Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Mistakes are quite often made when recording epitaphs on gravestones,
whilst others are  not quite what they seem to be.
Dates  that  never  were
Gravestones are a useful source of information, especially to the family historian.  However mistakes can be made and a gravestone to be found just opposite the church porch at Fewston near Otley in North Yorkshire is somewhat misleading.  It lists members of the Ridsdale family who died early in the 19th century.   The inscription declares that Joseph Ridsdale died on 29th February 1826, and that his son died on 30th February 1802.   These two dates do not exist!



Anne  Bronte’s grave


In the graveyard alongside the parish church of St Mary at Scarborough in North Yorkshire, is an attractive gravestone – it marks the grave of Anne Bronte.   The inscription gives her age as 28 years when she died – she was in fact 29 years old.
Anne of Bronte family fame, was a frequent visitor to Scarborough, a place she loved.  In 1849, with ‘consumption of both lungs too far advanced to be curable,’ she yearned to visit Scarborough for one last  time.   She did so in the company with sister Charlotte and friend Ellen Nussey and they lodged at 2 The Cliff (where the Grand Hotel now stands).  Within a few days Anne died and had discussed with Charlotte her wish ‘to die at Scarborough where she had known peace and happiness.’   



Sara  Charlett  -  aged  309 years!


St Andrew’s Church at Cleeve Priory in Worcestershire dates back to at least the 9th century and the village was mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086.   The burial ground was consecrated on 18th October 1315 – just before Sara Charlett was born, if details on her gravestone are to be believed.   It states that she died in 1693 at the age of 309 years!   Almost certainly a mistake but nevertheless a curiosity.

Louis X1V statue?
There is a very fine statue of King Louis X1V of France on a memorial in the church at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight but the curious thing is that the head is not that of King Louis.
The statue was sculptured for and represents Louis X1V and was being conveyed to France when the vessel containing it (and the sculptor) was captured by an English ship commanded by Sir Robert Holmes.
The sculptor had finished the body but the head was left to be completed in France. Upon learning who the statue was for, Holmes compelled the sculptor to finish it by carving his (Holmes) head on the King’s body.
Holmes later became the Governor of the Isle of Wight and held the office from 1667 to 1692, and after his death the statue was erected in the church in his memory.

Thrifty Sexton


Lorenzo Dow Barnes was the first Morman missionary to die in a foreign land. He died from typhoid at Idle near Bradford in West Yorkshire on 20.12.1842 aged 30 years. He was buried in the churchyard at Idle Holy Trinity church and a suitably engraved stone marked his grave. In 1852 his body was exhumed and taken back to Salt Lake City, USA.

The church sexton, Joseph Shuttleworth, decided to re use the gravestone for his own family and it can still be seen opposite the south porch of the church with memorial details of Shuttleworth and his family. Four of his children died in infancy and Shuttleworth himself died in 1877. Because the stone is situated close to a wall it is not possible to read the engraving for Barnes on the reverse.


The  Ferry  Boat  Inn


One of the claimants to being the oldest inn in England,  The Ferry Boat Inn  stands, thatch- roofed and proud, on the banks of the Great Ouse at Holywell near St Ives in Cambridgeshire.  Be prepared for a shock when you enter the bar for there is a  gravestone set into the floor!

The story goes that more than 1,000 years ago, local girl Juliet Tewsley was spurned by one Thomas Roul,  with whom she was smitten.  The girl is said to have hanged herself near to the inn and, as a suicide was denied burial in consecrated ground, so she sleeps under the gravestone inside the inn.   It is not clear why the grave should be inside, but it is claimed that on the anniversary of her death, 17th March, she walks in search of her lost love.   A good time to capture the spirit of over a thousand years!

The Ferry Boat Inn


Designer gravestone


The well known Manx Arts & Crafts designer Archibald Knox, was born in the Isle of Man in 1864 and is well known for his Celtic Arts designs for Liberty. As a favour he designed a couple of gravestones which can be seen in the churchyard of St Peter’s at Onchan, Isle lof Man. On the Thomason stone, the ‘o’ in Marion is a significant trademark.


Knox design



The mystery of the third leg

Sir Richard Pembridge who died in 1375, fought at the battles of Crecy and Poitiers and was made a Knight of the Garter by King Edward 111.

His epitaph is a fine alabaster tomb and effigy in Hereford Cathedral. Originally the effigy correctly showed him wearing the Garter insignia only on his left leg. However, following damage during the Civil War, the right leg was replaced, but the wooden replacement wrongly included the garter. In the 19th century the wooden replacement was replaced by a new alabaster leg without the garter, and the incorrect wooden leg now stands nearby.



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