largest local collections of these marks found so far were on the roofs of Bolsover Castle (approx. 180) and St Margaret's Church, Wetton, Staffordshire (approx. 200), both of which were surveyed by Dr Richard Sheppard of Trent & Peak Archaeology in 1998 and 2002 respectively.

The more I look into this the more widespread these 'prints' seem to be. I have already found more than twenty places where these outlines have been recorded, but can find no evidence of a centralized database. With the continued problem of theft, part of the Bilborough lead was stolen after it had been taken off the roof, and the replacement of lead roofs with less attractive (aesthetically, historically and larceny ???) alternatives, it would be a pity not to record these markings before they disappear for ever.

Does Bilborough have the only examples in Nottinghamshire? If any readers know of others or have any insights into this phenomenon could they please either contact the editor or email me directly at

Keith Fisher


Mass dials are small 'sundials' found on mediaeval churches, usually near the Priest Door or often on an adjacent buttress. Whenever the Society visits a church, we always look for a mass dial. Some churches have more than one. The British Sundial Society keeps a register of known mass dials, and in Nottinghamshire there are fifty-three churches in the Register. However, many of Nottinghamshire's mediaeval churches are not in the Register. Is this because they have no mass dial, or because they have not been visited and examined? If any members of the Society do visit a mediaeval church, please would they look to see if the church has a mass dial, and let me know the result, whether yes or no. Knowing that a church has no mass dial is important as it saves others a fruitless visit.

John Wilson