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Title: In Search of Gravestones Old and Curious
Author: Vincent, W.T. (William Thomas)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Search of Gravestones Old and Curious" ***

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With One Hundred and Two Illustrations











[Illustration: AN EARLY SAMPLE AT HIGHAM.] (Page 11.)

































11, RIDLEY; 12, HOO
















































I am a Gravestone Rambler, and I beg you to bear me company.

This Book is not a Sermon. It is a lure to decoy other Ramblers, and
the bait is something to ramble for. It also provides a fresh object
for study.

Old-lore is an evergreen tree with many branches. This is a young
shoot. It is part of an old theme, but is itself new.

Books about Tombs there are many, and volumes of Epitaphs by the
hundred. But of the Common Gravestones--the quaint and curious, often
grotesque, headstones of the churchyard--there is no record.

These gravestones belong to the past, and are hastening to decay. In
one or two centuries none will survive unless they be in Museums.
To preserve the counterfeit presentment of some which remain seems a

Many may share the quest, but no one has yet come out to start. Let
your servant shew the way.

I begin my book as I began my Rambles, and pursue as I have pursued.


[Illustration: FIG. 1. NEWHAVEN.]

[Illustration: FIG. 2. NEWHAVEN.]






I was sauntering about the churchyard at Newhaven in Sussex, reading
the inscriptions on the tombs, when my eyes fell upon a headstone
somewhat elaborately carved. Although aged, it was in good
preservation, and without much trouble I succeeded in deciphering
all the details and sketching the subject in my note-book. It is
represented in Fig. 1.


The inscription below the design reads as follows:

  "Here lyeth the remains of Andrew Brown,
      who departed this life the 14th day of
      January 1768, aged 66 years. Also of
      Mary his wife, who departed this life the
      3d day of July 1802, aged 88 years."

This was the first time I had been struck by an allegorical gravestone
of a pronounced character.

The subject scarcely needs to be interpreted, being obviously intended
to illustrate the well-known passage in the Burial Service: "For the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised ... then shall be
brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in
Victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
The reference in another ritual to the Lord of Life trampling the King
of Terrors beneath his feet seems also to be indicated, and it will
be noticed that the artist has employed a rather emphatic smile to
pourtray triumph.

It was but natural to suppose that this work was the production of
some local genius of the period, and I searched for other evidences
of his skill. Not far away I found the next design, very nearly of the
same date.


The words below were:

  "To the memory of Thomas, the son of
      Thomas and Ann Alderton, who departed
      this life the 10th day of April 1767, in the
      13th year of his age."

The same artist almost of a certainty produced both of these
figurative tombstones. The handicraft is similar, the idea in each is
equally daring and grotesque, and the phraseology of the inscriptions
is nearly identical. I thought both conceptions original and native
to the place, but I do not think so now. In point of taste, the first,
which is really second in order of date, is perhaps less questionable
than the other. The hope of a joyful resurrection, however rudely
displayed, may bring comfort to wounded hearts; but it is difficult
to conceive the feelings of bereaved parents who could sanction the
representation of a beloved boy, cut off in the brightest hour of
life, coffined and skeletoned in the grave!

[Illustration: FIG. 3. WIDCOMBE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 4. NEWHAVEN.]

[Illustration: FIG. 5. LEWES.]

Above the coffin on Alderton's headstone is an ornament, apparently
palms. It is not unusual to find such meaningless, or apparently
meaningless, designs employed to fill in otherwise blank spaces,
though symbols of death, eternity, and the future state are in
plentiful command for such purposes. Something like this same ornament
may be found on a very old flat stone in the churchyard of Widcombe,
near Bath. It stretches the full width of the stone, and is in high
relief, which has preserved it long after the accompanying inscription
has vanished. The probable date may be about 1650.


In Newhaven Churchyard, though there are but these two striking
examples of the allegorical gravestone, there is one other singular
exemplification of the graver's skill and ingenuity, but it is nearly
a score of years later in date than the others, and probably by
another mason. It represents the old and extinct bridge over the
Sussex Avon at Newhaven, and it honours a certain brewer of the town,
whose brewery is still carried on there and is famous for its "Tipper"
ale. Allowing that it was carved by a different workman, it is only
fair to suppose that it may have been suggested by its predecessors.
Its originality is beyond all question, which can very rarely be
said of an old gravestone, and, as a churchyard record of a local
institution, I have never seen it equalled or approached.


Under the design is the following inscription:

  "To the Memory of Thomas Tipper, who
      departed this life May y'e 14th, 1785, Aged
      54 Years.

  "READER, with kind regard this GRAVE survey
  Nor heedless pass where TIPPER'S ashes lay.
  Honest he was, ingenuous, blunt, and kind;
  And dared do, what few dare do, speak his mind.
  PHILOSOPHY and History well he knew,
  Was versed in PHYSICK and in Surgery too.
  The best old STINGO he both brewed and sold,
  Nor did one knavish act to get his Gold.
  He played through Life a varied comic part,
  And knew immortal HUDIBRAS by heart.
  READER, in real truth, such was the Man,
  Be better, wiser, laugh more if you can."

That these were all the especial eccentricities of this burial-place
disappointed me, but, with my after-knowledge, may say that three such
choice specimens from one enclosure is a very liberal allowance.

Suspecting that sculptors of the quality necessary for such
high-class work would be unlikely to dwell in a small and unimportant
fisher-village such as Newhaven was in the middle of the eighteenth
century, I went over to Lewes, the county town being only seven miles
by railway. But I found nothing to shew that Lewes was the seat of so
much skill, and I have since failed to discover the source in Brighton
or any other adjacent town. Indeed, it may be said at once that large
towns are the most unlikely of all places in which to find peculiar
gravestones. At Lewes, however, I lighted on one novelty somewhat to
my purpose, and, although a comparatively simple illustration, it
is not without its merits, and I was glad to add it to my small
collection. The mattock and spade are realistic of the grave; the open
book proclaims the promise of the heaven beyond.

[Illustration: FIG. 6. PLUMSTEAD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 7. DARTFORD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 8. DARTFORD.]


  "To Samuel Earnes, died May 6th, 1757, aged
            21 years."

The coincidence of date would almost warrant a belief that this piece
of imagery may have emanated from the same brain and been executed by
the same hands as are accountable for the two which we have seen seven
miles away, but the workmanship is really not in the least alike, and
I have learnt almost to discard in this connection the theory of local
idiosyncrasies. Even when we find, as we do find, similar, and
almost identical, designs in neighbouring churchyards, or in the
same churchyard, it is safer to conjecture that a meaner sculptor has
copied the earlier work than that the first designer would weaken his
inventive character by a replication. The following, which cannot
be described as less than a distortion of a worthier model, is to be
found in many places, and in such abundance as to suggest a wholesale


  "To Elizabeth Bennett, died 1781, aged
            53 years."

It is obvious that the idea intended to be represented is figurative
of death in infancy or childhood, and illustrates the well-known words
of the Saviour, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid
them not: for of such is the kingdom of God," quoted on the stone
itself. In this and many similar cases in which the design and text
are used for old or elderly people, they have been certainly strained
from their true significance. The figure of a little child is,
however, employed occasionally to represent the soul, and may also be
taken to indicate the "new birth."

There is an almost exact reproduction of the foregoing example in
the same churchyard, even more remarkably at variance with Scriptural

It is dedicated

  "To John Clark, died 1793, aged 62 years;
      and Rebecca his wife, died 1794, aged 61

The inscription adds:

  "What manner of persons these were the last
            day will discover."

Gravestone plagiarism of this sort is very common, and there is to be
found at West Ham, Essex, the same symbolical flight of the angel and
child repeated as many as five times.

The pilfering is not so weak and lamentable when the copyist
appropriates merely the idea and works it out in a new fashion. The
term new can hardly be attributed to the notion of a plucked flower
as a type of death, but it occurs in so many varieties as almost to
redeem its conventionality.

The sculptor of a stone which is in Dartford burial-ground probably
had the suggestion from a predecessor.


  "To James Terry, died 1755, aged 31 years."

But not far from it in the same burial-ground, which is really a
cemetery separated from the parish church, and one of the oldest
cemeteries in England, is another imitation quite differently brought
out, but in principle essentially the same.


  "To....Callow, died....1794...."

At the churchyard of Stone (or Greenhithe), two or three miles
from Dartford, both these floral emblems are reproduced with strict

This first chapter and the sketches which illustrate it will serve to
introduce and explain my work and its scope.

In pursuing my investigations it was soon evident that the period of
the allegorical gravestone was confined sharply and almost exclusively
to the eighteenth century. I have seldom met one earlier than 1700,
and those subsequent to 1800 are very rare. Of gravestones generally
it may almost be said that specimens of seventeenth-century date
are exceedingly few. There are reasons for this, as will afterwards
appear. But the endurance even of the longest-lived of all the old
memorials cannot be very much longer extended, and this may be my
excuse for preserving and perpetuating the features of some of them as
a not uninteresting phase of the vanishing past. I do not claim for
my subject any great importance, but present it as one of the small
contributions which make up history. One other plea I may urge in my
defence. This is a branch of study which, so far as I can ascertain,
has been quite neglected. There are books by the score dealing with
the marble, alabaster, and other tombs within the churches, there
are books of epitaphs and elegies by the hundred, and there are
meditations among the graves sufficient to satisfy the most devout and
exacting of readers, but the simple gravestone of the churchyard as an
object of sculptured interest has I believe found hitherto no student
and is still looking for its historian.



Although there may be no expectation of discovering the germ of
the pictorial or allegorical gravestone, a section of the samples
collected for this essay may be displayed to shew the earlier forms
in which the ruder class of masons prepared their sculptured monuments
for the churchyard. There is little doubt that the practice originated
in an endeavour to imitate on the common gravestone the nobler
memorials of the churches and cathedrals, the effort being more or
less successful in proportion to the individual skill of the artist.
The influence of locality, however, must always be a factor in this
consideration; for, as a rule, it will be found that the poorest
examples come from essentially secluded places, while localities of
earlier enlightenment furnish really admirable work of much prior
date. Take, for instance, that most frequent emblem, the skull. I have
not sought for the model by which the village sculptor worked, but
I have in my note-book this sketch of a skull, copied from a
sixteenth-century tomb at Frankfort on the Maine, and there are
doubtless a vast number equal to it in English cathedrals and churches
of the same period.


Regarding this as our ideal, the primitive work which we find in rural
localities must be pronounced degenerated art. Generally speaking we
may assume that the carver of the stately tomb within the church had
no hand in the execution of the outer gravestone; but that quite early
there were able masons employed upon the decoration of the churchyard
headstone is shewn in many instances, of which the one presented in
Fig. 10 may serve as a very early specimen.


  "To Eliza and Lydia, the two wives of Anthony
      Neighbours, died 18th Nov. 1675 and 11th
      March 1702."

The dates are remarkable in connection with such an elaborate work.
East Wickham is little more than a village even now, and this carving
is very creditable in comparison with other attempts of the same
early period; but the high road from London to Dover runs through the
parish, and may have carried early cultivation into the district. All
the rougher illustrations which I have found have been in remote and
isolated spots, or spots that were remote and isolated when the stones
were set up. The first of these which I discovered was in the little
churchyard of Ridley in Kent, "far from the haunts of men."


  "To the three sons of Will. Deane, died 1704,
      1707, and 1709, aged 2 weeks, 2 years,
      and 5 years."

It is difficult to believe that the face here delineated was meant
to represent a skull, and yet, judging by the many equally and more
absurd figures which I have since met with, there is little doubt that
a skull was intended by the engraver, for this and all others of the
class are incised, simply scratched or cut into the stone; nothing so
poor in drawing have I ever found which has risen to the eminence of
relief. It may, of course, be also surmised that the face here cut
into the stone is meant for a portrait or to represent an angelic
being. The radial lines may have been intended for a halo of glory or
a frilled cap, but, as will be seen by comparison, the whole thing is
easily to be classed with the skull series.

[Illustration: FIG. 9. FRANKFORT.]

[Illustration: FIG. 10. EAST WICKHAM.]

It will be noticed that we have in this instance a form of headstone
differing materially from those of later times, and wherever we find
the rude _incised_ figure we nearly always have the stone of this
shape. Such homely memorials are distinguished in nearly every
instance by dwarfishness and clumsiness. They are seldom more than
2 feet in height, and are often found to measure from 5 inches to 7
inches in thickness. A prolific field for them is the great marshland
forming the Hundred of Hoo, below Gravesend, the scene of many
incidents in the tale by Charles Dickens of "Great Expectations." It
is called by the natives "the Dickens country," for the great author
dwelt on the hilly verge of it and knew it well. The Frontispiece
shews the general view of one of these old stones at Higham, in the
Hoo district.


  "To Philip Hawes, died June 24, 1733, aged
            19 years."

In this case the top space is occupied, not by a head or skull, but by
two hearts meeting at their points--a not unusual illustration.

At Hoo is one of the coarsest exemplifications of masonic incompetency
I have ever encountered.


  "To Robert Scott, Yeoman, died 24 Dec. 1677,
            aged 70 years."

The nimbus or nightcap again appears as in the Ridley specimen, but,
whatever it be, the teeth are undoubtedly the teeth of the skeleton

This stone has another claim to our notice beyond the inartistic
design. It marks one of the very rare efforts in this direction of the
seventeenth century.

The prevalent shape of these old memorials and their almost
contemporary dates seem to indicate a fashion of the period, but they
are met with in other places of various conformations. There is one
at Erith almost square-headed, only 2 feet high, 1 foot 6 inches wide,
and 7 inches thick.


It may be noted that this also is of the seventeenth century, and the
mode of describing John Green's age is, I think, unique.

High Halstow is a neighbour of Hoo, and has only of late been
penetrated by the railway to Port Victoria.

