an old friend in Holt Churchyard, Norfolk

I installed a memorial today in Holt churchyard and revisited one of my favourite stones from the early 19th Century (1809). It has a wonderful carving at the top featuring images relating to “passing on” with the trumpeting angel, skeleton and coffin. The vicar told me that the choirmaster used to insert two matchsticks in the eyes of the small skull, light them, and warn the children that if they couldn’t run right around the church before the matches went out that the Devil would get them. Charming.

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click to enlarge


I came across this wonderful sign on a walk the other day, in Heydon.

let time stand still
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I photographed it and gave it a tap to hear the satisfying ding of cast iron – but found it was made of plastic. I still like it though. The lettering reads TEMPUS STET NFK

let time stand still in Norfolk……….

Blythburgh Church flint lettering

This is an example of the lettering I referred to in my previous blog about flint lettering in Woodbridge – the image below is of the outer wall of Holy Trinity church, Blythburgh. It’s a fantastic church, well worth a visit if you’re in Suffolk.

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here is another image taken from Holy Trinity’s website (thanks to them) and some notes to help to explain what the lettering may mean:

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At the east end, a curious series of initials in Lombardic script stretch across the outer chancel wall. You can see an image of this in the left hand column. It reads A-N-JS-B-S-T-M-S-A-H-K-R. This probably stands for Ad Nomina JesuS, Beati Sanctae Trinitas, Maria Sanctorem Anne Honorem Katherine Reconstructus (‘In the name of the blessed Jesus, the Holy Trinity, and in honour of holy Mary, Anne and Katherine, this was rebuilt’). A fanciful theory is that they are the initials of the wives of the donors. However, note the symbol of the Trinity in the T stone, and I think this is a clue to the whole piece.

German lettering design

Some wonderful German lettering.

The first image here shows the lettering produced by the workshop of Sepp Jacob in Germany. The work he produced was very sculptural and direct and a wonderful blend of good strong lettering and an understanding of materials. This piece reminds me of the German font Neuland which was designed by Rudolf Koch.

Neuland is based on the handwriting of Rudolf Koch (as are all of his typefaces). Its simplicity and unusual shapes derive from the difficult and demanding art of punchcutting. In fact, it may be the only typeface designed by actually cutting the punches; Koch made no preliminary drawings, it is almost as though the punches themselves were sculpted, and these were then used in casting the type itself. Neuland was designed in 1923 and it became enormously popular as an advertising typeface. It is a sans serif, all-capital design with angular features, obliqued strokes and a slight concavity to some of the vertical strokes. Used with restraint, it can lend power and persuasion to display work, as it did when forming the basis for titles appearing in the film Jurassic Park.

Optima is another wonderful example of German lettering design. It was designed by Hermann Zapf, Contemporary German calligrapher, teacher, book designer and one of the 20th century’s most significant type designers. In the mid 1930’s Zapf studied the writing manuals of Rudolf Koch and Edward Johnston and taught himself. Zapf has designed some of the 20th century’s most important fonts, including Palatino and Optima, and some of my other favourites such as Michaelangelo, Sistina, and the wonderfully calligraphic Zapfino.

PAX relief carving

Pax limestone carving
Pax - click to enlarge

I discovered this beautiful carving high on a church wall in Stratton-on-the-Fosse where I was installing a memorial. I really like the combination of deep carving and delicate form. The dark shadows are what make the carving “read” well.

It is very important to think about depth when carving both relief work or lettering. Generally the deeper the incision the better the result, and the longer the piece will last, the only exception I can think of would be where undercutting within the carving could result in water being trapped and subsequent freezing and expansion of the water could weaken or break out parts of the carving. Shallow carving or lettering will suffer from reduced legibility and not last long at all. I have had clients come to me to replace work that was only carved 20 years ago. Good quality deeply cut inscriptions should last for centuries.