Dating Lettering on a Stone Carving

On the outside wall of St Andrew's church at Presteigne in Powys, Wales is this carved stone with lettering saying MPL 1244. the MPL is thought to be latin for 'Mortimer is pleased to have made me' referring to the chancel. Could this carving date from the 13th century or is it clearly much later? All thoughts welcome.


  • Dan Reynolds
    Were Arabic numerals already being used in England and Wales in 1244?
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    The earliest dated occurrence of 'Arabic' numerals in a European manuscript is in Spain in AD 976, but they didn't become widely used in Britain until the late 15th and early 16th Century. Based on the forms of the numerals used in this inscription, I doubt they were carved earlier than 1650 and more likely sometime after 1700. My guess is that they were probably added to the older MPL inscription on one of the centenaries of the consecration of the church.
  • James Puckett
    It’s possible for Hindi-Arabic numerals to have been in Britain at the time. Johannes de Sacrobosco, who used and wrote about the Hindi-Arabic numerals, lived in the era. He lived in Paris but may have been from Yorkshire, so there is a tenuous connection. 

    But this inscription uses the modern, not medieval, form of 4 (see I don’t think this form of 4 was used in Europe until the fifteenth century, prior to that Europeans used the Devanagari form of 4. The arc atop 2 is also atypical for medieval numerals, if this was from 1244 it would look more like 7. I think you’ll have to find a specialist paleographer to get a decent date on this.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    The number is less eroded than the rest of the inscription, so clearly more recent.
  • Wes Adams
    Nick's probably right. Also possible that the initial inscription was made with a suboptimal chisel. Serifs are very difficult without a nice edge. If the date is contemporary it was done with a different tool.
  • Hugh Wood
    Very many thanks for your erudite contributions. So it seems likely that the 1244 is not earlier than 14th century based on the shape of the 4. It looks much newer than the MPL and its position may also suggest that it was an afterthought. If I've understood correctly, the MPL could be of 1244 date, however.