From High Halstow we have another curious and almost heathenish
specimen, in which we see the crossbones as an addition to the
"skull," if "skull" it can be considered, with its eyes, eyebrows, and

[Illustration: FIG. 11. RIDLEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 12. HOO.]

[Illustration: FIG. 13. ERITH.]

[Illustration: FIG. 14. HIGH HALSTOW.]

[Illustration: FIG. 15. FRINDSBURY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 16. HIGHAM.]


  "To Susan Barber." The date is buried, but
      there is a similar stone close by dated

Nearer Rochester, at Frindsbury, there is the next illustration, still
like a mask rather than a death's head, but making its purpose clear
by the two bones, such as are nearly always employed in more recent


  "To William David Jones, died 1721."

There is, however, another at Higham of about the same date, in which,
supposing a skull to be intended, the inspiration of the bones appears
not to have caught the artist. The portrait theory may possibly better
fit this case.


  "To Mr Wm Boghurst, died 5th of April 1720,
  aged 65."

That some of the carvings were meant for portraits cannot be denied,
and, in order to shew them with unimpeachable accuracy, I have taken
rubbings off a few and present an untouched photograph of them just as
I rubbed them off the stones (Fig. 17). The whole of the originals are
to be found in the neighbouring churchyards of Shorne and Chalk,
two rural parishes on the Rochester Road, and exhibit with all the
fidelity possible the craftsmanship of the village sculptors. They
will doubtless also excite some speculation as to their meaning.
My belief, as already expressed, is that the uppermost four are the
embodiment of the rustic yearning for the ideal; in other words,
attempts to represent the emblem of death--the skull. Nos. 1 and 2 are
from Shorne; Nos. 3, 4, and 5 from the churchyard at Chalk.

In No. 1 we have, perhaps, the crudest conception extant of the
skeleton head. The lower bars are probably meant for teeth; what the
radial lines on the crown are supposed to be is again conjecture.
Perhaps a nimbus, perhaps hair or a cap, or merely an ornamental
finish. The inscription states that the stone was erected to the
memory of "Thomas Vdall," who died in 1704, aged 63 years.

No. 2 has the inscription buried, but it is of about the same date,
judging by its general appearance. The strange feature in this case
is the zig-zag "toothing" which is employed to represent the jaws.
Doubtless the artist thought that anything he might have lost in
accuracy he regained in the picturesque.

No. 3, in which part of the inscription "Here lyeth" intrudes into the
arch belonging by right to the illustration, is equally primitive and
artless. The eyebrows, cheeks--in fact all the features--are evidently
unassisted studies from the living, not the dead, frontispiece of
humanity; but what are the serifs, or projections, on either side?
Wondrous as it is, there can be only one answer. They must be meant
for _ears_! This curious effigy commemorates Mary, wife of William
Greenhill, who died in 1717, aged 47 years.

No. 4 is one of the rude efforts to imitate the skull and crossbones
of which we find many examples. It is dedicated to one Grinhill
(probably a kinsman of the Greenhills aforesaid), who died in 1720,
aged 56 years.

Most strange of all is No. 5, in which the mason leaps to the real
from the emblematic, and gives us something which is evidently meant
for a portrait of the departed. The stone records that Mary, wife of
Thomas Jackson, died in 1730, aged 43 years. It is one of the double
tombstones frequently met with in Kent and some other counties.
The second half, which is headed by a picture of two united hearts,
records that the widower Thomas Jackson followed his spouse in 1748,
aged 55 years.

Upon a stone adjacent, to Mary London, who died in 1731, there has
been another portrait of a lady with braided hair, but time has almost
obliterated it. I mention the circumstance to shew that this
special department of obituary masonry, as all others, was prone
to imitations. I may also remark that intelligent inhabitants and
constant frequenters of these two churchyards have informed me that in
all the hundreds of times of passing these stones they never observed
any of their peculiarities. It ought, however, to be said that these
primitive carvings or scratchings are not often conspicuous, and
generally require some seeking. They are always on a small scale of
drawing, in nearly every instance within the diminished curve of
the most antiquated form of headstone (such as is shewn in the
Frontispiece), and as a rule they are overgrown with lichen, which
has to be rubbed off before the lines are visible. It may safely be
averred, on the other hand, that the majority of the old stones
when found of this shape contain or have contained these remarkable
figures, and in some places, particularly in Kent, they literally
swarm. There is a numerous assortment of them at Meopham, a once
remote hamlet, now a station on the London, Chatham, and Dover
Railway. I have copied only one--an early attempt apparently to
produce a cherub resting with outstretched wings upon a cloud, but
there are a good many of the same order to keep it in countenance.


  "To Sarah Edmeades, died 1728, aged 35 years."

In the churchyards of Hawkhurst, Benenden, Bodiam, Cranbrook,
Goudhurst, and all through the Great Weald these incised stones are
to be discovered by hundreds, very much of one type perhaps, but
displaying nevertheless some extraordinary variations. I know of no
district so fruitful of these examples as the Weald of Kent.

Even when the rude system of cutting into the stone ceased to be
practised and relief carving became general, grossness of idea seems
to have survived in many rural parishes. One specimen is to be seen
in the churchyard of Stanstead in Kent, and is, for relief work,


  "To William Lock, died 1751, aged 16 years."

However, the vast number of gravestones carved in relief are, on the
whole, creditable, especially if we consider the difficulty which met
the workmen in having to avoid giving to their crossbones and other
ornaments the appearance of horns growing out of their skulls.

[Illustration: FIG. 18. MEOPHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 19. STANSTEAD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 20. OLD ROMNEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 21. CRAYFORD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 22. SHOREHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 23. LEWISHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 24. HOBNSEY.]


  "To William Dowll, died 1710, aged 40 years."

The winged skull probably typifies flight above.


  "To John Farrington, died Dec. 8, 1717, aged
            above fourty years."

In the appropriate design from Shoreham the same idea is better
conveyed both by the winged head and by the torch, which when elevated
signifies the rising sun, and when depressed the setting sun. The
trumpet in this case would seem to mean the summons. The two little
coffins are eloquent without words.


  "The children of Thomas and Jane Stringer,
      died Sept'r 1754, aged 10 and 7 years."

In Lewisham Churchyard is one of the death's head series almost _sui


  "To Richard Evens, died May 18, 1707, aged
            67 years."

The chaplet of bay-leaves or laurel doubtless indicates "Victory."
Not only is this an early and well-accomplished effort, but it is
remarkable for the presence of a lower jaw, which is seldom seen on a
gravestone. The skull turned up by the sexton is usually the typical
object, and to that we may presume the nether jaw is not often
attached. It is found, however, on a headstone of a somewhat weak
design in Old Hornsey Churchyard.


  "To Mr John Gibson, whipmaker, died Oct.
      30, 1766, aged 44 years."

The hand seems to be pointing to the record of a well-spent life which
has won the crown of glory.

There is another of the lower jaw series at Teddington, which is also,
in all probability, the only instance of a man's nightcap figuring in
such gruesome circumstances.


  "To Sarah Lewis, died June 11, 1766, aged
            63 years."

The emblem of Death was quite early crowned with laurel to signify
glory, and associated with foliage and flowers in token of the
Resurrection. One at Finchley is, for its years, well preserved.


  "To Richard Scarlett, died July 23, 1725."

Another at Farnborough is, considering the date, of exceptional merit.


  "To Elizabeth Stow, died 1744, aged 75 years."

[Illustration: FIG. 25. TEDDINGTON.]

[Illustration: FIG. 26. FINCHLEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 27. FARNBOROUGH.]

[Illustration: FIG. 28. CHISELHURST.]

[Illustration: FIG. 29. HARTLEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 30. WEST WICKHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 31. HORNSEY.]

A few others of the skull pattern with various additaments may
conclude this chapter. The cup in the Chiselhurst case is somewhat


  Name obliterated; date Nov. 1786.

The conventional symbols in the next example are clearly to be read.


  "To Eliza Andersen, died 1771, aged 70 years."

The West Wickham specimen has its prototype in the old churchyard at
Hackney, and in other places.


  "To Richard Whiffen, died 1732, aged
            3 years."

In Fig. 31, from Hornsey, the two skulls present the appearance of
having been pitched up from the grave.


  "To William Fleetwood, died Jan. 30, 1750,
            aged 15 months."



In the later half of the eighteenth century greater pains and finer
workmanship appear to have been bestowed upon the symbolic figurement
of the gravestone, and the more elaborate allegorical representations
of which a few sketches have been given came into vogue and grew in
popular favour until the century's end. Nor did the opening of a new
century altogether abolish the fashion; perhaps it can hardly be
said to have been abolished even now at the century's close, but the
evidences extant combine to shew that the flourishing period of the
pictorial headstone lay well within the twenty-five years preceding
Anno Domini 1800. For the sake of comparison one with another, I have
taken, in addition to the sketch at page 1 (Fig. 1), three examples of
the device which seems most frequently to typify the resurrection
of the dead. In two of these the illustration is accompanied by a
quotation explanatory of its subject, but the words are not the same
in both cases. The stone at Horton Kirby, near Dartford, depicted in
Fig. 32, shews the inscription clearly.


  "To John Davidge. died April 22, 1775, aged
            75 years."

[Illustration: FIG. 32. HORTON KIRBY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 33. CLIFFE.]

In the second instance, at Cliffe, the inscription has been in great
part obliterated by time, but the words written were evidently those
of the chapter from Corinthians which is part of the Burial Service:
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
They are, however, almost illegible, and I have made no attempt to
reproduce them in the picture.


  "To Mary Jackson, died March 26, 1768."

There is a second stone of similar pattern in Cliffe Churchyard, dated
1790. It differs from the foregoing only in having the spear broken.
The sculptor of another specimen at Darenth, near Dartford, thought
the subject worthy of broader treatment, and transferred it to a stone
about double the ordinary width, but did not vary the idea to any
great extent. Indeed, Horton Kirby and Darenth, being next-door
neighbours, have most features in common; the falling tower, which
symbolizes the Day of Judgment, appearing in both, while it is
absent from the more distant examples at Cliffe and Newhaven. The
introduction of the omniscient eye in the Cliffe case is, however,
a stroke of genius compared with the conventional palm branches at
Horton Kirby, or the flight through mid-air of the tower-tops both at
Horton Kirby and at Darenth.


  "To John Millen, died June 11th, 1786, aged
            82 years."

Outside the county of Kent I have met with nothing of this pattern,
and pictorial art on a similar scale is seldom seen on the gravestones
anywhere. Specimens from Lee, Cheshunt, Stapleford Tawney, and
elsewhere, will, however, be seen in subsequent pages.

The day of joyful resurrection is prefigured possibly in more
acceptable shape in the next instance, no imitation of which I have
seen in any of my rambles.


  "To Ann Charman, died 1793, aged 54 years."

No one to whom I have shewn this sketch has given a satisfactory
interpretation of it, but it will be allowed that the design is as
graceful as it is uncommon. That it also in all likelihood refers to
the Day of Judgment may perhaps be regarded as a natural supposition.

Even the open or half-open coffin, shewing the skeleton within, may
possibly have some reference to the rising at the Last Day. We have
this figure employed in a comparatively recent case at Fawkham in
Kent, being one example of nineteenth-century sculpture.


  "Thomas Killick, died 1809, aged 1 month
            1 day."

A crown is usually the emblem of Victory, but held in the hand, as in
this instance, it indicates, I am told, an innocent life.

Other coffins displaying wholly or partly the corpse or skeleton
within are perhaps not intended to convey any such pious or
poetic thought as do the two foregoing, but simply to pourtray the
ghastliness of death, a kind of imagery much fancied by the old

[Illustration: FIG. 34. DARENTH.]

[Illustration: FIG. 35. KINGSDOWN.]

[Illustration: FIG. 36. FAWKHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 37. SWANSCOMBE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 38. ASHFORD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 39. COOLING.]

[Illustration: FIG. 40. HENDON.]

[Illustration: FIG. 41. EAST WICKHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 42. SNARGATE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 43. EAST HAM.]


  "To Elizabeth Hall, died 1779, aged 76 years."


  "To Stephen Kennedy, died Sept. 1791, aged
            61 years."

In the latter illustration there are three stars to which I can give
no signification. The snake-ring is, of course, eternity, and the
book, as before surmised, may stand for the record of a good life.

More ingenious, more didactic, and altogether more meritorious than
these is another series of designs belonging to the same period of
time. They are not only as a rule conceived in better taste, but are,
almost consequently, better in their execution. The following example
from Cooling, a small village in the Medway Marshes, is an excellent
specimen of its class, and a very exceptional "find" for a spot so


  "To M'r Richard Prebble of Cliffe, died April

One of later date at Hendon, Middlesex, is also to be commended. The
lyre, cornet, and tambourine speak of music, and the figures of Fame
and Hope are hardly to be misunderstood, but the large box in the
background is not quite certain of correct interpretation.


  "To Ludwig August Leakfield, Esq., died
      Nov. 22, 1810, aged 48 years."

The following is rougher in form, but seems to have suffered from the
weather. It needs no explanation.


  "To Thomas Vere of Woolwich, shipwright,
      died 10th August, 1789."

The two next subjects are to be found in many variations. The angel
with the cross in each case may represent salvation proclaimed.


  "To Edward Wood, died Sept. 1779, aged
  50 years."


  "To Mr Richard Wright, died July 28, 1781,
  aged 39 years."

The winged scroll in Fig. 44 is unfolded to display, we may suppose, a
register of good and holy deeds done in an extended life. The scythes
and the reversed torches may be taken at their usual significance,
which is death. This is copied from a stone in the churchyard of
Wilmington by Dartford Heath.

[Illustration: FIG. 44. WILMINGTON.]

[Illustration: FIG. 45. WANSTEAD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 46. SOUTHFLEET.]

[Illustration: FIG. 47. WILMINGTON.]

