Walk through any city and sooner or later you will be confronted by walls of graffiti, some good some bad, but love it or loath it, it seems to have become a fact of modern urban life. With such a proliferation you may well surmise that this is a modern day phenomenon, but you would be greatly mistaken as graffiti in one form or another has existed since the dawn of man. True, that with the advent of the paint spray can there has been an explosion, with the decoration of whole walls in often garish colours, but look more closely and older more traditional forms of graffiti are still to be found.
Historically, people have always been fascinated with leaving their mark, whether a stone mason marking a stone they had worked on, or a visitor wanting to leave their name at a places they have visited, be it on the walls of tombs in ancient Egypt to the more modest, yet arguably just as interesting, church or castle wall here in the U.K. the trick is to know where to look for such marks! Given that we are dealing with periods of 100’s of years, anything painted onto an exposed wall would have been washed away long ago, even marks in stone will not withstand the ravages of time, so looking at areas well protected from the elements is a good place to start.
Having been interested in historic buildings for years, and like to photograph them, but have always found it a battle to get everything in the frame, even when using wide angle lenses, often needing to squeeze myself into the corner of a room to get the widest view. Whilst doing so I noticed something marked on the wall out of the corner of my eye, looking closer I saw it was a name with a date carved into the wall, almost impossible to see unless you were looking along the length of the wall and notice the slight indentations. Since then, whenever I visit any ancient structure I spend a little time looking for tell-tail signs of old graffiti and take every opportunity to try and photograph it. Unfortunately the best preserved examples tend to be found in dark, hard to reach, corners where seeing them yet alone getting a camera in can be something of a challenge!
Judging from some of the dates, it seems that the coming of the railways in the early 19th century was a major contributor in allowing large numbers of people to travel more widely, affording them the opportunity to visit historic locations for pleasure, and leave there mark for good or bad! It is also worth noting that these markings can vary from crude scratching to well designed and executed carved lettering, all be it still defacing a historic structure. It’s fascinating to surmise who these people were, and where they had come from, although in a few instances even that was cut into the stone.
As the majority of the pictures were taken as a secondary subject to the architectural or panoramic images I was after, the equipment used was not ideal, being mainly ultra wide angle and fisheye lenses. Fortunately with high megapixel cameras it was possible to crop the image sufficiently to still show the graffiti without too much loss of quality, however some camera shake is visible at times, given the locations, lack of light and the impossibility of setting up a tripod.
The images were taken in and around Leicestershire or just outside, at locations such as Kirby Hall, Ashby Castle and Kenilworth Castle.