Masons’ Marks at Westgate, Wakefield

Victorian stone masons left their marks on this embankment wall, south of Wakefield Westgate Station.

The Roman numeral ‘IV’ carved on this sandstone block appears to relate to the iron bracket that has been added to brace the wall but it’s the mark below that intrigues me: it looks like a flag, a key or a crossed out semiquaver. It has weathered more than the numeral, which suggests that the ironwork is a later addition.

The sun was at a perfect angle this morning for picking out the marks and we spotted dozens of them.

They’re carved at the centre of the facing side of each block. Some masons used letters of the alphabet. You can see that the quality of the sandstone varied because the ‘H’ in the top right of my photograph has faded away more than the one on the left.

There are crosses, arrows and triangles but my favourite marks are the fish-like hieroglyphs and that rabbit’s head (or perhaps it’s an upside-down ‘R’) in the bottom right-hand corner.

This embankment wall, between Westgate Wakefield and the first arch of the Ninety-nine Arches railway viaduct over Ings Road, was constructed in the mid-1860s.

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  1. Happy New Year Richard!
    I have enjoyed reading your posts for more than 10 years and liked this one in particular. All too often we miss what is right under our noses!

    1. Thank you and hope 2018 is a good year for you. I was actually scanning the wall for any fossils or geological features and when I first spotted a mark I dismissed it as later graffiti. I’d love to know more about the band of Victorian masons who came up with their personal logos.

  2. Fascinating article and terrific photos .. have you come across these more widely in Yorkshire?

    I’m in Sheffield and I wondered if I might come across any of these and where the best place would be to look for them?

    1. It would be worth looking at any Victorian stone-built building. I walked past the wall again on an overcast day and they were easy to miss so if you can check out a wall with oblique sun shining on it, you’ve got more of a chance of spotting them. The most common mark is the Ordnance Survey spot height, the upward arrowhead with a single line above it. I think that they continued carving those well into the 20th century.
      On paving edges we have several in Horbury with EL carved on them, which I believe signifies Elland Flags, the quarry they came from.

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