[Illustration: FIG. 48. LEWISHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 49. BUNHILL FIELDS.]


  "To Richard Barman, died 1793, aged 71 years."

More elegant testimony is paid by the figure of a winged urn in
Wanstead Old Churchyard, the flame which burns above indicating,
it would seem, that though the body be reduced to ashes, the soul


  "To William Cleverly, died 1780, aged
            40 years."

Eternity is usually, as we have seen, represented by an endless
ring--often as a serpent. It is so in the Southfleet sketch, in which
appear the two horns of the archangels, and the living torch, with
some other objects which are not quite clearly defined.


  "To John Palmer, died 1781, aged 61 years."

In another selection from Wilmington the winged hour-glass may be read
as the flight of time, the cloud is probably the future life, and the
bones below convey their customary moral.


  "To Ann Parsons, died Nov. 3, 1777, aged
            60 years."

Sometimes, but not often, will be found engraved on a stone the
suggestive fancy of an axe laid at the foot of a tree, or some
metaphorical figure to the same intent. An instance occurs at
Lewisham in which the idea is conveyed by the pick and shovel under a
flourishing palm.


  "To Thomas Lambert, died Nov. 25, 1781,
            aged 59 years."

A symbol so simple and yet so significant as this is scarcely to be
surpassed. One almost in the same category is the following, a small
anaglyph in Bunhill Fields Burial-ground, London.


  "To Elizabeth Sharp, who died Oct. 20, 1752,
            aged 31 years."

It is easy to read in this illustration the parable of death
destroying a fruitful vine, and as a picture it is not inelegant. It
is more remarkable as being, so far as I can find, the one solitary
instance of an allegorical gravestone among the thousands of
gravestones in the vast and carefully guarded burial-place in the City
Road. Strictly speaking, death's heads and crossbones are allegorical,
but these must be excepted for their very abundance and their lack of
novelty. Possibly, also, the lichen, damp, and London climate, which
have obliterated many of the inscriptions in this old cemetery, may
have been fatal to the low relief which is requisite for figure work
of the kind under consideration. But Bunhill Fields and similar places
in and near London and other great towns have taught me the law to
which I have already referred--the law that the picture-tombstone was
country bred, and could never have endured under the modern conditions
of life in or near the centres of civilization.

There are exceptions, perhaps many, to this ruling, as there are
exceptions to every other. For instance, a stone at the grave of a
Royal Artillery Officer in Woolwich Churchyard combines the emblems
of his earthly calling with those of his celestial aspirations in
a medley arrangement not unusual in rural scenes, but hardly to be
reconciled with the education and refinement of a large garrison and
school of military science which Woolwich was in 1760. This must be
set down as one of the exceptions which prove the rule.


  "To Lieut. Thomas Sanders, late of the Royal
      Regiment of Artillery, who died March
      1760, aged 60 (?) years."

There is a more recent case in which the same idea is pourtrayed in
somewhat different fashion on a headstone in the obsolete graveyard of
St. Oswald, near the Barracks at York. It is dedicated to John Kay,
a private in the Royal Scots Greys, who died July 9, 1833, aged 34

But, on the whole, it may be accepted as an axiom that originality has
shunned the town churchyards, and the absence of curious varieties
of the gravestone among the well-sown acres of Bunhill Fields and
such-like places of the period at which they were by comparison so
abundant in less considered localities admits of a simple explanation.

In the eighteenth century town and country were much more divided than
they are now. London and the rural districts were not on their present
level. Taste in art and in the ordinary affairs of life was being
cultivated in town; it was not even encouraged in the country.
Education and refinement were not thought to be desirable
accomplishments in a rustic population, but dwellers in cities had
been for generations improving their manners, and thus it was that no
such provincial vulgarity as a decorated tombstone could be tolerated
in the choice metropolis.

The clergy were always the masters in such matters, and their
influence is seen in many places, even in the villages, in keeping
the churchyard free from ridicule; but, broadly speaking, there is
no doubt that the rectors and vicars in London and other large cities
began quite a hundred years earlier than those of the villages that
control and supervision over the carving and inscriptions on
the tombstone which is now the almost universal rule. It was
unquestionably the adoption of this practice by the country parson,
late in the eighteenth century or early in the nineteenth century,
that put an end in rural places to the "period" of illustrated
epitaphs which had long gone out of fashion, or, more likely, had
never come into being, among the busier hives of humanity.

A rare variety of the cloud-and-angel series, which are so frequent,
is seen in Longfield Churchyard on the Maidstone Road. Trumpets of
the speaking or musical order are frequently introduced to typify the
summons to resurrection, but here we have the listener pourtrayed by
the introduction of an ear-trumpet.

[Illustration: FIG. 50. WOOLWICH.]

[Illustration: FIG. 51. LONGFIELD.]


  "To Mary Davidge, died 1772, aged 69 years."

Allegorical gravestones of recent date, that is of the time which we
call the present day, are very seldom seen, and such as there are do
not come within the scope of this work. There is one in West
Wickham Churchyard devoted to a chorister, and sculptured with a
representation of the church organ-pipes. Memorials to deceased
Freemasons are perhaps the most frequent of late carvings, as in the
sketch from Lydd in the Romney Marsh district.

FIG. 52.--AT LYDD.

  "To John Finn, died June 9th, 1813, aged 30 years."

Occasionally, too, some plain device appears on even a modern
headstone, such as the following, which is one of the few I have from
the London area. The graves of the same half-century may be searched
without finding many carvings more ambitious than this.


  "To Charles Thomas Henry Evans, died 1849."

Churchyards beside the Upper Thames are nearly all prolific in old
gravestones, the riparian settlements having been well populated
during the favourable period. This is especially the case at Richmond
and Twickenham, but of the great number of eighteenth-century stones
in both churchyards there are few very remarkable. Richmond has a rare
specimen of the _full-relief_ skull. The death's head has on either
side of it the head of an angel in half-relief. The stone is a double
one, and I have never met its fellow.


  "To Annie Smedley (?), died 1711, aged
            90 years."

As companions to this I present a pair of dwarf stones with
full-relief heads of seraphs and cherubs--an agreeable change--from
the same county.


  "To Sarah wife of Henry Bower, died 1741.
      To Henry Bower, died March 23rd, 1758."

The Rector of the parish passed as I was sketching these interesting
objects, and was surprised to find that he had anything so unusual in
his churchyard.

[Illustration: FIG. 52. LYDD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 53. BERMONDSEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 54. RICHMOND.]

[Illustration: FIG. 55. RIPLEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 56. COBHAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 57. BARNES.]



It is more than likely that somewhere will be found a pictorial
accompaniment to the verse which has been often used as an epitaph
for a village blacksmith. I have met with the lines in two or
three versions, of which the following, copied in the churchyard at
Aberystwith, appears to be the most complete:

  "My sledge and hammer lie reclined;
  My bellows too have lost their wind;
  My fire extinct, my forge decay'd,
  And in the dust my vice is laid.
  My coal is spent, my iron's gone;
  My nails are drove, my worck is done."

There are many instances in which the implements of his craft are
depicted upon an artizan's tomb; these also for the most part being
of the eighteenth century. In the churchyard at Cobham, a village made
famous by the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, is a gravestone
recording the death of a carpenter, having at the head a shield
bearing three compasses to serve as his crest, and under it the usual
tools of his trade--square, mallet, compasses, wedge, saw, chisel,
hammer, gimlet, plane, and two-foot rule.


  "To Richard Gransden, carpenter, died 13th
            March, 1760."

This one may serve as a fair sample of all the trade memorials to
which carpenters have been, before all classes of mechanics, the most
prone. The carvings bear the same strong resemblance to each other
that we find in other series of gravestones, but have occasional
variations, as in the following specimen, which mixes up somewhat
grotesquely the emblems of death and eternity with the mundane
instruments of skill and labour, including therein a coffin lid
to shew maybe that the man, besides being a carpenter, was also an


  "To Henry Mitchell, died 1724, aged 72 years."

It was only to be expected that the prominent agriculturists of rural
districts would be figuratively represented on their gravestones,
and this will be found to be the case in a number of instances. The
following illustration is from the churchyard of Frindsbury, a short
distance out of Rochester and on the edge of the Medway meadows.


  The inscription is effaced, but the date appears
            to be 1751.

The overturned sheaf presumably refers metaphorically to the fate of
the farmer whom the stone was set up to commemorate. The old-fashioned
plough is cut only in single profile, but is not an ineffective
emblem. I imagine that the ribbon above the plough bore at one time
some inscribed words which time has obliterated.

[Illustration: FIG. 58. FRINDSBURY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 59. SUTTON AT HONE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 60. BROMLEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 61. BECKENHAM.]

The design invented by the sculptor at Sutton at Hone, near Dartford,
is less original and also less striking.


  "To Richard Northfield, died Oct. 19, 1767,
            aged 71 years."

In the case of John Bone, bricklayer, of Bromley, Kent, it would
probably be wrong to associate with his calling the tools engraved on
his headstone. They were probably meant with the rest of the picture
to represent the emblems of mortality.


  "To John Bone, Bricklayer, died Dec. 14,
      1794, aged 48 years."

There is, however, one stone which may be included in the category of
trade memorials, though its subject was not a mechanic. Mr. John Cade
was a schoolmaster at Beckenham, and appears to have been well liked
by his pupils, who, when he prematurely died, placed a complimentary
epitaph over his grave. The means by which he had imparted knowledge
are displayed upon the stone, and below are the lines hereinafter set


  "To the memory of John Cade, of this parish,
      schoolmaster. One skilled in his profession
      and of extensive ingenuity. As
      he lived universally beloved, so he died
      as much lamented, August 28th, 1750, aged
      35 years. Several of his scholars, moved
      by affection and gratitude, at their own
      expense erected this in remembrance of
      his worth and merit.

        "Virtue, good nature, learning, all combined
        To render him belov'd of human kind."

Greenford, near Harrow-on-the-Hill, had quite recently a worthy
inhabitant who was a gardener and presumably a beekeeper also.
Accordingly a beehive appropriately decorates his gravestone.


  "To William King, upwards of 60 years
      gardener of this parish, died Dec. 16th,
      1863, aged 84 years."

The next problem is rather more doubtful, and in considering the
possibility of the memorial indicated being "professional," we must
remember that the parish of West Ham, now a populous place, was quite
out of town and almost undiscovered until a comparatively recent time.
Its eighteenth-century gravestones are consequently for the most part
rustic and primitive. The skull and other bones here depicted, decked
with wheat-ears and other vegetation, probably have some literal
reference to the agricultural pursuits of the deceased, although of
course they may be only poetical allusions to the life to come.


  "To Andrew James, died 1754, aged 68 years."



This unpretentious work makes no claim to deal with the whole subject
which it has presumed to open. Its aim is rather to promote in others
the desire which actuates the author to follow up and develop the new
field of antiquarian research which it has attempted to introduce.
As old Weever says, in his quaint style:--"I have gained as much as
I have looke for if I shall draw others into this argument whose
inquisitive diligence and learning may finde out more and amende

This book, then, is not a treatise, but simply a first collection of
churchyard curiosities, the greater number of which have been gathered
within a comparatively small radius. It is only the hoard of one
collector and the contents of one sketch-book, all gleaned in about
a hundred parishes. Many collectors may multiply by thousands these
results, bring out fresh features, and possibly points of high

Two chief purposes therefore animate my desire to publish this work.
One is to supply such little information as I have gleaned on a
subject which has by some singular chance escaped especial recognition
from all the multitude of authors, antiquarians, and literary men.
I have searched the Museum libraries, and consulted book-collectors,
well-read archaeologists, and others likely to know if there is any
work descriptive of old gravestones in existence, and nothing with
the remotest relation thereto can I discover.[1] There are, of course,
hundreds of books of epitaphs, more or less apocryphal, but not
one book, apocryphal or otherwise, regarding the allegories of the
churchyard. Can it be that the subject is bereft of interest? If so, I
have made my venture in vain. But I trust that it is not so.

[Footnote 1: The Rev. Charles Boutell published, in 1849, parts 1 and
2 of a periodical work entitled "Christian Monuments in England and
Wales," proposing to complete the same in five sections; the fifth to
treat of headstones and other churchyard memorials, with some general
observations on modern monuments. The two parts brought the
subject down to the fifteenth century, and were so ably written and
beautifully illustrated as to intensify our regret at the incompletion
of the task.]

The second object is to recommend to others a new and delightful
hobby, and possibly bring to bear upon my theme an accumulation of
knowledge and combination of light. Gravestone hunting implies long
walks in rural scenes, with all the expectations, none of the risks,
and few of the disappointments of other pursuits. From ten to fifteen
miles may be mapped out for a fair day's trudge, and will probably
embrace from three to six parish churchyards, allowing time to inspect
the church as well as its surroundings. Saturdays are best for these
excursions, for then the pew-openers are dusting out the church, and
the sexton is usually about, sweeping the paths or cutting the grass.
The church door will in most cases be open, and you can get the
guidance you want from the best possible sources. A chat with the
village sexton is seldom uninviting, and he can generally point out
everything worth your observation. But the faculty of finding that of
which you are in search will soon come to you. In the first place, the
new portion of a churchyard--there is nearly always a new portion--may
be left on one side. You will certainly find no ancient memorials
there. In the next place, you may by a little observation pick out the
eighteenth-century stones by their shape, which is as a rule much more
ornamented and curvilinear than those of later date. They may also
be detected very often by the roughness of their backs as well as by
their weather-beaten complexions, and with a little experience and
practice the student may guess correctly within a few years the age of
any particular one seen even in the distance.

[Illustration: FIG. 62. GEEENFORD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 63. WEST HAM.]

