Written in Stone

Walking past Newtons College in The Close, I noticed two lots of graffiti on the same building. One lot is spraypainted (I think) and looks like a name (it’s not the best penmanship ;)), the other consists of initials and a date of 1920. You can see these both below in the gallery.

I have no problem with the second one, in fact I enjoy finding a name or something else carved into stone. I do however have a problem with the first one. Why I am ok with PE leaving his or her mark in 1920 but not the graffiti artist in 2011?

Slightly different, but still maybe relevant, there was a recent story about Sex Pistols graffiti being historically and archaeologically important.

I’m still trying to work through my thoughts on this whole area. In the meantime, if anyone has any thoughts, or opinions of their own, please get in touch 🙂

 Edit 6/12/2011

Off on a bit of a tangent, a couple of stories about graffiti with a story! Thanks to Mark from Tamworth Time Hikes for letting me know about this one in Sheffield, which in turn reminded me of this one in Hagley, Worcestershire. Not at all to do with Lichfield, but of interest on the theme of graffiti I hope you’ll agree. Anyone know of any more?

 A bit later on 6/12/2011….some of my photos of graffiti…..

The Kenilworth photo reminds of going there as a little girl and noticing this kind of graffiti for the first time.  I temporarily abandoned my quest for portcullises, drawbridges and moats (which always disappointed by not being filled with water anyway) and played ‘Who can find the oldest graffiti?’. I remember seeing a date in the 1700s and realising that I was just one of the latest in a long, long line of people who had been there. I suppose, in a way those people, rightly or wrongly, became a part of the history of that building themselves. There are loads of photographs of this kind of graffiti around, there’s a whole flickr group here. I wonder if this kind of immortality was their aim or if it was more a case that they got fed up of looking for portcullises, and it gave them something to do?It seems some of our old vandals seemed happy to be easily identified, like Mr Joel Churchill at Kenilworth.  Perhaps it was an acceptable thing to do at the time?

Edit 9/12/2011

Another bit of Lichfield graffiti from the excellent Beacon Street Blog here.

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21 thoughts on “Written in Stone

    • That’s my gut reaction but I’m just trying to think about why! I wonder how people viewed the ye olde graffiti at the time it was done? 🙂

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      • Had that been 1820 when most people had limited education
        with the only schools been Sunday schools and the life expectancy
        of people been less than 40 years ,Children working from six
        or seven years,most people would have been too tired to scratch
        their heads never mind scratch marks on walls,by the 1920s
        Lichfield as with other towns and cities become industrialised
        with almost as many pubs as houses more leasure time groups
        of people roaming the streets with nothing to do until the 1926
        strike it was one way of leaving their mark.

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      • That’s a really interesting perspective Pat. I hadn’t really thought about that side of it, especially the literacy thing. Brilliant, thanks 🙂

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  1. I’m with kate I found a lovely engraving dating back to something like 1845 on a derelict building and thought how lovely and then I found a rough crude engraving from present day on the same building and thought some little horrors have been trespassing ?

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    • Hi Annamarie 🙂 My favourite Fisherwick graffiti is the horseshoe on the old gate piers to Fisherwick Hall. I’d love to know who was responsible for this and all of the other stuff!

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  2. Have you seen the graffiti in the Gazebo on Borrowcup Hill? Some of that graffiti goes back a long way. I think my parents put their mark there before they were married. I may have also added the odd scrape in the shape of a love heart quite a long time ago with the odd girlfriend! I cannot see the point of spray painting of writing with a pen or am I old fashioned? What is even more fascinating is the psychology behind the graffiti. What makes people leave their mark? What are people thinking when they leave their mark? Have these thoughts differed and their meanings over the years? These days graffiti can be a form of identifying gang areas or used by other criminals.

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    • I agree with you on the psychology and all of the questions you ask are so interesting. Some of the carved graffiti I’ve seen must have taken a long time to do. Was it all done in one go? An ongoing task? Why do it at all? What’s the story there? I did go up there a while ago looking for the Kings of Lichfield, I’ll have to pay another visit and have a look. The fact that two generations of your family have left little momentos of their lives up there is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about with stories. Why, as humans, do we seem to have this urge to leave out mark in this way? This is so fascinating thanks!

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  3. I have absolutely no problem with most graffiti, as long as it’s not racist or offensive. It’s just people interacting with their environment, which is, overall, a positive thing. Why are we fine with billboards, but not graffiti?

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    • That’s a good point. I was in Victoria Square in Birmingham while the protest was on recently. As you’ll probably know there’s a massive TV screen. Underneath & in other parts of the square people had chalked messages & it looked like they were getting in trouble for it. I know which one I had a more of problem with there, although I know chalk is temporary so its a bit different. I suppose billboards are contained and presumably temporary. Their location is agreed and there would presumably be consequences if the billboard rules (whatever they are) were broken?

      As a purely gut instinct I don’t like the kind of graffiti in the first picture, that’s why I wanted to start to explore mine & other people’s feelings. I think what you say about people interacting with their environment is really interesting…hmmm.. time for more thinking 😉 Here’s a question – what about if someone decided to interact & graffiti on the Cathedral?

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      • On the Cathedral you’d be more offended, I think, because the Cathedral itself is a marvellous thing to look at. Any form of graffiti would (probably) take away from that beauty.

        What would you think if you’d seen that same carving not in the stone there but in a more modern looking brick wall?

        I think it may be that there’s a certain romanticism about the carving into old stone that a bit of paint is never going to replicate.

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    • Billboards have in the past caused outrage also the topic changes on billboards,
      If a flower grows white do we paint it another colour because we think it looks
      more artistic or take it from the ground and hang it upside down because the
      root look better at the top ?.

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      • I remember a billboard poster of Sophie Dahl causing outrage & in some places people actually used graffiti to censor the offending parts! It was eventually withdrawn anyway due to loads of complaints. About 10 years ago I reckon.

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  4. If you go to Shenstone, and take the “back lanes” route to Stonnall, when you get to the little bridge over the brook, the bridge is full of old graffiti dating back generations.

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