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that " if the stone is to be placed within easy view "the mark will be fine and almost invisible; if at "a height it will be big and deep. The same mark "may in one position be an inch long; in another, "two or even three. This seems to be due not so "much to carelessness as to the desire of the "mason to have his mark seen. It appears to have "been their privilege in those times to place their "marks everywhere on the face of the stones."
I think there is no doubt that the masons varied the size of their marks purposely, according to the position in which the stone was to be ultimately placed. I have often noticed that the larger-sized marks were to be found on the higher stones of a wall, though at the same time some marks were of large size even when on the level of the eye. The mason was also, it appears to me, to some extent guided by the size of the stone, and the space available for his mark. I have several times noticed a mark very finely and carefully cut inside the mouldings of a door or window, and necessarily small in size. The same mark has appeared larger in size when placed on the flat surface of a stone.
Mr. Whitley suggests that where large numbers of the same marks are found—as the letter N at St. Michael's Tower, Coventry, and the R and X on the Earl of Leicester's buildings at Kenilworth — "it seems probable that all the stones were not "the work of one workman alone, but of several "working in common in the sheds, and the figure "adopted for the payment of task work. It is "likely, that most of these stones were worked "and marked at the quarry, and brought to the "building for use as required."
Such an argument raises great difficulties. It appears to me possible with regard to Leicester's buildings and restorations, which are dated from 1570 to 1575; but as the tower of St. Michael's Church is dated 1373 to 1395, it would go far to prove the non-personal use of marks at a very early date. That the old masons did work by task as well as journey is clear, but I am not inclined to adopt the theory that in the fourteenth century a number of masons working together adopted a common mark. The individual masons would naturally be responsible to the master-mason who took the contract, just as they are to the head of the works at the present time.
One point has often puzzled me. It is quite clear that in early times, although in some instances the marks were cut on the beds of the stones, they were as a general rule intended to be visible. A mason was proud of his craft and also of his mark. Therefore, if only as a means of identifying each man's work, each stone should be marked, except in cases, perhaps, when a portion of a building was placed in the hands of one workman. If every stone did not bear a mark, then all possibility of distinguishing the work of different masons, either before or after the stones were placed in the walls, could not exist. It has been seen from the remarks of Mr. Chalmers, in his paper on Brechin marks, that the custom then was, for every stone to be marked by the man who worked it. Why is it, then, that marks are so often found only on some stones, often on the lower courses only? This may easily be seen from the marked stones at Burscough Priory, where two stones come together bearing different marks, either or 'both appearing again in other places powdered over the walls among a large number of blank stones. In some buildings I have seen the marked stones appearing to exceed in number those unmarked; in other cases, again, almost every stone bears a mark, often nearly all of the same form.
It has been observed by M. l'Abbe Amber, Canon of Poictiers (Bulletin, Comite Hist, des Arts et Monuments, iv., 1847-8, p. 220, &c.), that the same form of mark appears in scattered places all over the cathedral, of different sizes and not all equally well cut. He considers that blank stones were marked on the other face, and asks if it is possible to explain the recurrence of the marks by supposing that they were those of the master mason who gave them to the workmen. Such a general arrangement would explain how when a workman died or went away, having worked on a certain portion of the church, left it to his successor, who reproduced it a century or more afterwards in other parts of the building, far away from the place where it was in the first instance used; or that the stones, more particularly the plain square ones, were prepared and kept in store, where they might remain for some years, owing to frequent interruption in the works, and when the time came for their use, they were placed in whatever position their shapes suited.
Mr. Whitley points out that marks are often more frequent in the lower portions of buildings, and grow fewer in number as the height advances. At the same time he mentions the case of St. Michael's steeple, Coventry, which bears marks from the ground to the top of the tower. He also asks the question whether unmarked stones were so left by accident. "It would be necessary," he remarks, "to engage non-Guild or non-Company "masons and local masons to hasten on the work, "and thus the existence of non-marked stones "may to some extent be explained. The stones of "some buildings have no marks shown whatever. "Were all the worked stones left without the "marks the work of non-society men? That some "were the work of apprentices, who would have "no mark."
It does not appear to me to be at all probable that men who were not members of a guild or company would be allowed to work stones in early times in a regular lodge. It had occurred to me that the blank stones might be those squared by the apprentices; in many buildings, however, the number of them seems too great for the difficulty to be thus explained. It has been seen that the Scotch usage in later times was for the apprentice to take out a mark, and it is not at all certain whether the apprentices did or did not mark their work at an earlier date.
The Abbe Amber, quoted above, held the same opinion as M. Didron, who states that " the marks "are often hidden in the thickness of the walls." (Ann. Arch., 1845, ii., p. 248.) M. Klotz (lb., 1845, iii., p. 54) says " many stones bear no mark on the "face, which is visible, because the mark is cut on "the side built into the wall: a positive proof "that they are the marks of the masons, and not "for the builders." As he was at that date the architect of the cathedral, M. Klosz would have many opportunities of examining portions of the building undergoing repair. The same opinion is held by Da Silva, in his interesting paper on Masons' Marks in Portugal. (J. P. N. da Silva, Memoire de VA rcheologie sur la veritable signification des signes qu'on voit graves sur les anciens monuments de Portugal, Lisbonne, 1868,4 illustrated with a number of plates.) He considers that it was a matter of indifference to the mason on which side of the stone he placed his mark, or which way up it was likely to be placed in the building. In the doorway of the old cathedral of Coimbra, Prof, da Silva found marks which would have been hidden behind the shafts of the columns, if the shafts had not been broken. He places the date of the cathedral about the year ill I. He also considers that when a workman was employed upon all the stones of a column, or the casing of a door or window, he cut his mark on the base or the foot, which was the place chosen for the mark of the workman. This would not prevent another mark being found upon the base of the other column or casing of the same bay; it only clearly points out that one workman has executed this part of the building, and so no other marks are found on the other stones of this portion of the work. The same system, he observes, was not used wi,th regard to the stones which formed the arches of a roof, or arched buttresses, when every stone may bear a different mark, because many workmen were employed on it at the same time, in order not to delay a portion of the construction upon which depended the continuation of the works.
4 An abstract of this paper, by Mr. George Godwin, appeared in the Builder, xxvii., 1869, p. 237. ,
Da Silva also expresses the opinion that to expedite the work it was necessary to contract with the workmen for the ornamented stones, faced on all sides according to the dimensions and designs of the architect. It was quite impossible in a large building to keep the workmen waiting while a mason finished all the stones for one part; therefore, when he had made ready the number of stones apportioned out to him, he commenced others for another part, higher up; because at the same time other masons were employed on stones which were joined in with those their companions had finished at an earlier time.
These explanations would of course at once clear away the difficulty of some stones being marked and some not, as well as explain the scattered positions in which the same mark appears in many large buildings. At the same time, however, it removes much of the supposed symbolism