To tempt the reader therefore to take up the study which I have found
so pleasant, so healthful, and so interesting, I now propose to
place in order the proceeds of a few of my rambles, and shew how much
success the reader may also expect in similar expeditions. His or her
stock-in-trade should consist of a good-sized note-book or sketch-book
of paper not too rough for fine lines, a B B pencil of reliable
quality, and a small piece of sandstone or brick to be used in rubbing
off the dirt and moss which sometimes obscure inscriptions. No kind
of scraper should ever be employed, lest the crumbling memorial be
damaged; but a bit of brick or soft stone will do no harm, and will
often bring to view letters and figures which have apparently quite
disappeared. If a camera be taken, a carpenter's pencil may be of
service in strengthening half-vanished lines, and a folded foot-rule
should always be in the pocket. A mariner's compass is sometimes
useful in strange places, but the eastward position of a church will
always give the bearings, and a native is usually to be found to point
the way. A road map of the county which you are about to explore, or,
if in the vicinity of London, one of those admirable and well-known
handbooks of the field paths, is useful, and the journey should be
carefully plotted out before the start. A friend and companion
of congenial tastes adds, I need not say, to the enjoyment of the
excursion. My constant associate has happily a craze for epitaphs, but
does not fancy sketching even in the rough style which answers well
enough for my work, and I have had therefore no competitor. Together
we have scoured all the northern part of Kent and visited every
Kentish church within twenty miles of London. The railway also will
occasionally land us near some old church which we may like to visit,
and it was while waiting half an hour for a train at Blackheath
station that I picked up the accompanying choice specimen in the
ancient burial-ground of Lee.

FIG. 64.--AT LEE.

  "To Eliza Drayton, died 11th May, 1770."

In this allegory Time appears to be commanding Death to extinguish the
lamp of Life. The sun may mean the brighter life beyond. The building
to the right is an enigma.

Often the first six or seven miles have to be encountered before we
reach unexplored ground. The Cray Valley, for instance, may be cited
for one day's experience. First a walk of seven miles to Orpington,
one of the five sister churches of the Crays--all said to be
Anglo-Saxon and of about one date. I must not digress to speak of
churches, but it is only reasonable to suppose that the student who is
capable of taking up as a pastime the investigation of churchyards has
previously acquired something more or less of archaeological taste,
and will not fail to notice the churches.[2] We reach the churchyard
of Orpington, visit the church, and then my companion and I separate
for our respective duties. I am not fortunate in securing any special
prize, but it is well to select some object if only as a souvenir of
the visit, and I jot down the following, which may be classed among
the commonest order of all figurative headstones, but is nevertheless
noticeable as a variant.

[Footnote 2: There are several handbooks of church architecture, and the
rudiments of the various orders and dates are easily acquired.]

[Illustration: FIG. 64. LEE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 65. ORPINGTON.]


  "To Hosa Mansfield, daughter of John and
      Martha Mansfield, died 24th May 1710,
      aged 26 years. Also James Mansfield,
      son of John and Martha Mansfield, died
      30th Dec'r 1746, aged 48 years."

The work in this instance is crude, and apparently done by an inexpert
craftsman. The stone is, however, decayed, and it is possible that
it is the draughtsman who has blundered. The two skulls, being of
different sizes, suggest the male and female occupants of the grave,
and would therefore assign the production to the later rather than
the earlier date. The two bones are not often found in so lateral
a position, and the vampire wings are clumsy in the extreme. I have
collected varieties of the skull and crossbone character in many
places, and seen the eccentricities of many masons in the way of
wings, but have met with very few so far astray as these. While I am
engaged in transferring the specimen to my book, our epitaph hunter
has been round and discovered a treasure. I shall not trouble the
reader with him henceforth, but I may note just this one of his
successes as a sample of the rewards which attend his part in the
pilgrimage. He has found a stone thus inscribed:

  "Here lyeth the body of Mary, the wife of
      John Smith: she died March 17th, 1755,
      aged 58 years.

          "Here lyeth Mary, never was contrary
          To me nor her neighbours around her;
          Like Turtle and Dove we lived in love,
          And I left her where I may find her.

  "Also John Smith, husband of the above."

  (Date sunk underground.)

A short walk through the village and by the Cray River brings us to
the church of St. Mary Cray, where I secure a new species, in which
Death is doubly symbolized by the not infrequent scythe and possibly
also by the pierced heart. The latter might refer to the bereaved
survivor, but, being a-flame, seems to lend itself more feasibly to
the idea of the immortal soul. The trumpet and the opening coffin
indicate peradventure the resurrection.


  "To Thomas Abbott, died May 21, 1773, aged
            75 years."

[Illustration: FIG. 66. ST. MARY CRAY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 67. ST. PAUL'S CRAY.]

Only a short distance farther, for the churches are small, we reach
St. Paul's Cray, the burial-ground of which shews that the foregoing
allegory was immediately duplicated, apparently by another hand, with
just a little variation to redeem the piracy. The coffin is quite
opened and empty, instead of being slightly open and tenanted, which
is almost the only difference between the May and the September work.


  "To John Busbey, died 1st Sept'r 1773, aged
            70 years."

Foot's Cray is a good long step beyond and does not yield much profit,
but I select the most novel specimen, which is a combination
of ordinary emblems, with little attempt at symmetry, or even
arrangement, other than the awkward juxtaposition of the cherubins'
inner wings.


  "To Elizabeth Wood, died February 8, 1735-6,
            aged 58 years."

The churchyard at North Cray added nothing at all to my collection.
This was the only blank drawn that day, but a beautifully kept ground
surrounding a delightful church well repaid the visit. A call at Old
Bexley Church completed the day's work, and gave me one of the few
sketches belonging to the nineteenth century which I have made.


  "To Susannah, wife of Henry Humphrey,
      died 26th December 1805, aged 57 years."

The anchor stands for Hope, the draped urn signifies mourning for the
dead, and the figure reading the Holy Book suggests consolation. From
Bexley Church to the railway station was but a brief space. The day's
tramp was ended.

[Illustration: FIG. 68. FOOT'S CRAY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 69. BEXLEY.]



How far county divisions might affect the early fashions in
gravestones was one of my first questions, and, having seen much of
Kent, time was soon found for a scamper through the country bordering
Epping Forest and along the backbone of Essex.

At Barking, just within the old Abbey gate, I came upon an enigmatical


  Inscription illegible. Date appears to be 1759.

The signification of the four balls I am unable to suggest, unless
they be connected in some way with the planetary system and point
man's insignificance. They appear to emanate from a cloud resting upon
the hour-glass, and may help the other emblems in symbolizing time and
eternity. The nickering candle is also of doubtful interpretation. It
may mean the brevity of life; it can hardly be needed, in the presence
of the skull, to indicate death. The candle is sometimes employed
alone, occasionally extinguished. At Woolwich there is an instance in
which the candle is in the act of being put out.


  "To Siston Champion, died 27th Feb. 1749-50
      (a few days after the birth of her child),
      aged 28 years."

The candle is indeed commonly used as a simile of life's uncertainty
in all countries, and it may be that where it is represented in a
state of burning it may be meant as a lesson on the number of our
days. It is seen with the skulls in the churchyard of St. Nicholas,
Deptford, and other places.


  "To William Firth, died 1724, aged 21 years."

In West Ham Churchyard may be seen the figure of the kissing cherubs
rather prettily rendered, but to be found in various forms in many
places, and always expressive of affection.


  "To Sarah Moore, died 1749."

Wanstead Churchyard is remarkable for the abundance and originality
of its old gravestones. Here is one (Fig. 74) which carries more
distinctly the fanciful idea suggested at West Ham (page 34, Fig. 63);
flowers and foliage, and even fruit, combining with the lowered torch
and summoning trumpet to tell of life beyond the grave.


  "To William Bosely, died 1712, aged 79."

[Illustration: FIG. 70. BARKING.]

[Illustration: FIG. 71. WOOLWICH.]

[Illustration: FIG. 72. DEPTFORD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 73. WEST HAM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 74. WANSTEAD.]

[Illustration: FIG. 75. WANSTEAD.]

There are several other variations of the same symbol in the elegant
enclosure at Wanstead Church; but the most remarkable of the old
stones is one which has at the top corners two projecting skulls, the
one facing nearly to the front and the other in profile, both standing
out in full relief, carefully and accurately sculptured, but too
ghastly to be beautiful. This one, the Richmond example, and the two
at Ripley constitute my entire experience of full relief work on a
mere gravestone.


  "To William Swan, died 1715, aged 16 years."

Other churchyards in the locality we found less fruitful, and taking
rail to Buckhurst Hill, we struck across Epping Forest to Chingford,
also without profit, and walked on to Walthamstow, where another of
the enfoliated death's-head pictures was found; the novelty being two
skulls with ivy sprays, symbolical of evergreen recollections.


  "To Jane Redfern, died 1734, aged 52 years,"

In the Broxbourne example on the same Plate (Fig. 77) branches of oak,
bearing leaves and acorns, are used with good decorative effect on
either side of a porch in which is seated a mourning figure, but I
cannot undertake to explain the symbolical significance of the oak in
sepulchral masonry.


  "To Mrs Rowe, widow, died 6 May 1798."

My excursions into Essex have been too limited in scope to trace or
test peculiarities in that county, but I have found by observation in
a number of counties that, although there are occasional evidences
of local invention, or at least of local modification, in certain
districts, the same set of types which prevails in one county serves
pretty well for all the rest.

It is well therefore to guard against disappointment. Pilgrimages
like ours, having for their real purpose healthy exercise and physical
enjoyment, are not to be counted failures when their ostensible errand
seems to have borne no result. It is necessary for the pilgrim to
be armed with some such reflection as this against the shafts of
discomfiture. There have been occasions when, at the close of the
day, conscious as I might be of the pleasant hours past, the freshened
brain and the body reinvigorated, I have yet covetously mourned the
scanty and valueless additions to my note-book. Other pilgrims may
therefore take warning, be prepared for blank days in barren coverts,
and sully not their satisfaction with regrets. But it will be a blank
day indeed which does not carry its pleasures with it and store the
mind with happy recollections. One walk on a winter's day over the
hills from High Barnet to Edgware I reckoned sadly unproductive of the
special novelties I sought, but it afforded me the contemplation of
some landscapes which I can never forget, and it printed on my brain a
little _papier-maché_-like church at Totteridge which was worth going
miles to see. Better fortune next time should be the beacon of the
gentle tramp. The long jaunt I had from Chigwell Lane Station through
the pretty but unpopulous country west of Theydon Bois, uneventful as
it was, made an ineffaceable mark on my memory. I picture now the long
and solitary walk across fields and woodlands, with never a soul to
tell the way for miles and miles, crossing and recrossing the winding
Roden, startling the partridges from the turnips, and surprising, at
some sudden bend in the footpath, the rabbits at their play. It is
not without excitement to steer one's course over unknown and forsaken
ground by chart and compass. These needful guides then prove their
value, and in a hilly country an altitude-barometer is a friend not
to be despised. It is not without some pride in one's self-reliance
to find one's self five miles from a railway station, as I did at
Stapleford Abbotts; and, though my special quest was all in vain
at several halting-places that day, I met with a Norman doorway at
Lambourn Church which archaeologists would call a dream, the axe-work
of the old masons as clean cut and as perfect as though it had been
done last week; and in taking a near cut at a guess across country for
Stapleford Tawney I mind me that I lost my way, or thought I had, but
the mariner's needle was true, and emerging in a green avenue I saw
before me a finger-post marked "To Tawney Church." I took off my
hat and respectfully saluted that finger-post, and was soon in
the churchyard, where I haply lighted upon one of the gems of my
collection, the headstone sculpture of "The Good Samaritan."

[Illustration: FIG. 76. WALTHAMSTOW.]

[Illustration: FIG. 77. BROXBOURNE.]


  "To Richard Wright, died 3d March 1781,
            aged 76 years."

I have, however, an earlier study of the same subject from the
churchyard at Shorne Village, near Gravesend, which, is here given
for comparison, and I have seen two others at Cranbrook. They all have
some features alike, but there are differences in the treatment of
details in each case.


  "To Mary Layton, died Jan. 12, 1760; Joseph
      Layton, died May 21, 1757; and Will.
      Holmes, died Aug. 26, 1752."

The stone at Shorne being close to the church door is well known to
the villagers, by whom it is regarded as a curiosity. The schoolmaster
was good enough to give me a photograph from which my sketch is
made. But such rarities are seldom esteemed by, or even known to, the
inhabitants of a place, and are passed by without heed by the constant
congregation of the church. At Stapleford Tawney, just named, a
native, the first I had seen for a mile or two, stopped at the
unwonted sight of a stranger sketching in the churchyard, and I
consulted him as to application of the parable of the Good Samaritan
in the case under notice. His reply was that, though he had lived
there "man and boy for fifty year," he had "never see'd the
thing afore." He condescended, however, to take an interest in my
explanations, and seemed to realize that it was worth while to seek
for objects of interest even in a churchyard. This was decidedly
better than the behaviour on another occasion of two rustics at
Southfleet. They had passed my friend jotting down an epitaph, and the
turn of a corner revealed me sketching a tombstone, when one to the
other exclaimed, "Land sikes, Bill, if 'ere ain't another on em!"

[Illustration: FIG. 78. STAPLEFORD TAWNEY.]

[Illustration: FIG. 79. SHORNE.]



