Silence Carved in Stone – St Swithin's Garden, Free School Lane & Saltergate
Find this open space of shifting green and stone - trees, grass, walls and paths enclosed by buildings and roadway on three sides. The whole site is somehow a blank soundscape, it doesn't hold the space - busy-ness and noise strays through.
The focus here is to the ground, to the low walls and paths that cross the site. The silence is found in fragmented words - exquisitely hand-carved words, names and dates, silenced when the tombstones were re-purposed as pathways. As we walk we silence them further, eroding them with each rough footstep.
How does this place speak through you? What would it be like to hear these fragmented carved words whispered aloud? Reading was not always done in silence – until the twelfth century it was usual to read aloud, even when alone. Now we read by listening inside ourselves to silent word echoes. There's silence too in the fossilised stories within the stones themselves
There's reverberation of something else here too – this was the site of the central cattle market and known as Sheep Square. There was also wool trading, the thread market, and maltmarket nearby. Bordering the park, on either side of the vestry building doorway (now a cafe) are small stone heads of two jaunty men – can we hear them joining in the gossip at a lively market day auction?