An exciting and intriguing discovery was recently made by the tapestry conservation team in the Yellow Bedroom.
As the afternoon sunlight raked across the bare plaster of the east wall, some eighteenth century graffiti was revealed. In a scrolling hand, in the centre of the wall, the following words were just legible (Image 1):
Great folks are of a finer mold [sic]
Lord! How politely they can scold
While a coarse English tongue will itch
For whore & rogue & dog & bitch
Further research revealed that this is an epigram penned by Jonathan Swift, probably best known as the author of Gulliver’s Travels. It seems likely that the graffiti was written at the time of John Delaval’s Georgian renovations to Doddington Hall in the 1760s and before the tapestries were nailed to the walls. So this is the first time the graffiti has been seen in over 250 years! Clearly the writer had been educated to some degree but we can only speculate as to their identity. What is certain is that they wanted to leave a strong message!
Sadly, the graffiti has now been covered again in readiness for rehanging the tapestries. However, it has given the conservation team the opportunity to fully document and protect this exciting find and enable it to be rediscovered by future generations.
Other fragments of writing had already been found on the walls of the Yellow Bedroom: the signature of a “John Chap,” and some sums scribbled in chalk (Image 2) – perhaps calculations for wages or measurements (Images 3 & 4). Altogether, they give a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived and worked in the house all those years ago.
The Yellow Bedroom is currently being prepared for opening to the public for the first time. For weekly updates about our progress, follow us on Instagram at conservation_at_doddington.
Find out more about the Doddington Hall Conservation Charity here.