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Ancient graffiti revealed at the National Civil War Centre

Historic graffiti at Civil War Centre

Museum chiefs are breathing a sigh of relief as graffiti penned by school boys 400 years ago has been revealed after being kept under protective wraps for 18 months.

Scores of names – thought to be those of school boys – were discovered four years ago etched into plaster walls at the Old Magnus Building in Newark before a £5.4m project began to create the National Civil War Centre on the site.

During major restoration works four rotten one tonne Tudor beams had to be replaced which meant jacking up the roof area, which is where the most interesting graffiti was found.

The names and two roughly drawn coats of arms were covered with a breathable waterproof material, Japanese tissue, fibreglass and timber boarding.  

“We had our fingers’ crossed when we took away the protection.  But we are thrilled to say the carvings have come through unscathed,” explained Michael Constantine, manager at the National Civil War Centre.  “The names are a direct link to the building’s former life as a school and are precious and rare survivors.  They are a real asset and it’s great the public can see them for the first time.”

The Old Magnus Building on Appletongate was built in 1529 and the attic was used as a dormitory for pupils.  Amongst the names appearing on the walls are an R Disney with the date 1608  – believed to be an ancestor of Walt Disney  – and John Newton, possibly the son of one of the king’s supporters during the civil war who loaned the beleaguered monarch £1000.

Experts Sue Lee and her colleague Nigel Leaney from Eskdale Conservation were amongst the first to find the graffiti under layers of old wall paper.  

“Keeping the names safe when so much heavy work was required to restore the building was a tough task, especially since the walls themselves are so fragile,” explained Sue.  “Now with the protection removed and with better lighting we can see there are probably more names than we originally thought. This is the oldest graffiti we have come across in our work and it really brings the building to life.”

The walls have now been consolidated and further measures will be put in place to protect the graffiti, which can be viewed in the Tudor attic at the National Civil War Centre.


Posted on 02 September 2015

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