our archive, which offers you an insight into our
digital collection. It is catalogued and
each item has an accession number. We also
provide a page for our publications which can be
Martham before 1370
and 15th Centuries
and 17th Centuries
First, comes a welcome
from our Chair.
In the following pages you will also find our
projects, including the Martham
oral history collection, Martham in the
nineteenth century, and much else.
As the collection builds we
hope you will want to join us as a member or a
visitor. Much of our collection can be viewed here,
but there are many documents that are lodged in the
Norfolk Record Office in Norwich. However, we
aim to build up a collection of facsimiles here.
Of particular interest to oral
historians are our Martham Stories. These
interviews with local residents were put together in
2013 in collaboration with High School students using
interviews and graphic skills to illustrate the
stories. See this page.
Our local library (photo right)
has a special Martham Collection which includes
books of local interest. They can be consulted for
reference in the library when a librarian or accredited
volunteer is present. Some books may be
borrowed. All are catalogued in the County
Other projects will be
developed from time to time and will feature in this
Below is a logo based on our
cog in the parish church (see opposite). Whenever
you see it click on it and it will take you back to the
The Martham Local History
Group created this archive as part of the Project managed
by the Norfolk
Skills, Support and
Sustainability (CASSAS) projectfunded by the National
Lottery. MLHG is proud to be associated with
this ground-breaking project.
The graffiti on the left is scratched into a pillar
in St Mary's Church, Martham. It has been
identified as a medieval 'cog', in use as a trading
vessel during the 15th century. These cargo
ships traded with the Baltic under the Hanseatic
League during the Middle Ages and were a common
sight. Replicas can be seen in Sweden at Malmo.
For a detailed description of these ship graffiti
read Matthew Champion's book or see this video which
explains in detail the graffiti which can be found
all over England. He discusses Martham's ship
in some detail here.
Cogs were made of oak planks, had one mast and
a square rigged single sail hanging from one
yard. The following is a description of the
graffiti and something of its significance written
by Ann Meakin, our MLHG president.
Martham's mystery mariner
around St. Marys – our ancient Parish church, you may
have noticed a ship scratched on one of the
pillars. How did that come to be there? What
does it mean? Why is it there? When you look
closely you can see that it is very beautifully drawn by
an artist with a very good knowledge of sailing ships
and how they work. A close inspection reveals that
there is lime-wash in the scratched outline and that it
therefore dates from before the Reformation in the
16th century when much that was decorative was
obliterated with lime wash. The lime-wash either
wore off or was removed in a later century.
It is of the
type of ship called a ‘cog’ that was built in the 1300s,
1400s and 1500s as a sea-going coastal trading
vessel. You can distinguish the hull with a high
peak at the prow, the tall mast and the sails and the
rigging and even the crow’s nest.
But why is
it there? Before the days of road, rail and air
transport everything was transported by water and even
the narrowest rivers that were navigable were used by
small boats. Sea-going transport was vital and
almost every place near the sea had its harbour or jetty
from the beach. But seafarers had a very risky
job. They were in constant danger from the
weather, the tides, the hidden sandbanks and rocks and
even pirates and warfare. Seafaring took men away
from their homes for months, sometimes years on end and
they needed to know that people remembered them and
prayed for them.
think constantly of those near and dear to us and have
photos and other mementoes to remind us to think of them
and to pray for them. Many centuries ago they did
not have these things. Being out of sight meant
that sailors could be out of mind too, but they
desperately needed to feel that they were not
forgotten. The symbol of a ship on a church pillar
would remind people to pray for and remember before God
those of their community who were seafarers.
Sometimes a wealthy merchant ship-owner would have
commissioned a skilled artist to make an engraving of
like Blakeney, Wiveton and Cley, which were important
ports in the Middle Ages, you can see several ships
scratched on pillars in the churches, but I have not
seen one that is as large or finely crafted as ours at
My guess is
that ours was commissioned by a wealthy local merchant
ship owner about 600 years ago. But who was
he? We have considerable information about Martham
people of the past from the vast collection of Wills in
the Norfolk Record Office. Not all of them have
been read, so maybe someone doing research will one day
be able to discover the name of our mystery mariner.
Local History Group
A note on
this website may be copied or published without the
permission of the Martham Local History Group.
This does not mean we will not give permission, but you
do have to ask us. The archive material has come
from many sources and there are many copyright holders.