In Ickford church in Buckinghamshire, where Pam and I went for a walk a little while ago (see earlier posts), one of the window sills is marked with a design for the ancient game of Nine Men's Morris [according to OED, a corruption for merrells]. In fact it is marked twice; one design neatly cut, another rather crudely.
Who played this game there, and when? I know we mustn't assume that medieval worshippers were always devout and well-behaved, but the sill concerned is rather near the site (indicated by an adjacent piscina) of an ancient altar ... and accordingly probably within the confines of a parclose screen and perhaps within a chantry. Were the merrells players active in the age of box pews ... my predecessor at S Thomas's, Canon Chamberlain, when he was evicting the box pews from S Thomas's, claimed that such things went on within them as were an offence to female modesty. Or should we deem the perpetrators to have been parishioners at leisure, amusing themselves in church when worship was not occurring?
Romantic Anglicans sometimes forget that before the unjustly reviled Victorians got down to their sometimes admittedly heavy restorations, some of our churches were almost derelict and many were in a state of near collapse.