Although memorials of the dead in one shape or another have apparently
existed in all eras of ethnological history, it would seem that the
upright gravestone of our burial-grounds has had a comparatively brief
existence of but a few hundred years. This, however, is merely an
inference based on present evidences, and it may be erroneous. But
they cannot have existed in the precincts of the early Christian
churches of this country, because the churches had no churchyards for
several centuries. The Romans introduced into Britain their Law of the
Ten Tables, by which it was ordained that "all burnings or burials"
should be "beyond the city,"[3] and the system continued to prevail
long after the Roman evacuation. It was not until A.D. 742 that
Cuthbert, eleventh Archbishop of Canterbury, brought from Rome the
newer custom of burying around the churches, and was granted a Papal
dispensation for the practice. The churchyards even then were not
enclosed, but it was usual to mark their sacred character by
erecting stone crosses, many of which, or their remains, are still in
existence. Yet it was a long time before churchyard interments became
general, the inhabitants clinging to the Pagan habit of indiscriminate
burial in their accustomed places. We hear nothing of headstones in
the early days of Christianity, but there are occasionally found in
certain localities inscribed stones which bear the appearance of rude
memorials, and these have been regarded as relics of our National
Church in its primitive state. It is also suggested that these stones
may be of Druidical origin, but there is nothing to support the
theory. Among the aboriginal Britons the custom of simple inhumation
was probably prevalent, but there are not wanting evidences in
support of the belief that cremation also was sometimes practised in
prehistoric times. An instance of early interment was discovered in
a tumulus at Gusthorp, near Scarborough, in 1834. In a rude coffin
scooped out of the trunk of an oak-tree lay a human skeleton, which
had been wrapped or clothed in the skin of some wild animal, fastened
at the breast with a pin or skewer of wood. In the coffin were also a
bronze spearhead and several weapons of flint--facts which all go to
establish a remote date. The absence of pottery is also indicative of
a very early period. Regarding the skins, however, it may be remarked
that Cæsar says of the Britons, when he invaded the island, that "the
greater part within the country go clad in skins."

[Footnote 3: The ancient Jewish burial-ground had to be no less than
2000 cubits (or about a mile) from the Levitical city.]

Christian burials, as we have seen, cannot be dated in England earlier
than the eighth century, and monuments at the grave may have possibly
originated about the same period, but there is nothing whatever to
sustain such a belief, and we cannot assign the earliest of existing
memorials to a time prior to the eleventh century. Indeed it is very
significant to find that the tombs within the churches are only a
trifle older than the gravestones outside, scarcely any of them being
antecedent to the sixteenth century. As burials inside churches were
not permitted until long after the churchyards were used for the
purpose,[4] it is indeed possible that no memorials were placed in the
edifice until Tudor days; but this is scarcely feasible, and the more
probable explanation is that all the earlier ones have disappeared.
Those which can boast an antiquity greater than that of the common
gravestone are very few indeed. It might have been supposed that the
sculptured shrine under the roof of the sanctuary, reverently tended
and jealously watched, might have stood for a thousand years, while
the poor gravestone out in the churchyard, exposed to all weathers
and many kinds of danger, would waste away or meet with one of the
ordinary fates which attend ill-usage, indifference, or neglect. This
indeed has happened in a multitude of places. Who has not seen
in ancient churchyards the headstones leaning this way and that,
tottering to their fall? Are there not hundreds of proofs that the
unclaimed stones have been used, and still serve, for the floors of
the churches, and actually for the paving of the churchyard paths?
It was not thought strange, even within the memory of the present
generation, to advertise for owners of old graves, with an intimation
that on a certain date the stones would be removed; and vast numbers
of them were thus got rid of--broken up perhaps to mend the roads.
But still greater perils have been survived by the earlier of those
memorials which remain to us, both without and within the churches.
The dissolution of the Papal power in Great Britain was the cause of
one of these hazards; for, towards the latter end of Henry VIII.'s
reign, likewise during the reign of Edward VI., and again in the
beginning of Elizabeth's, commissioners in every county were vested
with authority to destroy "all graven images" and everything which
seemed to savour of "idolatry and superstition." Under colour of this
order, these persons, and those who sympathized in their work, gave
vent to their zeal in many excesses, battering down and breaking up
everything of an ornamental or sculptured character, including tombs
and even the stained windows. Moreover we are told by Weever[5] that
the commission was made the excuse for digging up coffins in the hope
of finding treasure. Elizabeth soon perceived the evil that was being
done by the barbarous rage and greediness of her subjects, and
issued a proclamation under her own hand restraining all "ignorant,
malicious, and covetous persons" from breaking and defacing any
monument, tomb, or grave, under penalty of fine or imprisonment. This
checked, but did not wholly cure, the mischief; and, although in her
fourteenth year of sovereignty she issued another and sterner edict on
the subject, the havoc was perpetuated chiefly by a sect or party whom
Weever describes as "a contagious brood of scismaticks," whose object
was not only to rob the churches, but to level them with the ground,
as places polluted by all the abominations of Babylon. These
people were variously known as Brownists, Barrowists, Martinists,
Prophesyers, Solisidians, Famelists, Rigid Precisians, Disciplinarians,
and Judaical Thraskists. Some who overstepped the mark paid the penalty
with their lives. One man, named Hachet, not content with destroying
gravestones and statuary, thrust an iron weapon through a picture of
the Queen, and he was hanged and quartered. Another, John Penry, a
Welshman, was executed in 1593, and of him was written:

  "The Welshman is hanged
  Who at our kirke flanged
  And at her state banged,
      And brened are his buks.

  And though he be hanged
  Yet he is not wranged,
  The de'ul has him fanged
      In his kruked kluks."

[Footnote 4: The unhealthy practice of using churches for this purpose
was continued some way into the nineteenth century. The still more
objectionable plan of depositing coffins containing the dead in
vaults under churches still lingers on. In 1875 I attended the funeral
(so-called) of a public man, whose coffin was borne into the vaults of
a town church, and left there, with scores of others piled in heaps in
recesses which looked like wine-cellars. Not one of the many mourners
who shared in that experience failed to feel horrified at the thought
of such a fate. Some of the old coffins were tumbling to pieces, and
the odour of the place was beyond description. In the words of Edmund
Burke: "I would rather sleep in the southern corner of a country
churchyard than in the tomb of the Capulets."]

[Footnote 5: Weever's "Funeral Monuments," A.D. 1631.]

And there was a danger to be encountered far later than that which
was due to the anti-Popery zealots of the Tudor dynasty. On the
introduction of the Commonwealth there arose such a crusade against
all forms and emblems of doctrinal import as to affect not only the
ornaments of the churches, but the gravestones in the churchyards,
many of which were removed and put to other uses or sold. The
Puritans, as is well known, went to the extremity of abolishing all
ceremony whatever at the Burial of the Dead.[6] The beautiful Service
in the Book of Common Prayer, now used more or less by all the
Reformed Christian denominations of England, was abolished by
Parliament in 1645--that and the Prayer Book together at one stroke.
In lieu of the Prayer Book a "Directory" was issued on the conduct of
public worship, in which it was said:

[Footnote 6: There does not appear to have been any form of prayer for
the dead prior to the issue of Gaskell's "Prymer" in 1400. The Service
now in use dates from 1611.]

"Concerning Burial of the Dead, all customs of praying, reading, and
singing, both in going to or from the grave, are said to have been
greatly abused. The simple direction is therefore given, that when
any person departeth this life, let the body upon the day of burial
be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public
burial, and there immediately interred without any ceremony."

Penalties were at the same time imposed for using the Book of Common
Prayer in any place of worship or in any private family within the
kingdom--the fine being £5 for a first offence, £10 for a second, and
a year's imprisonment for the third.

The Puritans, however, are to be thanked for stopping the then common
practice of holding wakes and fairs in the churchyards--a practice
traceable no doubt to the celebration of Saints' Days in the churches,
and for that reason suppressed as remnants of Popery in 1627-31.

It need not be said that the Burial Service and the Prayer Book
came back with the Restoration, but the discontinuance of fairs in
churchyards seems to have been permanent. Many instances, however,
have occurred in later years of desecration by pasturing cattle in the
churchyards,[7] and offences of this nature have been so recent that
the practice cannot be said with confidence to have even now entirely
ceased. But we return to the gravestones.

[Footnote 7: At the Archbishop's Court at Colchester in 1540 it was
reported that at a certain church "the hogs root up the graves and
beasts lie in the porch."]

From one cause or another it is pretty certain that for every old
gravestone now to be seen twenty or more have disappeared.

In Gough's "Sepulchral Monuments of Great Britain" many instances are
given of the wanton and wholesale destruction of church and churchyard
memorials, even late in the eighteenth century. In some cases the
church officers, as already stated, gave public notice prior to
removal of gravestones, in order that persons claiming an interest
in the remains might repair and restore them; but more frequently the
stones were cleared away and destroyed, or put somewhere out of sight
without observation. Sometimes this was the act of the Rector; at
other times individuals, exercising rights of ownership, have done the
disgraceful work, and occasionally the whole of the parishioners have
been implicated. Gough says that the inhabitants of Letheringham in
Suffolk, being under the necessity of putting their church into decent
order, chose to rebuild it, and sold the whole fabric, monuments and
all, to the building contractor, who beat the stones to powder, and
sold as much at three shillings a pound for terrace (?) as came to
eighty guineas. A portion of the fragments was rescued by the Rev.
Mr. Clubbe, and erected in form of a pyramid in the vicarage garden of
Brandeston, in the same county, with this inscription:

[Transcriber's note: the following is enclosed in a narrow border]

  Indignant Reader!
  These monumental remains are not, as thou
  mayest suppose, the
  Ruins of Time,
  But were destroyed in an
  Irruption of the Goths
  So late in the Christian era as 1789.
  Credite Posteri!



That the state of the old churchyards in this country, down to the
middle of the nineteenth century, was a public scandal and disgrace,
is a remark which applies especially to London, where burial-grounds,
packed full of human remains, were still made available for
interments on a large scale until 1850 or later. The fact was the more
discreditable in contrast with the known example of Paris, which had,
as early as 1765, closed all the city graveyards, and established
cemeteries beyond the suburbs. One of the laws passed at the same time
by the Parliament of Paris directed that the graves in the cemeteries
should not be marked with stones, and that all epitaphs and
inscriptions should be placed on the walls, a regulation which appears
to have been greatly honoured in the breach. In 1776 Louis XVI.,
recognizing the benefit which Paris had derived from the city decree,
prohibited graveyards in all the cities and towns of France, and
rendered unlawful interments in churches and chapels; and in 1790
the National Assembly passed an Act commanding that all the old
burial-grounds, even in the villages, should be closed, and others
provided at a distance from habitations.[8] Other States of Europe
took pattern by these enlightened proceedings, and America was not
slow in making laws upon the subject; but Great Britain, and its worst
offender, London, went on in the old way, without let or hindrance,
until 1850, For fifteen years prior to that date there had been in
progress an agitation against the existing order of things, led by Dr.
G.A. Walker, a Drury Lane surgeon, living in a very nest of churchyard
fevers, who wrote a book and several pamphlets, delivered public
lectures, and raised a discussion in the public press. The London City
Corporation petitioned Parliament in 1842 for the abolition of burials
within the City, and a Select Committee of the House of Commons was at
once entrusted with an enquiry on the subject.

[Footnote 8: In France in 1782-3, in order to check the pestilence,
the remains of more than six millions of people were disinterred from
the urban churchyards and reburied far away from the dwelling-places.
The Cemetery of Père la Chaise was a later creation, having been
consecrated in 1804.]

The following were the official figures shewing the burials in the
London district[9] from 1741 to 1837, and it was asserted that many
surreptitious interments were unrecorded:

    From 1741 to 1765 588,523

    " 1766 to 1792 605,832

    " 1793 to 1813 402,595

    " 1814 to 1837 508,162

    Total 2,105,112

In the same year (1842) a Export was presented to Parliament by the
Select Committee on "The Improvement of the Health of Towns," and
especially on "The Effect of the Interment of Bodies in Towns." Its
purport may be summed up in the following quotation:

"The evidence ... gives a loathsome picture of the unseemly and
demoralizing practices which result from the crowded condition of the
existing graveyards--practices which could scarcely have been thought
possible in the present state of society.... We cannot arrive at any
other conclusion than that the nuisance of interments in great towns
and the injury arising to the health of the community are fully

[Footnote 9: London was much increased in area by the passing of Sir
Benjamin Hall's "Metropolis Local Management Act of 1849."]

Among the witnesses examined were Sir Benjamin Brodie and Dr. G.R.

In 1846 a Bill was prepared to deal with the matter, but it was not
until 1850 that an Act was passed "To make better provision for
the Interment of the Dead in and near the Metropolis." Powers were
conferred upon the General Board of Health to establish cemeteries or
enlarge burial-grounds, and an Order in Council was made sufficient
for closing any of the old churchyards either wholly or with
exceptions to be stipulated in the order. One month's notice was all
that was needed to set the Act in operation, and in urgent cases seven
days; but it was found necessary in 1851 to pass another Act for the
purpose of raising funds; and in 1852 a more stringent Act was put
upon the Statute Book to deal summarily with the churchyards. This
was, in the the following session, extended to England and Wales, the
General Board of Health having reported strongly in favour of a scheme
for "Extra-mural Sepulture" in the country towns, declaring that the
graveyards of these places were in no better condition than those of

Consequently, in the years which followed 1850, a general closing
of churchyards took place throughout the Metropolis, and to a lesser
extent throughout the kingdom, and an active crusade against all
similar burial-grounds was instituted, which may be said to be still
in operation. The substitution of new cemeteries in remote and mostly
picturesque places was of immediate advantage in many ways, but it
did little or nothing to remedy the dilapidated appearance of the old
graveyards, which indeed, now that they brought in no revenues, became
in many cases painfully neglected, dejected, and forlorn. Happily, in
1883, the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association was established,
and its influence has been very marked in the improvement of the
old enclosures and their conversion into recreation grounds. The
Metropolitan Board of Works, the London County Council, the City
Corporation, public vestries, and private persons, have shared in
the good work, but the chief instrument has been the Public Gardens

Of old burial-grounds now open as public gardens in the London
district there are more than a hundred. Care is always taken to
preserve the sacred soil from profane uses, games being prohibited,
and the improvements confined to paths and seats, levelling the ground
and planting with trees and flowers. The gravestones, though removed
to the sides of the enclosure, are numbered and scheduled, and all in
which any living person can claim an interest are left untouched. No
stones are ever destroyed in the process of reformation, but previous
ill-usage and natural decay have rendered very many of them illegible,
and in another century or so all these once fond memorials will
probably have become blank and mute.

