Cotton: Historic ‘graffiti’ etching found in church window pane

A PROJECT to clean-up a parish church has uncovered some rather unusual “Elizabethan graffiti” scratched on the windows.

Members of the Friends of Cotton Church, a group set up 15 years ago to help preserve the historic structure, found the remarkable etchings on several of the leaded panes, thought to date back to the 1500s.

The inscriptions – believed to have been made using a cut diamond at the production stage – seem to be based on a passage in a Shakespearean sonnet.

The longest piece of writing is similar to the lines, “Were kisses all the joys in bed, One woman would another wed” – which comes from the famous playwright’s Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music.

The way the letters have been scratched into the glass and the style of handwriting – with the letter S being written like an F – would fit in with the 16th Century, when the windows are thought to have been installed


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Alan Couldridge, chairman of the Friends of Cotton Church, said the etchings could have been made at a later date, but it was clear from the grime that had built up around them and on all of the panes that they had not been seen for centuries.

He said: “Somebody has investigated it and they think some of it is Shakespeare, but which working glazer would have been familiar with these words?

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“It’s very old. The panes themselves haven’t been touched for hundreds of years.

“There was a makeover in Victorian times and it’s not impossible that they are false, but that’s just me being miserable because we would like to think they are original.”

He said special cleaning methods had been used to wipe away the decades of dirt from the windows, which are up in the clerestory – the first floor of the church.

Mr Couldridge added: “We just don’t know how to date them, but maybe someone out there can?”

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