Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wells, Somerset

Usually when I’m writing posts for this blog, I like to give you a bit of historical information – a date, an architect’s name, a few details that fill in the background. Sometimes my search for such enlightenment draws a blank, but mysteries can be interesting to share.

Take this sign in Wells. It tells us quite a lot, naming two members of the same family, a male mason and a female dealer in tea, coffee, tobacco, pepper, and snuff. There’s no date, but the style of the lettering is similar to signs I’ve seen from the late-17th and early-18th centuries. Snuff, introduced to England in 1660, became popular here in the 18th century, by which time tea-drinking was also well established. So my guess would be that this is an 18th-century sign.

Presumably the symbol after Richard’s name is his mason’s mark. I associate masons’ marks with the Middle Ages, but they were certainly used in later centuries too.

There is no indication either of the relationship between Sarah and Richard. Sister and brother? Widowed mother and son, perhaps? Maybe someone out there knows and would like to share their knowledge. Meanwhile hats off to whoever it was who preserved this inscription, an enduring trace of two forgotten lives.


Peter Ashley said...

These 'Unexpected Alphabets' are amazing aren't they. Part of an early nineteenth century poster warning people about vandalism has been uncovered in Kirby Hall in Northants, and English Heritage have thoughtfully preserved it in its original position, although it's on an interior wall covered in the latest shade of conservation paint.

Thud said...

I'm swoppinf my car when i get back for something more fuel efficient so i can visit your discoveries...the list grows ever longer.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thud: There's still a lot of interesting things left in England, when you look for them. I could do lots more blog posts about Wells alone, but will probably limit myself to three for now.