Masons’ marks

William St John Hope (1898) produced the first comprehensive architectural history of the cathedral. St John Hope’s study was based partly on first-hand observations during the late nineteenth-century restorations under Sir George Gilbert Scott, of James T. Irvine clerk of the works, and the cathedral precentor Revd Grevile M. Livett (Halsey 2006, 62). St John Hope produced the first building phase plan of the cathedral (1.3 to 1.5), linking almost contemporary records of the patrons of work, typically the presiding bishops or priors, with the phases and styles observed in the architecture. The patron of the earliest form of the standing building is recorded as Bishop Gundulf (Textus Roffensis c.1123, f. 172). Gundulf’s episcopacy lasted from 1075 to 1108. Livett suggested the west end of the building including the nave arcades, partially constructed in tufa stone, had been cased and redecorated in Caen stone c.1139-1142, although St John Hope revised this to 1114-1124 (1898, 218). Studies of the architectural styles of the Caen stone west front generally agree that it immediately followed the redecoration of the nave arcades, in the 1150s or 1160s (Worssam 2005).
The surviving portions of the chapter house and dorter within the east range of the cloisters have been dated to the episcopacy of
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5 Crypt building phase plan, after a m easured survey by Carden and Godfrey 2007). See key in 1.3.
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Bishop Ernulf (1114-1124), inferred from the accumulation of several plots of land to the east of the cathedral during this time (St John Hope 1900, 7). Subsequent estimates place the architecture of the east range to around 1160 (McNeill 2006, 186), around the time of the major cathedral redecoration campaign after 1137 (Worssam 2005). Difference in sculptural decoration is interpreted as evidence that a different workshop produced the surviving east range of the cloister than the almost contemporary work on the nave arcades.
The east end of the cathedral comprises the quire, presbytery, quire transept and crypt. Studies agree the tufa western portion of the crypt dates to the 1080s, with the transept and sanctuary crypt (now referred to as the Ithamar Chapel), generally dated to after the fire of 1179. St John Hope (1898, 233) suggested 1200 to 1215 as Bishop Gilbert de Glanville is recorded as having finished the quire from the proceeds of a new shrine to St William of Perth (d. 1201), proposing that this referred to the entire east end of the building except the liturgical quire. St John Hope interprets a 1227 record of the monks’ entry into the quire as referring to the liturgical quire and marking the completion of the east end work. Caen stone and Reigate ashlar are used interchangeably in these parts of the building, with the contrast between the yellow Caen and the grey-green Reigate used for decoration.
Recent revisions to St John Hope’s architectural-historical model tend to agree with this division of building phases, although attempt to closer reconcile the dates for the Romanesque and Early Gothic fabric with contemporary references to two extensive twelfth-century fires. On the 3rd of June 1137, the entire building was said to have been burnt (Gervase of Canterbury c.1200). McAleer (1996, 158) concurred with Livett that the nave campaign was a result of the fire of 1137. McAleer (1985) proposed a building sequence for the nave arcades based on variations in architectural features and perceived changes in design between the piers and the arcades above. The bases of the westernmost piers of the north nave arcade differ from the easternmost pier and all those of the south nave arcade. There is Caen stone decoration on the large arches on the aisle side of the north nave arcade but not on the south. These architectural anomalies were taken as evidence that the south piers were constructed or cased first, then the north piers and the north arcade, then the south arcade, followed by the west front.
On the 11th of April 1179, fire damaged the east end of the building (Cotton MS. Vespasian A. 22, f. 30.). Recent studies have tended to place the rebuilding of the east end more immediately after the fire than St John Hope (Draper 2006, McAleer 1996). Three forms of evidence are used to suggest that work on the east end began at the junction between the old presbytery and the new quire transept. There is a shift in use from Bethersden marble to Purbeck for the string course that runs throughout the crypt level of the transept and sanctuary, roughly in line with the entrance to the Ithamar chapel (Worssam 2000). Bethersden was the predominant marble in use in Kent in the twelfth century, being eclipsed by Purbeck marble in the thirteenth century. This junction was also the logical place to begin work to maintain levels between the old and new work. Work would then be expected to have largely been concluded by the time of William of Perth’s death in 1201. His shrine is said to have resided in the north quire transept until the Reformation.
The quire aisles, nave transept and the three easternmost bays of the nave are dated to the mid-thirteenth century (St John Hope 1898). The wooden vaulting of the nave transept and the plaster vaults of the east end and quire aisle are believed to be largely original, with the superstructure of the nineteenth-century roofs constructed above. After the construction of the nave transept the tower had been built up only high enough to carry the weight of the roofs. In 1343 Bishop
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Hamo de Hythe is credited with its completion, placing within four new bells and adding a wooden spire (St John Hope 1898, 277). A large annexe to the south nave transept Lady Chapel dates to the 1490s, concluding the major medieval building campaigns.
The maintenance records of the Dean and Chapter before the English Civil War are scant. Various restorations and rebuilding of the tower appear to have preserved its surviving medieval lower interior portions (Holbrooke 1984, Drc/Emf/144). The spire was taken down in the 1820s (Holbrooke 1984, DRc/Emf/135) and replaced with the current spire in 1904.
Primary sources
Contemporary records exist for buildings in England from most periods in which masons’ marks survive. Ample contemporary documentary evidence details the rates of pay for masons and other artisans employed at some cathedral sites, as well as for the tools and techniques used, and the conditions of their employment (Alexander 2008, 22). In 1306 a contract between the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral and Richard of Stow agreed that carved work was to be paid by the piece and plain work by the measure. That is, banker masons would make their mark on the blocks they shaped, and they would be paid, presumably at the end of each day, for the full measure of worked stones (Alexander 2001, 219). By contrast, at Exeter Cathedral, the fabric accounts specify that a steady wage was paid to each mason weekly and subsequently features very few marks (Alexander 2006). In rare cases, it has been possible to link marks with named masons in contemporary documentation (Alexander 2013). No such documentation survives from the medieval works at Rochester Cathedral, although as will be discussed, the volume of marks closely resembles buildings with documented banker mark sequences.
Almost all other forms of medieval and Early Modern graffiti are absent from extant contemporary records. In certain cases, as with medieval ship graffiti, an ethnographic analogy is proposed using recorded devotional practices. This common form of graffiti is a rare exception, however. Interpretation of most common designs relies solely on formal methods of analysis; based on its form, appearance, arrangement or other qualities.
St John Hope’s Architectural History also contains the most comprehensive study of the locations of altars and images within the medieval building, using contemporary probate documentation. The dates that these altars were in place is of much use in identifying the focus of several clusters of medieval devotional and cult mark graffiti. St John Hope’s interpretations of these primary sources are discussed in the appropriate sections, but a complete reappraisal of this evidence is beyond the scope of this study.
Cross-referencing the graffiti record with the cathedral’s post-medieval burials, baptisms and marriages registers has proved unproductive. However, a significant portion of nineteenth-century graffiti matches with registers of choir boys and contemporary maintenance records within the archives of the Dean and Chapter. Diana Holbrooke (1984) indexed a series of receipts for works dating back to the sixteenth century, now available online.
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Academic literature
Of all forms of medieval graffiti, masons’ marks have seen the most systematic study at other sites. Academic interest in masons’ marks began in the nineteenth century. These earliest studies traced identical mark types between buildings in an attempt to identify the same masons working at separate sites. However, it became apparent that as the majority of twelfth and thirteenth-century marks are composed of just a few lines, they cannot have been unique to one mason. Instead, the vast majority must be coincidental uses of site-specific or even task-specific marks (Alexander 2007, 63).
Recent studies of marks have found more success in focussed investigations of marks within individual structures to identify building phases and significant pauses in work. The simplest of these surveys identify common marks on separate portions of fabric to suggest contemporary building phases. Distinct mark sequences are interpreted as resulting from pauses in construction. In this manner the marks recorded from a preliminary survey at the turn-of-the-twelfth-century church of San Isidoro, Leon was used to establish a complex construction history within the context provided by several dated inscriptions and the documentation afforded by its royal patronage (Martin 2005). Many of these surveys were conducted from ground-level and so are limited in the data they provide. A study of particular interest to the interpretation of Rochester Cathedral masons’ marks is that of the 2,500 carved stone fragments from Christ Church, Dublin. Many of these stones feature mason’s marks which have been grouped by type to identify their provenance within the


