Mason's Marks by Richard Maslen

Mason's Marks
Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, Suffolk.

A masons mark found in Blythburgh ChurchAlthough they are not mentioned in detail in the present church guide, masons' marks are present throughout the church on every pillar but one. It has been said that until one is shown the marks they are invisible but after being shown them, they are everywhere!

Of the signs used as a manufacturer's signature, owner's mark or trade mark, stonemasons' marks are the ones that have survived in greatest quantities. The simple reason for this is that a sign carved in stone is able to last through the centuries.

Although Strasbourg Cathedral has more than 1500 different signs, Holy Trinity has enough to make their study quite interesting.

The following marks have been collected from the lower parts of the pillars up to the beginnings of the arches. That there are more on the arches themselves, I was able to confirm during an earlier limewashing, when I climbed up on the scaffolding. (Please see Appendix 1 for these marks.)

A masons mark found in Blythburgh ChurchThere are, in addition, more marks on the exterior of the great wooden South Door, together with the date 1629 on the lower left panel.. (See Appendix 2 for these marks.) It would appear that families or fellowships of masons used one basic mark with pieces added, to represent the various members of these families or fellowships. (See Appendix 3 for these variations.)

Churches and other important buildings in one locality may have been built by the same masons, since their marks and variations can often be seen in some or all of them . (See Appendix 4 for these churches in Southwold and Walberswick.)
If this brief paper has whetted your appetite, you might like to ponder the Runic, Phoenician and Greek alphabets, which contain letters that the masons used. (See Appendix 5) All of them have been used by masons and some are in Holy Trinity. So good hunting, they are everywhere!


Richard Maslen. Blythburgh.


Bibliography:
Masons' Marks ancient and modern. Myers T.H. 1906
Masons'Marks. Pennick N. Cockayne, Cambridge 1974
Friends of York Minster, 47th Annual Report 1976 p.17
Masons' Marks. Brooks F.W. East Yorkshire Local History Society. 1952
Unpublished theses and studies by local people, York Minster Library. Available on personal request at the Library.

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