MEDIEVAL markings to ward off evil spirits and bad omens are being uncovered in Bolton’s historic buildings to form part of a national survey.

Bolton Archaeology and Egyptology Society is co-ordinating the Medieval Graffiti Survey locally to record the variety of marks that can be found on buildings to give an insight into past superstitions and fears — and the society wants to hear from anyone who knows of a building locally with elements that pre-date 1700.

The Bolton survey got under way this week, with members of the society enjoying a tour of Hall i’th’ Wood, including rooms which are normally shut off to the public, where they saw witch markings, including daisy wheels, the VV sign, symbolising Virgin Virgins, and taper burns.

Such symbols were carved on to stone or woodwork near entrances including doorways, windows and fireplaces to protect those living there from witches and evil spirits, as well as danger. Ian Trumble, chairman of Bolton Archaeology and Egyptology Society said: “The tour this week was just for members, and they were really enthusiastic. The next tour will be open to members of the public so we hope that will generate more interest and we have more people helping with the survey. We currently have a small working group of 10 to 15 people and we are organising a training day.”

He added: “We are starting with Hall i’th’ Wood before looking at Smithills Hall. Again, those taking part will be able to visit areas which are normally closed to the public, as well as Bolton Parish Church and Deane Church. We are also looking for owners of buildings built pre-1700 to contact us. We know there are such buildings in Firwood. People could be living in them or working in them and we would like those buildings to form part of the survey.”

Modern day equivalents of the witch markings could include the lucky horseshoe which is nailed to a doorway and greeting a sneeze with a ‘bless you’ comes from the same time as the protective markings.

Members are being trained up to spot the intriguing markings to find out more about them, the regional differences, beliefs and about the buildings.

Mr Trumble said: “Buildings often change uses, for example Hall i’th’ Wood was a farmhouse before it become a posh home and markings could show the different uses of the building over time.", and also how the markings differ from building to building.”

A training day will be held on February 26 with the first survey day taking pace in Hall i’th’ Wood on March 5, March 11 and March 18, with more dates to be announced through the website.

For further information and how to get involved visit or email

nHave you got markings on your house. Contact the News Desk on 10204 537270 or email