Early stonemason signatures revealed on seawalls

Signatures of 17th century stonemasons have been discovered on historic seawalls during work on the Portsmouth City Council-led Southsea Coastal Scheme.

Known as ‘banker marks’, the signatures were traditionally made by masons on the stones they were preparing to ensure they were paid the correct amount for their work.

Each mason had to have an individual banker mark in order to gain admission to a guild.

Banker marks were exposed on the lower levels of the seaward-facing wall of the ‘Long Curtain, Kings Bastion and Spur Redoubt’ Scheduled Monument during work to break out and remove modern concrete revetment.

Southsea Coastal Scheme Project Director Guy Mason said:

“We were unaware that the banker marks existed beneath the concrete as there is no mention of them in any of the documentation about the monument.

“They have now been photographed and recorded, and will be included in a report on the archaeological monitoring and recording being undertaken as part of the Southsea Coastal Scheme.”

Principal Consultant for Wessex Archaeology Alex Godden said:

“This discovery has the potential to tell us whether local masons and guilds were used, or if experts such as specific military masons were brought in.

“It will help to identify which quarries or stonemason workshops were used for the stone working.

“We may well further identify the same stonemasons’ work on buildings in or around Portsmouth based on their individual marks.”

Portsmouth City Council, Wessex Archaeology and Historic England archaeologists maintain regular contact to agree appropriate recording strategies as remains are uncovered. This is in line with the project’s Historic Environment Mitigation Strategy, as well as planning conditions and Scheduled Monument Consent.

The Southsea Coastal Scheme is the UK’s largest local authority-led coastal defences’ project, worth more than £100M. It will stretch for 4.5km from Old Portsmouth to Eastney.

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