St Mary Magdalene, Wethersfield, Essex

Samson post with burn marks

St Mary Magdalene church in the Essex village of Wethersfield dates back to the 12th century, although it is believed that there was a Saxon church on the site before then.

Perhaps the church’s most unusual feature is the Samson Post at the base of the tower. The Historic England entry for the church dates this to the 13th century although the church website dates is to the 17th century. Whatever the date the post has several apotropaic burn marks hidden among the bell ropes.

In graffiti terms the standout graffiti are several cross and compass circle designs. They do not appear to be sun crosses and it is not entirely clear if the crosses and circles were created at the same time.

There are several examples of protective graffiti mainly pentagrams, compass circles, daisy wheels, Marian marks and a slightly misshapen auseklis cross.

There are a few merels of the Three Men’s Morris layout and one of the Nine Holes layout. Two of the merels are horizontal but are inscribed on the flat surround of the piscina so were unlikely to be used for play.

The rest of the graffiti is a scattering of other symbols. One which is repeated is a triangle with a straight line drawn through the hypotenuse. I have tentatively identified it as an arrow or possibly a plumb line/level but that is not a sure identification.

The chancel holds the tomb of either Sir Henry Wentworth and his wife from 1482 or Sir Roger Wentworth and his wife from 1539. Their effigies are covered in graffiti mostly dating to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Patrick Bronte (father of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Bramwell) had his first curacy post in Wethersfield from 1806 to 1808. Alas neither his name nor his initials appear in the graffiti within the church.

Report by Anthea Hawdon.

St Mary Magdalene
High Street

The church is open during daylight hours. Parking is easiest by the village green.

Search terms: Names & Initials
TW, R, DM 18.4 S Died Apr 14 1815, TG 1935, 9 Years old, Mar 24, 1939, HB, IS, IB, IS, IW, IB, TL, T, TW, FS, WI, IR, IW, M, M Williamson, IN, WE, HG, TL, WI, IM, W, William Cass, IB, SW, AI, IN, WI, MI, Tomb graffiti, Pam, 1740, AD, 1661, PJ, NW, SW, IV, AS, 1700, FU, JS, AB, ER, IN, RW, IW, EL, IN, WA, TH, EO, IT, IP, WR, HS, Joy, RS, TC, Philip New 1790, WH, R Bow, Wm Westwood, HH, T Norton, 1780, CB 1702, John Philtupp March 9 1755, E Carpenter 1760, RL, 1642, 1601, WR, IA, Ford K, WE, TB, AW 1709, IG 1737, RW 1673, IT 1678, to 1790, Jo Allen 1710, Reb Wright 1673, E Pry 1730, 1753, WG 1771, Rich Betts 1751, T Gibbs 1784, Thomas Crosby 1722, RIP DAD, Marian mark, M, Merel, 3 Men’s Morris, dot pattern, Compass circle (partial), Cross-hatch triangle, Heraldic shield, cross, Crossbows, other marks, Script, Other marks, Eight-pointed cross, circle, star, Butterfly cross, triangle, Arrow/plumb line, Pentagram, chevrons, Auseklis cross, Dots and joined lines, Cross crosslet, saltire, Crescent, other marks, Marian mark, W, tally marks, Compass circle, quatrefoil,