About Raking Light
Raking Light is a technique to shine light obliquely across a surface to reveal texture and detail.
Raking Light illuminates long hidden images and text from centuries past.
Raking Light lets silent walls speak in the voices of ordinary people from long ago.
Raking Light has been set up to provide a searchable resource for enthusiasts and researchers of historic graffiti, masons’ marks, carpenters’ marks, merchants’ marks and protection marks. In fact, if it’s old and inscribed on plaster, stone, wood or any other surface you can think of, we’re interested in it, and we hope you will be too. The site is run by Linda Wilson and Anthea Hawdon, who are both passionate about the subject. Raking Light contains site reports with extensive picture galleries providing as many examples of graffiti and other marks as possible. The geographical range mainly covers the UK and France, where we spend most of our time, but nowhere is off limits as long as it has something of interest to us.
Our aim is to create an extensive library of material for use by anyone with an interest in this fast-developing area of research. We hope you will visit often and find the material useful and interesting. One of our aims is to follow in the footsteps of pioneers GG Coulton and Violet Pritchard and revisit the sites they recorded using modern lighting and photography.
We would be delighted to host reports of visits by other people to places of interest, and if you would like to get in contact we’d love to hear from you. We also aim to build up a library of book reviews on the subject and associated folklore, so if books are your thing, do get in contact!
You can find some more information about us, and our most frequent contributors, below:
Anthea and Linda
I’m Anthea Hawdon. I currently work in healthcare IT and live in NE London. I firmly blame my interest in medieval and historic graffiti on Linda Wilson, who once pointed out a daisy wheel on the outside of a building in France and explained the significance of ritual protection marks. That inevitably led to me looking for graffiti for myself. I currently spend as many weekends as I can manage going around churches, shining a torch at the walls and photographing what shows up in the raking light. I love this for the thrill of the chase and discovery – there is nothing to beat seeing a daisy wheel appear on an otherwise blank wall. There is also the aspect of making a real contribution to an area of historical research as I hope this website will do.
I’m Linda Wilson. I’m a retired solicitor with a lifelong interest in caves and caving. My study of French cave art over a 25-year period gradually morphed into an interest in anything painted, engraved and written on cave walls, which has now extended to encompass protection marks, as well as historic graffiti underground and above ground. The discovery of what are clearly protection marks in caves under the Mendip Hills dispels the belief that these marks were made for purely practical reasons by masons and carpenters. I gave a talk on the subject at the first Hidden Charms conference and have written two papers on the marks in Goatchurch Cavern and Wookey Hole in Somerset. This site gives me somewhere to record my numerous site visits in the UK and in France.
I’m Rebecca Ireland. I’m a potentially retired archaeologist (desk based survey anyone?) currently living in Devon. I grew up surrounded by books on the Warwickshire-Worcestershire borders and have read about folk magic since the wartime Meon Hill murder/witchcraft scandal was given fresh publicity in the 1970s. I have a lifelong interest in belief systems in general and the weirder ones in particular. Anything that leads to the apparently aimless modification of landscapes, buildings, people or things is worth a second look. There is always an aim; it’s just that we of the 21st century might not realise what it is. I was drawn into the Raking Light fold at the second Hidden Charms conference and have been submitting my own weird mad articles ever since. I hope that what I write will be of some use, and that it will set other minds working on the puzzles of graffiti and folk belief.
I’m Alan Anstee. I was an amateur military historian for many years and in 1993 took the opportunity offered by redundancy to take a degree which included history. I was a trustee of the Trust running Fort Amherst at Chatham for many years but after graduating was looking for something different.
So, when I retired from the Probation Service, I looked for something new and eventually became a volunteer with the National Trust at Knole House, finally joining the Archaeology Team there. Part of the training we had there was in recording graffiti. This led to what I can only call the addiction I have for graffiti and my joining the Kent Medieval Graffiti Survey. Since 2014 I have been involved in surveying the graffiti in over 100 buildings, mainly churches. I now organise our volunteers, find builds and organise the surveys and usually write-up the reports.