‘Witch’ marks discovered at Sussex castle

Visitor on the Approach to Bodiam Castle, East Sussex.
Visitor on the Approach to Bodiam Castle, East Sussex.

Researchers have discovered medieval ‘witch’ marks all over a Sussex castle.

Extensive inscriptions dating back to medieval times have been discovered at Bodiam Castle near Robertsbridge.

Numerous ritual protection or 'witch' marks have been revealed

Numerous ritual protection or 'witch' marks have been revealed

The rare ‘medieval graffiti’ includes mason marks and intriguing witch marks and gives fresh insight into the lives of the people who built and lived in the castle hundreds of years ago.

A recent survey, commissioned by the National Trust, by medieval graffiti expert Matt Champion found far more marks at the castle than they expected.

Visitors can view the graffiti in detail themselves with a series of programmed talks and a Top 10 graffiti trail at the castle.

Perhaps most intriguing amongst the many discoveries is the numerous ritual protection or ‘witch’ marks which have been revealed around almost every entrance and window of the castle.

Designed to ward off evil influences, researchers believe the presence of these marks in such numbers indicates that occupants felt they needed something stronger than battlements to protect them against evil spirits.

As Matt Champion says: “The collection of ritual protection marks at Bodiam Castle is not only significant for the site, but for the wider field of study.

“Some were undoubtedly created during the construction process, whilst others could only have been created subsequently, showing the importance religion continued to play throughout the Middle Ages.”

The exciting discoveries have also shed new light on the extent and meaning of existing masons marks at Bodiam.

Evidence from the study also strongly suggests that the majority of the castle was constructed within a decade by a team of six identifiable bankers masons - lower standard masons who roughed out stones for use in the external walls of the castle – and three fine masons - experts performing detailed carving and providing quality control.

Of the two, fine masons marks are far less common, and at Bodiam can only be found on ‘high status’ areas of the castle.

Nathalie Cohen, regional archaeologist for the National Trust, said: “This new information has provided a fascinating and deeper insight into many areas of the castle’s history.

“This has added to our overall understanding of the building, and will help inform future decisions concerning its care and conservation.”

Visitors are invited to join Medieval Graffiti Uncovered, an exclusive expert walk and talk hosted by Matt and Nathalie to learn more about the survey and rare findings.

There is also a chance to follow a self-led trail to track down the ‘top 10’ graffiti using a new guide and medieval characters will host daily talks throughout the winter to guide visitors around striking graffiti examples.

Visit the National Trust website to find out more about viewing the graffiti.

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