To the middle of the nineteenth century may also be assigned the
change which we now see in the character of our gravestones. Quite
in the beginning of the century the vulgar and grotesque carvings and
Scriptural barbarisms of the eighteenth century had given place to a
simple form of memorial in which it was rare to find the least effort
at ornament; but, as soon as the Burial Acts were passed and the old
churchyards were succeeded by the new cemeteries, the tasteful and
elegant designs which are to be seen in every modern burial-ground
were introduced, founded in great measure upon the artistic drawings
of Mr. D.A. Clarkson, whose manifold suggestions, published in 1852,
are still held in the highest admiration.



Mankind in all ages and in all places has recognized the sanctity
of the burial-place. Among the New Zealanders, when they were first
revealed to Europeans as savages, the place of interment was _tapu_,
or holy. The wild and warlike Afghanistans have also a profound
reverence for their burial-grounds, which they speak of expressively
as "cities of the silent." Among the Turks the utmost possible respect
is paid to the resting-places of the dead, and nowhere, perhaps (says
Mrs. Stone in "God's Acre"), are the burial-places so beautiful.
The great and increasing size of Turkish cemeteries is due to the
repugnance of the people to disturbing the soil where once a body has
been laid. The Chinese and the inhabitants of the Sunda Isles
(says the authority just quoted) seem to vie with each other in the
reverence with which they regard the burial-places of their ancestors,
which almost invariably occupy the most beautiful and sequestered
sites. The graves are usually overgrown with long grasses and
luxuriantly flowering plants. In like manner the Moors have a
particular shrub which overspreads their graves, and no one is
permitted to pluck a leaf or a blossom.

The simple Breton people are deeply religious, and their veneration
for the dead is intense. They are frequently to be seen--men, women,
and children--kneeling on the ground in their churchyards, praying
among the graves. It may therefore be well believed that in the period
of burial reform which overspread the Continent in the earlier part of
the nineteenth century there was great opposition in Brittany to the
establishment of remote cemeteries. The thought of burying elsewhere
than in the parish churchyard was to the minds of the parishioners a
species of impiety. When reasoned with they would answer:

"Our fathers were buried here, and you would separate us from our
dead. Let us be buried here, where our kinsfolk can see our graves
from their windows, and the children can come at evening to pray."

In vain they were shewn the danger of accumulating corpses in a place
which was usually in the centre of the population. They shook their
heads and cried:

"Death comes only by the will of God."

Possibly, to some extent, this feeling is universal among mankind.
There is in our hearts an innate reverence for the burial-place; we
tread by instinct lightly over the sleeping-places of the dead, and
look with silent awe upon their tombs. The feeling being part of our
humanity, we might suppose it to be universal, and be apt to conclude
that, in our more primitive churchyards at least, we should find some
effort to preserve the whole or a large proportion of the memorials
which are there dedicated to departed merit, hallowed by love and
made sacred by sorrow. But it may truthfully be said that of all the
headstones (not to speak alone of _decorated_ headstones) which were
set up prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century, by far the
greater number have disappeared! Indeed the cases in which the old
churchyards have been the objects of any care whatever are lamentably
few, while attempts to preserve the old gravestones are almost
unknown. The ordinary experience is to find the churchyard more or
less neglected and forgotten, and the grey and aged stones either
sinking into the earth or tottering to their fall. It cannot be
imagined that the clergy, the wardens, and the sextons have failed to
see these things; but they have, presumedly, more pressing matters
to attend to, and it seems to be nobody's business to attend to such
ownerless and worthless objects.

Some gravediggers will tell you that the natural destiny of the
gravestone is the grave! They will shew you the old fellows slowly
descending into the ground, and they have heard the parson say
perhaps that the "trembling of the earth" will in time shake them all
inevitably out of sight. I have heard it mentioned as an article of
belief among sextons that a hundred years is the fair measure of a
head-stone's "life" above ground, but this reckoning is much too short
for the evidences, and makes no allowance for variable circumstances.
In some places, Keston for instance, the church is founded upon a bed
of chalk, and out of the chalk the graves are laboriously hewn. It is
obvious therefore that the nature of the soil, as it is yielding or
impervious, must be a prime factor in the question of survival. It
may be granted, however, that our progenitors in selecting their
burial-grounds had the same preference for a suitable site as we have
in our own day, and, notwithstanding exceptions which seem to shew
that the church and not the churchyard was the one thing thought of,
the law of a light soil for interments is sufficiently regular to give
us an average duration of a gravestone's natural existence. The term
"natural" will apply neither to those fortunate ones whose lives are
studiously prolonged, nor of course to the majority whose career is
wilfully, negligently, or accidentally shortened. But that, under
ordinary circumstances, the stones gradually sink out of sight, and
at a certain rate of progression, is beyond a doubt. Two illustrations
may help the realization of this fact, such as may be seen in hundreds
of our churchyards.

[Illustration: FIG. 80. BETHNAL GREEN.

Illustration: FIG. 81. PLUMSTEAD.


The sketch of Bethnal Green (Fig. 80) was made just as the churchyard
was about to undergo a healthy conversion, and it marks a very long
period of inaction.

The Plumstead case (Fig. 81), though less extreme, is even more
informing, as it seems to measure the rate at which the disappearance
goes on; the dates on the three stones coinciding accurately with
their comparative depths in the ground. Whether the motion of the
earth has any influence in this connection need not now be discussed,
because the burying of the gravestones may be accounted for in a
simple and feasible manner, without recourse to scientific argument.
It is undoubtedly the burrowing of the worms, coupled with the wasting
action of rain and frost, which causes the phenomenon. Instead,
however, of the sexton's supposititious century, the period required
for total disappearance may more accurately be regarded as from 200
to 250 years. It has been found by careful observation in a few random
cases that the stones subside at the rate of about one foot in forty
or fifty years, and, as their ordinary height is from 5 feet to 5 feet
6 inches, we can readily tell, providing the rate rules evenly,
the date when any particular stone may be expected to vanish. In
confirmation of this theory is the fact that scarcely any headstones
are discoverable of a date earlier than 1650, and whenever they have
been left to their fate the veterans of 150 years have scarcely more
than their heads above ground. Wherever we find otherwise, it may be
assumed that conscientious church officers or pious parishioners have
bethought them of the burial-ground, lifted up the old stones and set
them once more on their feet. Of recent years there has grown up and
been fostered a better feeling for the ancient churchyards, and the
ivy-clad churches of Hornsey and Hendon may be cited as examples
familiar to Londoners in which the taste engendered by a beautiful
edifice has influenced for good its surroundings. In both churchyards
are many eighteenth-century stones in excellent preservation. Neither
place, however, has yet been "restored" or "reformed" in the modern
sense, and there is no reason why it should be. In many places, as the
town grows and spreads, it is well to convert the ancient graveyard
into a public garden, so that it be decently and reverently done. But
this ought never to be undertaken needlessly or heedlessly. There are
scruples of individuals to be regarded, and a strong case ought always
to exist before putting into effect such a radical change. But it
usually happens that transformation is the only remedy, and nothing
short of a thorough reaction will rescue God's Acre from the ruin and
contempt into which it has fallen. Yet we should ever remember that,
whatever we may do to the surface, it is still the place where our
dead fathers rest.

  "Earth to earth and dust to dust,
  Here lie the evil and the just,
  Here the youthful and the old,
  Here the fearful and the bold,
  Here the matron and the maid,
  In one silent bed are laid."

The utilitarian impulse, though frequently blamed for the
"desecration" of our churchyards, is really less accountable for these
conversions than the culpable neglect which in too many cases has
forced the only measure of correction. Therefore they who would
keep the sacred soil unmolested should take heed that it be properly
maintained. A churchyard is in hopeful case when we see the mounds
carefully levelled, the stones set up in serried ranks, and the turf
between rolled smooth and trimmed and swept. There is no outrage in
levelling the ground. The Christian feeling which clings to the grave,
and even to the gravestone, does not attach to the mound of earth
which is wrongly called the grave. This mound is not even a Christian
symbol. It is a mere survival of Paganism, being a small copy of
the barrow or tumulus, of which we have specimens still standing in
various parts of our islands and the Continent, to mark the sepulchres
of prehistoric and possibly savage chieftains. No compunction should
be, and probably none is, suffered when we remove the grave-mounds,
which is indeed the first essential to the protection and
beautification of an obsolete burial-place. But, if possible, let the
churchyard remain a churchyard; for, of all the several methods
which are usually resorted to for "preservation," the best from the
sentimental view is that which keeps the nearest to the first intent.
There can be no disputing that a churchyard is in its true aspect
when it looks like a churchyard, providing it be duly cared for. Some
persons of practical ideas will, however, favour such improvements as
will banish the least elegant features of the place and range the
more sightly ones midst lawns and flowers; while others, still more
thorough, will be satisfied with nothing short of sweeping away all
traces of the graves, and transforming the whole space at one stroke
into a public playground. The choice of systems is in some degree a
question of environment. Wherever open ground is needed for the health
and enjoyment of dwellers in towns, it is now generally conceded that,
with certain reservations and under reasonable conditions, disused
churchyards--especially such as are neglected and deformed--shall in
all possible cases be transferred from the closed ledger of the dead
to the current account of the living.

The following lines, which were written upon the restoration of
Cheltenham Churchyard, may be applied to most of such instances:

                "Sleep on, ye dead!
  'Tis no rude hand disturbs your resting-place;
  But those who love the spot have come at length
  To beautify your long-neglected homes.
  How loud ye have been speaking to us all!
  But the mammon and the fading pleasures
  Of this busy world hath made us deaf.

                     * * * Forgive the past!
  Henceforth flowers shall bloom upon the surface
  Of your dwellings. The lilac in the spring
  Shall blossom, and the sweet briar shall exhale
  Its fragrant smell. E'en the drooping fuchsia
  Shall not be wanting to adorn your tombs;
  While the weeping willow, pointing downwards,
  Speaks significantly to the living,
  That a grave awaits us all."

[Illustration: FIG. 82. CHESHUNT.]

[Illustration: FIG. 83. HATFIELD.]

But in rural spots, where there is abundance of room and almost
superfluity of nature, a well-kept churchyard, with all its venerable
features, studiously protected and reverently cared for, is one of the
best inheritances of a country life. Illustrations of this may occur
to most observers, but as a case in point I may refer to Cheshunt,
on the borders of Hertfordshire. Some distance from the town-fringed
highway, the village church, ancient and picturesque, stands amidst
its many generations of people--living and dead--hard by a little
street of old-world cottages. The spot and its surroundings are
beautiful, and the churchyard alone gives proof that the locality has
been under the influence of culture from generation to generation.
In few places are there so many and such artistic specimens of
allegorical carvings on the headstones. The usual experience is to
find one or two, seldom more than a dozen, of these inventions worth
notice, and only in rare instances to light upon anything of the
kind distinctly unique; but at Cheshunt there are more than a hundred
varieties of sculptured design and workmanship, all the stones
standing at the proper angle, and all in good condition.


  "To Mary Lee, died July, 1779, aged 49 years."

In the illustration I selected at Cheshunt the left half of the
picture appears to denote Life and the right half Death. In the
former are the vigorous tree, the towers and fortresses, the plans and
working implements of an active existence. In the latter the withered
tree, with the usual emblems of death and eternity, emphasizes the
state beyond the grave, and in the centre are mushrooms, probably to
point the lesson of the new life out of decay.

Hatfield is another instance of preservation without change, none of
the old stones having, so far as one can judge, been allowed to sink
into the earth, nor, as is too often the case, to heel over, to be
then broken up, carted away, or put to pave the church and churchyard.
There is quite a collection of primitive and diminutive headstones,
carefully ranged against the south wall of Hatfield Church, dating
from 1687 to 1700; and the specimens of carving in the older parts
of the churchyard are of great number and many designs. The one which
appears in the sketch (Fig. 83) is curious by reason of the peculiar
decoration which fringes the upper edge of the stone. It is somewhat
worn away, and I cannot discover whether the ornament was intended for
some sort of aigrette, or, which it closely resembles at the present
time, a string of skulls.


  "To the wife of John Malsty (?), died 1713."

There appears here, as elsewhere, to have been a tendency at times to
repeat unduly such familiar figures as the open book, but, as a whole,
Hatfield is a good example of a country churchyard. There are many
other old burial-grounds thoughtfully kept in as good, or even better,
order than the two here quoted; but it is for the respect shewn to the
ancient memorials of the village fathers, rather than the churchyards
themselves, that I have ventured to select them as patterns for
imitation. There is another curious border on a stone in the secluded
but well-kept country churchyard of Northolt, Middlesex.

[Illustration: FIG. 84 NORTHOLT.]


  "To William Cob, died 25th September 1709,
            aged 68 years."

Twickenham, in the same county, but now grown into a town, has
modified its churchyard to its needs, without much change, and I
give it a sketch in recognition of a sufficient and not excessive
well-doing. Neither of these two examples call for other remark, being
of simple interpretation.

[Illustration: FIG. 85. TWICKENHAM.]


  "To Elizabeth (?) Haynes, died 1741, aged
            35 years."

