Masons Marks

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THE pillars of the Choir in New Shoreham Church exhibit many incised markings, and attention was directed to them as far back as 1850, when on November Ist a paper was read before the Archaeological Institute by the Rev. J. Hewett, which was afterwards printed in the volume for that year, with drawings of some of them annexed. As they have hitherto, with one exception, remained undescribed in the Sussex Archaeological Collections, it may not be inopportune to do so, after the visit of our Society to this interesting and beautiful church, and also to discriminate between what are masons' marks and those believed to be of votive or other character.

In 1840, and again in 1843, Mr. G. Godwin read papers before the Society of Antiquaries on "Incised Markings on Stones," which papers were subsequently published in the Transactions of that Society,1 and were the first to bring to light the true signification of many of these ancient incised markings, which we now know as " masons' marks." The mark (Fig. A) which occurs on the third pillar from the west of the northern pier arches is also to be found on the ruined walls of the Farmery Chapel, Lewes Priory, in Malmesbury Abbey, and other churches, and is ascribed by Mr. Godwin to the Early English period, which practically agrees with the case of New Shoreham Church, as the mason who inscribed it may well have used it afterwards in buildings of more pronounced First Pointed style..

The fine specimen (Fig. B) is on the N. face of the first octagonal pillar of the same series of arches. Mr. P. M. Johnston states that beside the two hearts, cross, &c., the initials S. and A. are intended; at the side of it are incised an I.A., but they certainly do not appear to belong to it. On the N.E. face of this same pillar is a mark consisting of three interlaced circles, each of one inch diameter. A somewhat similar design (Fig. D) occurs on the N. W. face of the first pier on the south side, consisting of four circles, each 1-in. in diameter.

On the fourth pillar of the N. side will be found the marking (Fig. C), and on the corresponding pier on the south side is a \X/ mark, which the writer doubts is a mason's mark, as Mr. G. M. Atkinson, in his paperon the incised markings in Eastbourne Church, states that one of similar character found there is a "contract" mark used by schoolboys of a few generations ago. This seems highly probable, as there are other marks of the seventeenth century, dated, having these pit-like markings. Indeed, from 1645 to 1669 there are many markings, consisting of initials and date of year enclosed in a kind of house (in one case with a flag on top) which disfigure this and the adjoining pillar and coincide with the scant respect shown to churches during that troublous period. The mark (Fig. C) is on the last pillar of the northern series of arches and so far completes the masons' marks at present discovered in New Shoreham Church. Before leaving them, however, attention may be drawn to a number of X crosses on small square stones set in the wall spaces between the arches. These, Mr. P. M. Johnston says, are probably the filling up of old "putlog" holes, from which a planked gangway was supported when, perhaps, the walls were being increased in height or other work was carried out


There are now remaining other incised markings to be noticed, which are of highly interesting character. On the S. face of the pillar, which bears the mason's mark B, is a well-drawn and deeply-cut cross (Fig. F) of a type sometimes called a Grand Master's Cross; it has been described as a Consecration Cross. This, however, it can hardly be, as it is not of sufficient height from the floor-level. It was, one may well assume, sculptured to mark an important event in the history of the church, viz., the presence at the consecration of the newly-built choir, on or about the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin in the year A.D. 1185 of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Heraclius, together with Roger, the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers. As is well known, His Holiness came to England at this time to solicit the King, Henry II., concerning another crusade, and in the absence of other evidence, Shoreham being the chief port for the continental route, the inference that Heraclius came by any other is extremely improbable. Near this fine specimen, and on the same pillar, is another cross (Fig. G), but it does not compare with the one just described for skilful workmanship; it perhaps marks the visit of a Grand Master of the Temple or of the Knight Hospitallers at a much later date. The writer wonders whether the I.I. on the arms of the cross might stand for Iohan : Ierusalem : S. John of Jerusalem.

We have now to consider the votive crosses. The finest specimen is the knotted cross (Fig. E), which will be found near the base of the third column of the north side; near it are two others of similar character, but very indistinct. The most numerous are the Crusaders' crosses, examples of which are given in the group (Fig. I). They are found on most pillars, but most abundantly on what one may term the Patriarch's Pillar. Knowing, as we do, the importance of Shoreham as a port of embarkation and return in those days, we can well see how the church would be a well-known building to English Crusaders, and the first to which those who returned would hasten to record their vows in the simple manner of those times. One worthy has left the mark of his bow and arrow, with short spear (Fig. H). This also is on the Patriarch's Pillar.

Lastly, there remains for notice the remarkable grouping of figures shown in Fig. K. They are incised on the western respond of the north series of arches. The only interpretation the writer can give is that it is intended for S. Julian and the hind. When one knows that the neighbouring church of Kingston-by-Sea is dedicated to S. Julian the reason is apparent. That the S. Julian, Bishop of Mans, to whom that church was dedicated, and the S. Julian, to whom the hind appeared, foretelling certain untoward events, were two different persons, as Jacobus de Voragine pointed out in his Lombardica Historia or Golden Legend, did not affect the mediaeval mind, which was content to apply the symbol of the one to the other.

Under the heading, St. Julian, First Bishop of Mans," in the Rev. Alban Butler's Lives, occurs the following passage: " He was much honoured in France, and many churches built during the Norman succession in England, especially about the reign of Henry II., who was baptized in the church of St. Julian, at Mans, bear his name." This probably accounts for the occurrence of the above figures, which Mr. P. M. Johnston says are of the same early date as the other incised markings.

1 Archaeologia, 1849.
2 Archaeological Journal, Vol. L.

From Sussex Archaeological Collections XLVIII, MCMV
Reproduced by courtesy of the Sussex Archaeological Society (SAS). 
SAS grants this licence for the stated purpose in respect of such rights as SAS may have over the articles, 
but those rights may not include the author's copyright in the words and/or images.

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