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Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey Wins 2013 Marsh Award

The Council for British Archaeology has announced The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey as the winner of the 2013 Marsh Award for Community Archaeology.

Medieval Ship graffiti from Norwich cathedral. This lovely example dates from the 2nd half of the 15th century and shows a typical trading vessel of the period that would have been a common sight in the ports of the East Anglian coast. Copyright NMGS 2013

Picture above shows Medieval Ship graffiti from Norwich cathedral. This lovely example dates from the 2nd half of the 15th century and shows a typical trading vessel of the period that would have been a common sight in the ports of the East Anglian coast

The Award aimed at voluntary groups and individuals active in the UK is run as a partnership between the Council for British Archaeology and the Marsh Christian Trust. The award, which includes a prize of £1,000, recognises and promotes innovative and high quality communication and archiving of the results of research or fieldwork. 

Award-winners, The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (NMGS) was set up in 2010 to undertake the very first large scale and systematic survey of pre-reformation graffiti inscriptions in medieval churches and was established as a community archaeology project entirely coordinated and run by volunteers. The project has made a number of nationally important discoveries, including the Binham Priory Architectural inscriptions. However, what has marked out this scheme from others is the engagement of volunteers from outside the traditional boundaries associated with community archaeology and heritage projects. The project has also actively communicated its work through lectures, tours, guides and media activity. Volunteers have been drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including adults with a history of mental health problems. The success of the project, the positive impact on volunteers and resulting media coverage has led to the expansion of the survey into other areas of the country following the same volunteer model. 

Mike Heyworth MBE, Director of the Council for British Archaeology commented:
‘The NMGS submission really stood out for all of the judges. This project is remarkable and truly innovative because it embraces new types of volunteers and provides them with their first experience of archaeology, whilst also delivering fantastic research outcomes. The Council for British Archaeology is about ‘Archaeology for All’ and this survey was a great example of how community archaeology can engage widely, be inclusive and achieve great results.’

Jo Winyard, Director of the Marsh Christian Trust, added:
“A huge congratulations to all the winners involved in The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey. The Marsh Award for Community Archaeology was set up to support just these sorts of local volunteer initiatives. It is a credit to all those involved that their work and the dissemination of their results have been recognised by this Award.”

Matthew Champion from the NMGS responded to the award:
“Winning this award is a great boost for the project and a real recognition of all the hard work that has been put in by the volunteers. The project has made some amazing discoveries and it really highlights the fact that local volunteers can make a real difference to the archaeological record. This sort of project simply wouldn’t be feasible for a professional unit or university to undertake in the current climate. It’s just too big and too expensive. The volunteers have already invested over £100,000 worth of their own time, with the projects actual budget being only a few hundred pounds. Sitting in cold and draughty churches staring at the walls can be a little dispiriting at times, so this is a real morale booster. The award is really a fantastic recognition that real people can undertake real and meaningful archaeology – and make a real difference.”

Marsh Christian Trust
The Marsh Award for Community Archaeology is just one of the 65 Awards the Marsh Christian Trust runs in partnership with other charitable organisations, to identify Society’s ‘unsung heroes’ who are making outstanding contributions, across the fields of Heritage, the Arts, Conservation and Social Welfare. Founded in 1981, by Brian Marsh OBE, the Trust supports a growing number of such individuals and charities each year through its Award Scheme and Grant-Making programme. www.marshchristiantrust.org/

The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey
The survey was established in 2010

  • 80% of all medieval churches surveyed during the pilot project had significant surviving examples of grafitti
  • All survey work is being undertaken by volunteers trained through the project
  • Since establishment of the project over 65 public lectures have been given to  range of local groups
  • To date the NMGS have fully surveyed nearly 200 churches in Norfolk and generated 7,500 images
  • Further surveys are now being carried out in Surrey, East Sussex and Lincolnshire with newly established surveys beginning in Leicestershire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire
  • More information about the project, the survey, community involvement and outreach, recording and ambitions for the future please visit www.medieval-graffiti.co.uk
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