But while we find the few to be commended, what a common experience
it is, on the other hand, to come upon a neglected churchyard; the
crippled stones bending at all angles, many of them cracked, chipped,
and otherwise disfigured, and the majority half hidden in rank weeds
and grass. In some places, owing to climatic conditions, moss or
lichen has effaced every sign of inscription or ornament from the old
stones; and there are localities which appear to be really unfortunate
in their inability to resist the destructive influence of the weather
upon their tombs, which, perhaps because they are of unsuitable
material, go to decay in, comparatively speaking, a few years. As a
rule, however, these relics of our ancestors need not and ought not to
prematurely perish and disappear from the face of the earth. Where the
graveyard is still used as a place of interment, or remains as it was
when closed against interments, the sexton or a labourer should have
it in perpetual care. The grass and weeds should be kept in
constant check, and the tombs of all kinds preserved at the proper
perpendicular. If not too much to ask, the application of a little
soap and water at long intervals might be recommended in particular
instances; but all such details depend upon circumstances, and may be
left to the individual judgment. Provided there is the disposition,
there will always be found the way and the means to make the holy
ground a decent and a pleasant place.

Reverence for the dead, especially among their known descendants, will
generally operate as a check upon hasty or extravagant "improvements,"
and it may be expected that those responsible for the administration
of local affairs will, for the most part, when they set about the
beautification of their churchyard, decide to do what is necessary
with no needless alterations. This plan of preservation, as already
intimated, is probably the most desirable. But we know instances,
especially in and around London, where good work has been done by
judiciously thinning out the crop of tombstones, clearing away the
least presentable features of the place, and making the ground prim
with flower-beds and borders. To do this much, and to introduce a few
seats, will leave the graveyard still a graveyard in the old sense,
and requires no authority outside the church. It may be prudent to
take a vote of the Vestry on the subject as a defence against irate
parishioners, but, if nothing be done beyond a decorous renovation of
the burial-ground, the matter is really one which is entirely within
the functions of the parson and churchwardens. Moreover, although it
is not generally known, the expenses of such works are a legal charge
against the parish, provided the churchwardens have had the previous
countenance of their colleagues the overseers. The account for the due
and proper maintenance of the disused churchyard may be sent to the
Burial Board, if there be such a board, and, if not, to the overseers,
and the cost will in any case fall upon the poor-rate. Converting the
ground absolutely into a public garden is quite a different matter,
and, notwithstanding its difficulties, it is the course usually
adopted. First, the consent of the Vestry is imperative, and every
step is carefully measured by a stringent Act of Parliament. A
petition for a faculty must be presented to the Bishop of the diocese,
and before it can be granted there must be an official enquiry in
public before the Diocesan Chancellor--always a profound lawyer,
learned in ecclesiastical jurisprudence. Everybody who has any claim
or objection as to any particular grave-space, or to the whole scheme
altogether, has a right to be heard; all reasonable requests are
usually granted, and the closing order, if made, is mostly full of
conditions and reservations in favour of surviving relatives and
others who have shewn cause for retaining this tomb and that stone
undisturbed. In practice it is found that there are not very many
such claims, but it sometimes happens that serious obstacles are left
standing in the way of the landscape gardener. One almost invariable
regulation requires that places shall be found within the enclosure
for all the old stones in positions where they can be seen and their
inscriptions read; to range them in one or more rows against the
interior of the boundary fence is usually accepted as compliance with
this rule. Injudicious arrangement occasionally obscures some of the
inscriptions, but they are all accessible if required, and anything
is better than extinction. It is earnestly to be hoped that at least
equal care is taken of the memorials in burial-grounds which are less
ceremoniously closed. Where the work is thoughtfully conceived and
discreetly accomplished, much good and little harm is done to a
populous place by clearing the ground, laying out footpaths, and
planting trees and flowers. But the gravestone, the solemn witness
"Sacred to the Memory" of the dead, is a pious trust which demands
our respect and protection, at least so long as it is capable
of proclaiming its mission. When it has got past service and its
testimony has been utterly effaced by time, it is not so easy to
find arguments for its preservation. There is no sense or utility in
exhibiting a blank tablet, and I have seen without scruple or remorse
such superannuated vestiges employed in repairing the church fabric.
But this, be it understood, is only when the stone is irretrievably
beyond _memento mori_ service, and on the clear condition that it is
employed in the furtherance of religious work. It is true that a stone
is only a stone, whatever it may have been used for, but a peculiar
sanctity is in most minds associated with the grave, and we ought not
to run the risk of shocking tender-hearted people by degrading even
the dead memorial of the dead to profane and secular purposes. And
yet, what has become in too many cases of the old gravestones?
The very old ones we may perhaps account for, but where are the
middle-aged ones of the eighteenth century? It cannot be doubted,
alas, that they have in many churchyards been deliberately taken away
and destroyed to make room for new ones. Districts comprising many
parishes may be pointed out with all their old churches in the midst
of their old churchyards, but without one old gravestone standing.
The rule and practice have been to quietly remove the relics of the
forgotten sires in order to dig new graves for a new generation. The
habit, as just said, rules by districts, and this is the case in most
matters connected with the subject of this essay. It is a general and
remarkable truth that "good" and "bad" churchyards abound in groups.
The force of example or the instinct of imitation may explain the
fact, but it affords a sad reflection upon the morality of the
burial-place. Kirke White asks:

                      "Who would lay
  His body in the City burial-place,
  To be cast up again by some rude sexton?"

In my experience the chief sinner is not the city, but the country,

Other memorials than the headstone are scarcely included in my
subject. Few of the slate slabs which answer the purpose in Wales
and some of the bordering counties can maintain their inscriptions in
legible condition for a very long period, and they are in all respects
inferior to stone in durability. This thought would have given no
anxiety to the writer of some Chapters on Churchyards which appeared
in "Blackwood's Magazine" about 1820. Said he:

"In parts of Warwickshire and some of the adjacent counties, more
especially in the churchyards of the larger towns, the frightful
fashion of black tombstones is almost universal--black tombstones,
tall and slim, and lettered in gold, looking for all the world
like upright coffin-lids.... Some village burial-grounds here have,
however, escaped this treatment, and within the circuit of a few miles
round Warwick itself are many small hamlet churches each surrounded by
its lowly flock of green graves and grey headstones.... some half sunk
into the churchyard mould, many carved out into cherubins with their
trumpeter's cheeks and expanded wings, or with the awful emblems,
death's heads and bones and hour-glasses."

Of the so-called black tombstones I have seen none other than slate.

In a short tour through Wales, in 1898, I found very few old
headstones. Most of the memorials in the churchyards were constructed
of slate, which abundant material is devoted to every conceivable
purpose. There is a kind of clay-slate more durable than some of the
native stones, and even the poorer slate which perisheth is lasting in
comparison with the wooden planks which have been more or less adopted
in many burial-places, but can never have been expected to endure more
than a few brief years. Wherever seen they are usually in decay, and
under circumstances so forlorn that it is an act of mercy to end their


I conclude my English illustrations of the gravestones with one
selected from the churchyard at Kingston-on-Thames, and I leave its
interpretation to the reader.

[Illustration: FIG. 86. HIGH BARNET.]

[Illustration: FIG. 87. KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.]


  "To Thomas Bennett, died 7th Dec. 1800,
            aged 13 years."

The remainder of my unambitious book will be mostly devoted to
impressions gained in Ireland and Scotland and on the Continent in my
autumn holidays.



[Illustration: FIG. 88. SWORDS.]

In entering upon a chapter dealing with "Old Gravestones in Ireland,"
one is tempted to follow a leading case and sum up the subject in the
words: "There are no old gravestones in Ireland." But this would be
true only in a sense. Of those primitive and rustic carvings, which
are so distinctive of the eighteenth-century memorials in England, I
have found an almost entire absence in my holiday-journey ings about
Ireland--the churchyards of which I have sampled, wherever opportunity
was afforded me, from Belfast and Portrush in the north, down to
Killarney and Queenstown in the south. But there are unquestionably
old gravestones of quite a different order of simplicity in the Irish
burial-places, the most common type being the rough slab of stone,
several of which are here sketched at random from the graveyard of
the large village or little town of Swords, ten miles or so north of
Dublin (Fig. 88). Very few of these stones bear any inscription, and,
according to the belief of the local residents, never have been carved
or even shaped in any way. In one or two instances, however, the
effort of trimming the edges of the stone is clearly visible, and in
rare cases we see the pious but immature attempts of the amateur mason
to perpetuate, if only by initials, the memory of the deceased.[10]
Some such records still remain, but many have doubtless perished, for
the material is only the soft freestone so easily obtainable in the
district, and the rains and frosts of no great number of years have
sufficed to obliterate all such shallow carvings; the surfaces of the
laminated rock being even now in process of peeling off before our

[Footnote 10: In a barren record of facts, such as this chapter is
meant to be, I avoid as far as possible deductions and reflections
apart from my immediate subject; but it is impossible to pursue an
investigation of this character without being deeply interested both
in the past history and present life of the people. I cannot help
saying that in one day's walk from Malahide to Balbriggan I learnt
far more of the Irish peasantry, the Irish character, and the Irish
"problem" than I had been able to acquire in all my reading, supported
by not a little experience in the capital and great towns of Ireland.
The village streets, the cabins, the schools, the agriculture and the
land, the farmer and the landlord, the poverty and the hospitality
of the people, were all to be studied at first hand; and there were
churches by the way at Swords and Rush which the archaeologist will
seek in vain to match in any other country. The Bound Tower (Celtic no
doubt) at the former place, and the battlemented fortalice, which is
more like a castle than a church, at Rush, are both worth a special

The cross and "T.L." scratched on one of the stones appears to be
recent work, and the wonderful preservation of the stone to Lawrence
Paine, of 1686, can only be accounted for by the supposition that it
has long lain buried, and been lately restored to the light. The stone
is of the same perishable kind as the others, and it is certain that
it could not have survived exposure to the atmosphere, as its date
would imply, for upwards of 200 years. It may even be found that the
weather has chipped off the edges of the stones which now appear so
jagged, shapeless, and grotesque; but, from recent evidences gathered
elsewhere, it is but too probable that these rude pillars have been,
and still are, set up as they come from the quarry, without dressing
and free from any carving or attention whatever.

Many instances may be found in which slabs of stone, or even slate,
have been erected quite recently, the edges untrimmed, and the name of
the deceased simply _painted_ upon them more or less inartistically,
as in the sketch from Drogheda (Fig. 89). Such crude examples are the
more remarkable in a busy and thriving port like Drogheda, and amid
many handsome monuments, than among the peasantry of the villages; and
it is easy to imagine that if nothing more durable than paint has been
employed to immortalize the dead in past times all traces must have
speedily disappeared. The illustrations from Drogheda give the whole
inscription in each case, neither having date nor age, nor any other
particular beyond the name. The memorial on the left hand is of
slate--the other two of freestone; and the slate in the northern parts
of Ireland is the preferable of the two materials.

[Illustration: FIG. 89. DROGHEDA.]

There are at Bangor, ten miles west of Belfast, many such slate
records, which have endured for more than a century, and are still
in excellent preservation. One which attracted my especial notice at
Bangor was of the professional character here depicted, and in memory
of one of those bold privateers who were permitted to sail the seas on
their own account in the old war times.


The following is the epitaph, as clearly to be read now as on the day
when it was carved on this slab of Irish slate, more than a century

  "Born to a course of Manly action free,
  I dauntless trod ye fluctuating sea
  In Pompous War or happier Peace to bring
  Joy to my Sire and honour to my King.
  And much by favour of the God was done
  Ere half the term of human life was run.
      One fatal night, returning from the bay
  Where British fleets ye Gallic land survey,
  Whilst with warm hope my trembling heart beat high,
  My friends, my kindred, and my country nigh,
  Lasht by the winds the waves arose and bore
  Our Ship in shattered fragments to the shore.
  There ye flak'd surge opprest my darkening sight,
  And there my eyes for ever lost the light.

  "Captain George Colvill of the Private Ship
      of War 'Amazon,' and only son of
      Robert Colvill of Bangor, was wrecked
      near this ground 25th February 1780, in
      ye 22nd year of his age."

A possible explanation of the long endurance of this slate slab may
be found in the practice which prevails in this and some other
churchyards of giving all such memorials a periodical coat of paint;
of which, however, in the case here quoted there is no remaining

Altogether, primitive as they may be, the gravestones of the last
century in Ireland, so far as I have seen them, compare favourably
with the works of the hedge-mason in England which we have seen
in earlier chapters. Even the poor pillar of rough stone, unhewn,
ungarnished, and bare as it is, represents an affectionate remembrance
of the dead which is full of pathos, and has a refinement in its
simplicity which commands our sympathy far above the semi-barbarous
engravings of heads and skulls which we have previously pictured. The
immaturity of provincial art in Ireland is at least redeemed by an
absence of such monstrous figures and designs as we at the present
day usually associate with the carvings of savages in the African

But the eighteenth-century gravestones in Ireland are not all of the
primitive kind--many of them being as artistic and well-finished as
any to be found in other parts of the British Isles. The predominant
type is the "I.H.S.," surmounted by the cross, which appears on
probably four-fifths of the inscribed stones of the eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries in Ireland. The only instances which came
under my notice bearing any resemblance to the incipient notions of
human heads so frequently met with in certain parts of England
were the three here copied (Fig. 91). Nos. 2 and 3 are taken from
gravestones in the old churchyard near Queenstown, and the other
appears in duplicate on one stone at Muckross Abbey by the Lakes of
Killarney.[11] The stately wreck of Muckross Abbey has in its decay
enclosed within its walls the tombs of knights and heroes whose
monuments stand in gorgeous contrast to the desolation which is
mouldering around them; while on the south side of the ancient edifice
is the graveyard in which the peasant-fathers of the hamlet sleep,
the green mounds which cover them in some instances marked by carved
stones taken from the adjacent ruins. Both Abbey and grounds are still
used for interments, together with the enclosure about the little
church of Killaghie on the neighbouring eminence--a church which
(like a few others) enjoys the reputation of being the smallest in the

[Footnote 11: The Muckross stone (No. 1) was overgrown with ivy which
quite covered up the inscription, but its date was probably about
1750. Of the two from Queenstown, No. 2 is to Mary Gammell, 1793, aged
53; and No. 3 to Roger Brettridge, 1776, aged 63.]

