Medieval architectural design uncovered at Wymondham Abbey

A substantial incised architectural design has been discovered during the unblocking of a 12th century opening at Wymondham Abbey. As reported by archaeologist Dr Roland B Harris, “The incised design on the newly exposed respond measures 1.9m x 1.3m and is a scale drawing for a gable and window tracery. The design is largely complete, with gaps in the lines mostly due to surviving patches of later medieval paint, and includes various setting-out lines, circles and points. In addition to the main window design, the lower part of the respond is inscribed with another simple arch and numerous graffiti, including a grotesque head, compass circle and daisy wheel designs.

“The significance of the discovery is threefold. First, the completeness of the design is remarkable – indeed, rather more complete than well-known examples such as those in the Galilee Porch at Ely Cathedral, the Roslin chapel crypt, and Christchurch Priory. Second, the design does not relate to surviving Gothic additions to Wymondham Abbey and, therefore, almost certainly relates to the monastic buildings or, much more probably, the eastern arm of the abbey church, demolished at the Dissolution. Third, and more tentatively, the combination of elements suggests a date before the end of the 13th century and raises the question as to whether Wymondham was at the forefront of bar tracery design in England in the mid-13th century.”

While the incised design is not accessible at present, visitors will be able to see it when the building works finish in the autumn of 2015.

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