Conference Proceedings

Feet of Lead; Ships of Lead

Author: John Buglass (JB Archaeology Ltd.)

  • Feet of Lead; Ships of Lead

    Conference Proceedings

    Feet of Lead; Ships of Lead



A survey of the tower of St Oswald’s Church, Filey, North Yorkshire recorded nearly 1500 graffiti spanning over 400 years. Visitors to the roof not only left their ‘mark’ but a range of iconography which throws light on such topics as literacy, fashion, a possible plague outbreak, occupations and personal relationships. The study of this graffiti produced a wealth of information on not only the people of Filey buton the early tourism to the town. The commonest images were the outlines of shoes, hands and sailing ships. A seemingly odd combination of imagery but one that, when looked at in detail, throws significant light on to the life and times in the 18th and 19th centuries in a Yorkshire coastal town. This paper will examine in more detail some of the information that can be obtained from a large collection of post-medieval graffiti of shoe and ship outlines that can be related to a specific time and place. Although the tower of St Oswald's contained examples of a wide range of graffiti including hands, fish, peel notations, love hearts and even a possible 'plague doctor' the focus of thispaper is primarily on the shoe outlines and ship images as there would simply not be space to discuss all the examples in detail.

Keywords: Filey, shoes, ships, post-Medieval, church

How to Cite:

Buglass, J., (2021) “Feet of Lead; Ships of Lead”, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 31(1). doi:

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Published on
15 Nov 2021