ANCIENT buildings in Winchelsea, including historic St Thomas’s Church have been covered in graffiti.
But people need not worry as the graffiti is more than 600 years old and creating quite a stir with archaeologists.
Winchelsea’s graffiti has been scratched onto stonework and wall plaster since the 14th century.
Winchelsea councillor Richard Comotto said: “Most is now so faint that it is hard to see and therefore tends not to be noticed. But there is now growing archaeological interest. And the more that archaeologists look, the less certain they are that these graffiti were just random acts of vandalism.
“Some, particularly in churches, may have had an accepted role in medieval society.
Interest in historic graffiti in Winchelsea has been spurred by the discovery of a veritable fleet of ship graffiti in one of the cellars under Blackfriars Barn.
“This is the ruin at the edge of the Cricket Field, alongside Rectory Lane (A259), which is owned by the National Trust.”
He added: “The ship graffiti in Blackfriars Barn is being recorded, on behalf of the National Trust, by archaeologist, Matt Champion, who has pioneered the study of church graffiti in Norfolk, and by members of the Winchelsea Archaeological Society (WAS).
“The sheer number of ships is unusual. The ships themselves appear to be medieval. If this confirmed, the graffiti will be of national importance.”
The Blackfriars Barn graffiti will feature next month in the BBC TV South programme “White Cliffs to Hastings --- A Great British Story”.
The National Trust will be opening the Blackfriars Barn cellar to the public on the evening of Friday, 15 June.
Meanwhile, Winchelsea Archaeological Society has launched a project to survey and record historic graffiti in Winchelsea.
It is looking for volunteers to take part. The project will start with a training day on Saturday.
This will take place in the Church in Winchelsea and will be run by Matt Champion, who first noticed the quantity of graffiti in the Church. The day will run from 10am to 12:30pm and 2pm to 4:30pm.
It will start with an introductory talk by Matt on historic graffiti, after which he will run hands-on training sessions on surveying and recording.
Entry to the talk at the start of the day will cost £5. The rest of the training day is free for volunteers.
WAS hopes that the project might, in due course, be extended beyond Winchelsea.
For further information, contact WAS via 01797-225333 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.