1.1.66 Raking light illuminates surfaces at an angle, casting incisions into shadow to increase contrast Raking light illuminates surfaces at an angle, casting incisions into shadow to increase contrast during identification and photography of the during identification and photography of the graffito, a winged lion.graffito, a winged lion.

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medieval building, demolished in the 1870s (Moss 2000, 23). At Rochester Cathedral, mason’s marks are identifiable on both loose fragments and those re-used in later fabric.
More comprehensive surveys divide structures and sites into individual architectural features, recording all visible marks, and compare and contrast the quantities of mark types within sequences from each feature. From 2004 to 2010 a ground-based masons’ mark survey was conducted in the western part of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Plans and elevations of the building were produced, sections of the building coded, and the sequences of mark types compared to establish a relative chronology. Masons’ marks types were compared between the west crypt of the cathedral, the narthex and the gallery. Together with a stylistic analysis of the sculpture, archaeological reading of the masonry and documentary evidence established that the Pòrtico de la Gloria is the result of a structural intervention led by Master Mateo at the end of the 12th century,


1.77 TThreehree–dimensional virtual model of dimensional virtual model of nave arcades nave arcades and west front and west front with masons’ markwith masons’ mark typestypes coloured at coloured at random.


which changed the west end of the building including the crypt (Münchmeyer 2013). Beverley Minster (Alexander).