St Mary and St Andrew, Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire

Virtue liveth after death

The church of St Mary and St AndrewSt Mary and St Andrew, Whittlesford dates back to the 12th century12th century with chancel works happening in the 13th century and the south aisle being rebuilt in the 14th.

The first item to note is outside. On the south side of the tower, beneath the clock and above a window, is a clear Sheela na gig and to her right is a phallic figure.

The church is famous in graffiti circles for the depiction of an archer on the north pier of the tower arch. However, there is a faint man-at-arms positioned between two swastika peltae on the doorway of the north door.

There is also a fine piece of architectural graffiti near the chapel at the end of the north aisle. A design for a tracery window is sketched on one of the columns. It is close to being the template for the window over the altar, but not quite.

<window tracery and window>

St Mary and St Andrew has its share of protective marks. In this case the number of pentagrams outweighs that of any other type, although there are plentiful compass drawn circle designs. There are only a couple of Marian marks.


There are a scattering of dot patterns, crosses and a few IHS signs.

There are several shields of varying heraldic devices. In one of the windows in the north aisle there are a cluster of jousting tournament helmets bearing the device of an  antelope. The name Allerton is written there. GG Coulton, who features some of the Whittlesford graffiti in his paper, Medieval Graffiti Especially in the Easter Counties, identifies the antelope as being the heraldry associated with the Allerton family. (GG Coulton, Medieval Graffiti Especially in the Eastern Counties, Proceedings on the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, vol 67, 1915, p53-62)

Among the script graffiti in the church, two examples are very clear. One motto exhorts us that ‘Virtue liveth after death’, possibly a memorial tribute to the associate name of John Turner. Also associated with John Turner, the other is in Latin and incomplete. A possible translation is ‘So live that you may live in memory.’

The rest of the graffiti is mostly names and initials. The earliest dates are in the 1630s.

Report by: Anthea Hawdon

 St Mary and St Andrew

Church Lane
CB22 4NX

The church is open during daylight hours. There is limited parking at the end of Church Lane.

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