When I first started out on my adventure in medieval graffiti land it was always so frustrating to see the cool things that came out of small churches that usually required a car to get to. I lacked a car, and most of my Londoner friends also lacked cars. It was like everything I wanted to do was out of reach. Obviously this was not true, and I went and stretched my legs, hopped trains, and ended up finding plenty of graffiti nearish London. So if you’re based in London and car-less this post is for you! (Note: these are in no particular order. I refuse to rank things like that!)
1. The Tower of London
OK let’s just get this one out of the way. Yes it’s touristy. Yes it’s often crowded. No it’s not a church. But there are some really amazing examples of graffiti at the tower. The obvious hotspot for graffiti will be Beauchamp tower – with beautiful and intricate examples of graffiti from various prisoners. If you go during the week and early in the morning it’ll likely be a quiet tower to visit. Salt tower also has some wonderful examples. But if you pay close attention you will find inscriptions pretty much all over the place!
2. Hampton Court Palace
Again. I’m sorry. Tourist filled. But there’s some really amazing stuff here! The processional gallery is my personal favourite spot for historic graffiti, but keep an eye on all the doorways and in some cases – the doors themselves here! You’ll find apotropaic marks, handprints, and in some cases full names with regimental information scattered throughout the palace.
3. Canterbury Cathedral
I knew you were wondering when I was going to start blithering on about churches. Well my friends…that time is now. Canterbury cathedral (like many cathedrals) is a treasure trove of all sorts of wonderful graffiti. One of my favourite inscriptions ever comes from this place – I’ve made special note of him below. The crypt has some great images of Christ, as well as at least one axe! Make sure you also spend some time in the cloisters for graffiti from all completely different time periods. Meanwhile, inside you can find shoes, hands, horseshoes, stars, names, faces that are just a bit judgey….
4. Winchester Cathedral
My second most favourite inscription ever is here (Harey Coppar, wherever you are now….thanks for bringing me amused joy). You’ll have to look upwards for it though. The usual ‘cathedral level of selection’ is present here. Stick to pillars in this place, and make sure you look up! Infamous ‘VV’s show up like mad here, I love the unfinished pelta, there are a few great daisy wheels (albeit some of them are severely damaged), and benches have plenty of carvings to sift through.
5. St. Albans
I know, I know, I already plugged this place a little bit but truly it’s worth a visit. It’s so close to London, has so many graffiti, and as people to this day continue to tell me there’s a pamphlet there – I know they must still be in print so go get a copy and have a wander. Some of the really big stuff is harder to see lighting wise but many of the people who work there can show you outlines if need be – and most of the other graffiti listed are super easy to find!
OK folks I tried to keep it short and sweet. Go out and have a look – there’s of course way more graffiti in each of these buildings than I have mentioned in this one short little post!