The 19th-century cell block at Richmond Castle contains an incredible record. Covering its walls are thousands of graffiti drawn during the 19th and 20th centuries. Scratched, scribbled and etched into the lime wash surfaces are delicate portraits, bold political and religious statements, hymns, biblical verse, pastoral scenes and regimental numbers. They offer tantalising glimpses of the lives and thoughts of those in the cells.
The three-year project, which started in March 2016, has repaired the building to protect the fragile lime-washed walls that carry the graffiti. 2,500 inscriptions have been documented, including an internationally significance record left by absolutist conscientious objectors during World War One - men imprisoned and vilified for refusing to take part with the war effort.
Volunteer researchers working with English Heritage historians are telling the stories of the individuals behind the graffiti: Ena Stewart for example was a nurse in the Queen Alexandra's Military Service who travelled to Burma; Harry Vasey, a 19-year-old grocer's assistant and conscientious objector; Charles Gavillet, a soldier in the Green Howards who later died fighting in Korea.
Dawn Price, Volunteer Researcher describes her journey researching WWII soldier George Suggett’s inscription: "I came across a photograph; then George had a face, a personality and a presence. He has no living descendants, it struck me as so sad there was nobody to honour the service, nobody to thank him for the sacrifice he made, I cannot hear his voice or look into his eyes but via this project we can remember him."
For more information about Richmond Castle Cell Block visit the website.
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