St Mary’s, Stebbing, Essex (2/2)

Stebbing church has several compass designs ranging from simple circles to elaborate daisy wheels with mulitple petals.

There are a range of protective marks throughout the church including Marian marks, pentagrams and butterfly crosses.

The crosses in St Mary’s are mostly of a plain, latin type with a couple of saltires and sun crosses for variation. There is also a staurogram or tau-rho, one of the earliest symbols representing Christ.

One pillar in the north of the nave is home to a couple of large symbols that look like multiple capital letter Bs. They bear some resemblance to solomon’s knots, but split in half and with no evidence that there was any attempt to draw the left half of the symbol.

St Mary’s is not exactly short of puzzling marks on its columns. A set in the southern arcade of the nave seem to resemble cups or maybe chalices. One has part of a face drawn in the ‘cup’. This is similar to one identified by Violet Pritchard in Steeple Bumpstead church, but is a more simple design. 

It is, perhaps, inevitable with the passage of time over so many graffiti marks that the intention and clarity of design of some marks should fade, even as the marks remain. The following marks, though deliberately made, cannot be easily deciphered.

There are several graffiti marks and symbols that do not fit into any category except possibly ‘Miscellaneous’. This includes dot patterns, a lombardic-style letter, a possible helmet with feathers and a symbol that looks like a plough.

There are plentiful names and initials. Unusually the dates are all from the 17th and 18th centuries. Not one seems to have been inscribed in the 19th century.

Report by Anthea Hawdon

St Mary the Virgin
Watch House Road, Church End
Great Dunmow
CM6 3sw

The church is usually open during daylight hours. There is some parking available.

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