St Mary the Virgin, Moreton, Essex

The church of St Mary stands on a mound to the east side of the little village of Moreton in Essex. The construction of the current building dates to the 13th and 15th century with the tower being added in the late 18th century.

The font is 12th century and may date to an earlier church on the same site. It is four-sided, with fleur de lis ornamentation and a curious decoration on side of a whirl, a circle and a crescent. Pevsner describes these as ‘sun, moon, and a whorl’. (The Buildings of England – Essex, James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner, 2007)

The south door has the only graffiti visible in the main body of the church, with two crosses.

The tower was rebuilt in the 18th century. That is where the vast majority of the graffiti is lying. There are several examples of what are often called Marian marks – Ms and VVs (or Ws). However, while the protective function of these types of marks may well have survived the Reformation, it is unlikely that their original meaning lived on into the 18th century. It is more likely, in a Protestant context, that they became simply marks used to provide protection as their original context and connection was lost. There are also some symbols similar to those identified by Timothy Easton as protective ‘R marks’ in Apotropaic Symbols and Other Measures for Protecting Buildings Against Misfortune in Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain (ed. Ronald Hutton, Palgrave, 2016). The bench in the 18th century porch also displays a ‘Marian’ M.

The rest of the tower graffiti, inside and out, is made up of names and initials. The dates are mostly 19th century with a couple of 18th century dates and the rest 20th century. The ‘12345’ could possibly refer to the number of bells the tower originally held, although a sixth bell was added in the 19th century.

Report by Anthea Hawdon.

St Mary the Virgin
Church Road

The church is usually open during daylight hours. There is ample parking beside it.


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