Bath Abbey – messages from the past.

Tower tours at Bath Abbey have always been very popular with the general public but research work that has just started within the structure – with its two spiral staircases and 212 steps – is designed to make them even more enjoyable still!

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People enjoying a Bath Abbey tower tour in today’s gusty conditions.

Members of the Wiltshire Field Archaeology Group have started a major survey of ancient graffiti.

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Special lighting is showing up the symbols. Here’s a design representing the Holy Trinity.

The carvings of names and symbols scattered throughout the tower and dating way back to medieval times – as the Abbey’s Interpretation Officer Dr Oliver Taylor explains.

The group are starting at the top and working their way down. They are also taking note of more recent additions – carved in the lead on the church roof.

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Lots more graffiti carved in the roofing lead.

Climbing the 212 steps to chat to the survey leader Tony Hack meant experiencing the full force of a cold and very noisy early spring wind!

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Hopefully, you can make out this amazing carving of a hand with a decorative sleeve cuff at the bottom. The carver has literally drawn around his fingers.

Like other members of his group he has been involved in research graffiti at several Wiltshire churches, but it was while on a Bath Abbey tower tour with his wife that he realised just how rich a resource of graffiti history the city’s parish church was.

With the Rector’s permission, this new survey has got underway.

I have a feeling the Virtual Museum will be returning to Bath Abbey tower many times – over the coming months – to report on new findings.

The Wiltshire Archaeology Group have a website – http://wiltshireafg.weebly.com – for anyone who would like to join members in their graffiti research across the county.

The survey group can be found via http://www.wiltshire-medieval-graffiti-survey.com

Unfortunately, the narrow confines of Bath Abbey tower don’t allow for any more people to join this particular project as volunteers – at this stage. Making contact with the group is your best bet.

More information about Bath Abbey tower tours via http://www.bathabbey.org/towertours