I spent some time having a look around some of the church’s pews today and found some more graffiti including this foot rest with the initials of a member of the congregation engraved into it.

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Presumably, they always sat in the same seat and even went to the trouble of marking their footrest. 🙂

Benjamin Thomson seems to want to take up the whole of his pew seat with his name sprawling a good ten inches across the hand rest while another pew was covered in graffiti – many names illegible to me – although one name stands out more than the rest, John Kean

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Another peculiarity is that on three of the ground floor pews facing the church organ is carved the name Jas. McMurtrie DSC01710

The name appears to be stamped into the wooden handrails of the pews and I initially thought perhaps it signified the makers of the pews? But then why is the name not stamped in all the pews? Were these three rows simply reserved for the McMurtie family?

Lots of questions – so if anyone has any information about this or knows any of the people who have carved their name with pride into the church pews, I’d appreciate it if you contacted me. 🙂

This bit of Victorian graffiti looks like a date May 20 1863 ….

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and it’s strange to realise that on the very day someone was carving this date into the wood, the English newspaper, Worcestershire Chronicle, ran an article about Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous Italian General, politician and nationalist who played a large role in the history of Italy (and for whom Garibaldi biscuits were invented in 1864). They printed “Garibaldi is better; his rheumatic pains have left him; his wounded foot now reduced to the same size as his sound one, and his physicians say he will not be lame.

And it turns out that 1863 was a big year for world changing events –

  • Sixteen countries meeting in Geneva signed ‘The Resolutions of the Geneva International Conference‘ agreeing to form the International Red Cross and paving the way (in 1864) for what is known today as simply The Geneva Convention.
  • Alanson Crane patented the world’s first fire extinguisher.
  • The Football Association was formed in London (the Scottish Football Association not being formed until 1873).
  • Shamefully, British forces continued their annihilation of the Maoris in the New Zealand Wars.HMS_Orpheus
  • The flagship of the Royal Navy in Australia, HMS Orpheus, sank attempting to take soldiers to Manukau Harbour in New Zealand, with the loss of 189 lives. This became the worst maritime tragedy to occur in New Zealand waters.
  • President Lincoln proclaimed that the final Thursday in November would henceforth be known in the United States as Thanksgiving Day.

But more importantly…..

  • In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery and proclaiming the freedom of 3.1 million of America’s 4 million slaves, with the rest being freed as Union armies advanced through Confederate states.

Specifically in May 1863, there were two major events of the American Civil War taking place;

The first of these was the death of the Confederate General, ‘Stonewall’ Jackson on the 10th May 1863 after being mistakenly shot by one of his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville, which was a major battle of the American Civil War.

The second important event of May 1863 was the North’s attack on Vicksburg. On the 20th May, the very day our graffiti was being carved, General Grant’s men dug themselves in around Vicksburg while Union warships patrolled the River Mississippi around Vicksburg to hinder any Confederate use of the river.

No doubt the American Civil War would have been the topic of conversation for many of the church’s congregation as just a week prior on May 14th the Union government had been putting pressure on Great Britain not to sell naval boats to the South.

With all these connections to a time gone by, I’m tempted to keep parts of the pews, especially those including dates, for prosperity. Any ideas what I could use them for or turn them into?

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