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All Saints, Houghton

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Exterior of All Saints, Houghton

Houghton All Saints is located in the Test valley near Stockbridge. This small unassuming church dating from the 12th century contains a wealth of stunning medieval graffiti, with some striking and unusual examples. Most of it can be found on 2 pillars in the south arcade, and in the south porch around the south doorway, but there is more elsewhere, both inside and on the exterior.

Impressive is the quantity of crosses, well over 100, particularly on the south aisle pillar, closest to the doorway; see Photos 2 & 3 below. Some of these are quite elaborate, and many have terminals ending in circular dots. They are found at a range of heights and it is tempting to speculate that those found on the bases and lower parts of the shafts were made by people kneeling down, possibly at prayer. The church literature says they were made by pilgrims en route between Salisbury and Winchester, but there is no reason why they might not also have been made by local parishioners.

EGs of crosses from the South Porch   Crosses & a shield
Photo 2   Photo 3

The most prominent and unusual of the graffiti however is a large symbol of the Trinity on another south nave pillar; see Photo 4 below. It consists of three compass-drawn circles at three points of a triangle, surrounding another central circle. This is carefully and deeply carved and may have been made as a teaching device by the priest for the laity. This representation of the Trinity can often be found in medieval documents, and as a decorative feature, but is a rare graffiti find; Photo 5 is a diagrammatic representation of the Trinity Graffito.

Trinity Graffito   Trinity Symbol
Photo 4   Photo 5

Some charming profiles of faces were found, including one of a man wearing a liripipe hood, dating it to the 14th or 15th century; see Photo 6 below. There are also Latin inscriptions as shown in Photos 7 & 8 below. One reads: Domini dimitte ab huic,  “Lord send us from here”, and another Vobis, as in Pax Vobis, “Peace be with you”. Such inscriptions again point to clergy or other educated people producing them.

Profiles of faces   Latin insription - Nunc Dimittis   Latin inscription - Vobis
Photo 6   Photo 7   Photo 8

 

Knot Other graffiti include intricate knot patterns, stars, and shapes which are open to interpretation. Bow & arrow
Photo 9   Photo 10
Mass Dial Outside, on the south side, is a worn mass dial and a reused stone from a sundial with Roman and Arabic numerals.
Photo 11
Diana - 1997

Bringing the graffiti into the twentieth century is the name “Diana” with a cross and the date 1997, inscribed in the porch.

Photo 12

The church is normally open during the day, on a timer lock. The survey was completed in May 2018 Karen Wardley, Co-ordinator, HMGP

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