[Illustration: FIG. 90. BANGOR, IRELAND.]


I leave to the ethnologists the task of accounting for these abnormal
carvings in the South of Ireland, and associating them with the like
productions of the same period in the South of England. Or perhaps
I ought rather to excuse my insufficient researches, which, though
spread over a broad area, are yet confined to but a few of the many
spots available, and may very probably have passed by unexplored the
fruitful fields. But, in the words of Professor Stephens, the
apostle of Runic monuments, I claim for this work that it is "only
a beginning, a breaking of the ice, a ground upon which others may
build." My pages are but "feelers groping out things and thoughts for
further examination."



A very peculiar interest attaches to the old stones which survive
in the burial-grounds of Scotland. Regarded generally they are of a
description quite apart from the prevalent features of their English
and Irish prototypes. Taking the same period as hitherto in limiting
our purview of the subject, that is from the latter part of the
seventeenth to the early part of the nineteenth century, it may
perhaps be said that the Scottish headstones are tablets of Scottish
history and registers of Scottish character during a long and
memorable time. The one all-prevalent feature everywhere is indicative
of the severe piety and self-sacrifice of an age and a people
remarkable for one of the simplest professions of faith that has
ever existed under the Christian dispensation. The rigid discipline,
contempt for form, and sustained humility of the old Covenanters are
written deeply in the modest stones which mark the green graves of
their faithful dead during a period of fully two hundred years. The
vainglory of a graven stone to exalt the virtues of imperfect men and
women was to them a forbidden thing; the ostentation even of a name
carved on a slab was at variance with doctrine; the cravings of a poor
humanity to be remembered after death had to be satisfied with bare
initials, and initials are all that were written on the gravestones
in many thousands of cases, probably ninety per cent, of the whole,
throughout the eighteenth century and approximate years. But the
rule was not without its exceptions, often of novel and peculiar
description. The skull and crossbone series, so common in the south,
have no place in North Britain; while the symbol of the cross, so
frequent in Ireland, is very rarely to be found in any shape whatever
within the boundaries of a Scottish burial-place. I present four
specimen types from the old chapel-yard at Inverness.

[Illustration: FIG. 92. INVERNESS.]

[Illustration: FIG. 93. BRAEMAR.]


On the stone No. 2 the tailor's tools--shears, goose, and bodkin--are
clear enough, and I was told that the figures on the stone in the
lower left-hand corner (No. 3) are locally recognized as the shuttle
and some other requisite of the weaver's trade. Inverness had spinning
and weaving for its staple industries when Pennant visited the place
in 1759. Its exports of cordage and sacking were considerable, and
(says Pennant) "the linen manufacture saves the town above £3000 a
year, which used to go to Holland."

In the 1698 example (No. 1) the short "and" (&) leaves no doubt that
W.F. & J. McP. (probably McPherson and his wife) are there buried;
and the similar information is almost as certainly conveyed in the
manifold cases in which appears the sign which occupies the same
position in the two lower stones (Nos. 3 and 4). These, however, are
all of later date, and may be set down as developments, or rather
corruptions, of the original form. The same signs, however, constantly
occur in all the northern graveyards.

Scotland has also its cruder form of memorial in the rough unhewn
slabs of native freestone, which are used in all parts of the British
Isles wherever such material is readily procurable.


Two of these slabs of different degrees are seen in my Braemar sketch,
but both seem of one family and serve to shew us the unconscious
evolution of a doctrinal law into a national custom. The employment
of initials, originally the sacrifice and self-denial of a dissentient
faith, is here, as in other instances, combined with the Catholic
emblem of the Cross. This little graveyard of Braemar, lying among
the moors and mountains which surround Balmoral, and accustomed to
receiving illustrious pilgrims whose shoe-string the poor gravestone
tramp is not worthy to unloose, is still used for indiscriminate
burials, and furnishes several examples of Roman Catholic interments.
Wherever such are found in Scotland, bearing dates of the eighteenth
century, they are usually of the rough character depicted in the
sketch. The recumbent slab in the same drawing is given to illustrate
the table or altar stone, which throughout Scotland has been used
all through the Covenantic period to evade the Covenantic rule of the
simple anonymous gravestone, for such memorials are almost invariably
engraved and inscribed with designs and epitaphs, sometimes of the
most elaborate character. But these are not mere gravestones: they are

[Illustration: FIG. 94. STIRLING]


In all parts of Scotland at which we find departures from the
conventional simplicity of the gravestone, the variation inclines
abundantly towards the symbols of trade and husbandry. At Stirling, in
the noble churchyard perched on the Castle Rock, the weaver's shuttle
noticed at Inverness appears in many varieties, for Pennant tells us
that in 1772 Stirling, with only 4000 inhabitants, was an important
factory of "tartanes and shalloons," and employed about thirty looms
in making carpets.[12] Occasionally the bobbin is represented alone,
but the predominant fashion is the shuttle open and revealing the
bobbin in its place. This is as it appears in No. 1 of the four
sketches from Stirling, where it seems to indicate, with the shovel
and rake, a mingling of weaver and agriculturist. The other trade
emblems speak for themselves, excepting the reversed figure 4 in the
stone of 1710 (No. 3). This sign has been variously interpreted, but
the most reliable authorities say that it is a merchant's mark
used not only in Stirling but in other parts of Scotland, if not of
England. There are in Howff Burial-ground, Dundee, and in many country
churchyards round about that town and Stirling, numerous varieties
of this figure, some having the "4" in the ordinary unreversed shape,
some with and some without the *, some of both shapes resting on the
letter "M," and others independent of any support whatever. It has
also been supposed to have some connection with the masons' marks
frequently to be seen in old churches, and is even regarded as
possibly of prehistoric origin.[13]

[Footnote 12: Pennant pronounced the view from Stirling heights "the
finest in Scotland."]

[Footnote 13: The vulgar explanation of the sign is "4d. discount
on the shilling," and some of the guide-books are not much better
informed when they assume that it marks Stirling as the fourth city
of Scotland, for in the old roll of Scottish burghs Stirling stands


The stone copied at Blairgowrie is an enigma which I scarcely dare to
unravel, but it will admit of several interpretations. "I.E." probably
stands for John Elder and "M.H." for his "spouse," but to set out John
Elder's name in full, and at the same time to insert his initials,
shews either a misconception of, or disregard for, the principles and
usages of the Presbytery. Otherwise, in some respects, this example
is almost worthy to be classed with the more degenerate forms of
churchyard sculpture in England; the skull, the crown, the hour-glass,
the coffin, and the bones being all well-known and conventional signs.
The compasses may stand for John Elder's profession, but the figure
which resembles a cheese-cutter, just below the crown, can only be a
subject of conjecture. This stone, which is one of the least artistic
I have met with in Scotland, is an evidence to shew that the rural
sculptor was as ready in the north as in the south to blossom forth
had he not been checked by the rigours of the Church. At times indeed
the mortal passion for a name to live to posterity was too strong to
be altogether curbed, as we may see manifested even in the prescribed
initials when they are moulded of heroic size, from 8 to 10 inches
being no uncommon height. Remarkable also is the fact just mentioned
(page 86) that, concurrently with the erection of these dumb
headstones, there were flat or table stones[14] allowed, upon which not
only were the names and virtues of the departed fully set forth,
but all sorts of emblematical devices introduced. The table tomb was
probably in itself a vanity, and, the boundary passed, there appears
to have been no limit to its excesses. There are a great many
instances of this at Inverness, Aberdeen, Keith, Dunblane, and
elsewhere, and the stone which appears in the sketch from Braemar is
only one of several in that very limited space. Such exceptional
cases seem to indicate some local relaxation from the austerity of
the period, which was apparently most intense in the centres of
population. Humility at the grave extended even to the material of
the gravestone. At Aberdeen, the Granite City, few of the last-century
gravestones are of any better material than the soft sandstones which
must have been imported from Elgin or the south. The rule of initials
was almost universal. In like manner, when it became the custom to
purchase grave-spaces, the simplest possible words were employed to
denote the ownership. I noticed one stone in Aberdeen bearing on its
face the medallion portrait of a lady, and only the words of Isaiah,
chapter xl. verse 6: "The voice said, All flesh is grass, and all the
goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." At the back of the
stone is written: "This burying ground, containing two graves, belongs
to William Rait, Merchant. Aberdeen, 1800." The practice of carving on
both faces of the headstone is very common in Scotland, and, so far
as I have observed, in Scotland alone; but, strange as it may seem,
Scotland and Ireland when they write gravestone inscriptions have one
habit in common, that of beginning their epitaphs, not with the name
of the deceased person, but with the name of the person who provides
the stone. Thus:--

  Erected by William Brown
  to his Father John Brown,
  etc., etc.

[Footnote 14: It has been suggested to me that these "tombs" were the
luxuries of the wealthier inhabitants.]

[Illustration: FIG. 95. BLAIRGOWRIE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 96. LAUFEN.

1. Cut into stone.

2. Anchor of iron on dwarf stone pillar.

3. Heart and anchor of thin iron on dwarf stone pillar.

4. Iron plate and rod.

5. Wooden cross.

6. Wooden cross.]



"Abroad" is a big place, and no sufficient treatment under the head
of this chapter is possible except to one who has had very great
experience and extended research. Nevertheless I may, with all due
diffidence and modesty, tell the little I know on the subject. My
opportunities of investigation have been few, and restricted to a
limited area--so restricted and so limited that I cannot tell whether
or not the observations I have made may be taken as indications of
national habits or merely as idiosyncrasies of the people inhabiting
the particular localities which I was able to visit. All the
churchyards which I have seen in France, Belgium, Germany, and
Switzerland very much resemble each other, and are altogether unlike
the graveyards of Great Britain and her children. It is to the
villages we should naturally go for primitive memorials of the dead,
but in all the continental villages which I have visited memorials
of a permanent character, either old or new, are scarcely to be seen.
Occasionally a stone slab may be encountered, but almost always of
recent date. At Laufen in the Canton of Zurich, near the Falls of the
Rhine, I selected almost at random the examples of memorials shewn in
my sketch (Fig. 96), one or other of which was at the head of nearly
every grave.


The average height of these mementoes was about 2 feet, and all the
dates which I saw were of the last twenty-five years. Permanence
indeed is apparently not considered as it is with us in the like
circumstances. The British gravestone is trusted to perpetuate at
least the names of our departed friends down to the days of our
posterity, but the provision made by our neighbours seems to have
been for the existing generation only. Posterity does not trouble the
villagers of Switzerland nor their prototypes of other nations around
them. This fact was strongly exemplified at Neuhausen, a small place
on the other bank of the Rhine, "five minutes from Germany" we were


In the churchyard at this place was one handsome tombstone, shewn in
the drawing, erected apparently in 1790. This was evidence of somewhat
ancient art, and I looked about for the old gravestones which should
have kept it company. Erect in its place there was not one, but in
the remotest corner of the enclosure I came upon several stones lying
flat, one upon another, the uppermost and only visible inscription
bearing the recent date of 1870! Only twenty years or so "on sentry"
at the grave, and already relieved from duty! There was likewise a
miscellaneous heap of old crosses, etc., of iron and wood, the
writing on which had disappeared, and they might reasonably have been
condemned as of no further service; but that gravestones in perfect
preservation should have been thought to have served their full
purpose in a little over twenty years, and be cast aside as no longer
requisite, was a remarkable lesson in national character. All the
graves were flat, and at the head of every recent one was a small iron
slab bearing a number. Many of those which had crosses were hung with
immortelles, composed generally of glass-beads.

[Illustration: FIG. 97. NEUHAUSEN.]

In Neuhausen Graveyard, at the end of the row of graves, are seen two
rings protruding from the ground. Lying near is an iron shield with
two similar rings surmounting it. It is readily supposed that the
first-named rings are also attached to a shield buried in the earth,
and so it proves. In order that no space may be lost between the
graves, the shields are used alternately to serve as the dividing
wall, and are then drawn out, thus enabling the sexton to pack the
coffins close together.

The towns and cities abroad have their cemeteries beyond the
outskirts, as is the practice here. Occasionally an old churchyard is
to be met with, but never an old gravestone as we know it. Still there
are instances in which ancient carvings of the same character have
been saved by attachment to the church or churchyard wall. Several
such are to be seen in German churchyards long since converted to
purposes of recreation, and one at Heidelberg may be taken as an


  To "Barbara Fosterii," died 1745, aged 67.

Beneath is the text from the First Epistle of Peter, chapter i. verses
24 and 25.

    "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower
    of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth
    away: but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever."

At Lucerne, tinder similar conditions, the striking figures of two
skeletons, partly in military garb, keep guard over the tablet which
records the virtues of a departed hero. He was probably a soldier, but
the figure of a _lictor_ on the left with his _fasces_ of axe and rods
seems to betoken some civil employment. In ancient times the _lictors_
walked in advance of the magistrates, and executed sentence when

[Illustration: FIG. 99. LUCERNE.]

[Illustration: FIG. 98. HEIDELBERG.]


  To "Iodoco Bernardo Hartman," died 1752,
            aged 67 years.

The two last-given illustrations may possibly belong to the category
of mural tablets rather than that of gravestones, being fixed
apparently by original design, and not by afterthought, as in our
"converted" burial-grounds, against the outer walls of the church.
There are, however, no other remains which I could discover bearing
any resemblance to the old British headstone, and the evanescent
character which seems to have attached for a certain period to
the memorials of the dead among our neighbours abroad forbids the
expectation that any such as those which have appeared in our earlier
chapters are to be found in Europe outside the boundaries of our
Empire. In more modern observances, especially in the centres of
population, English and continental manners more nearly approximate;
and in the many new cemeteries which are now to be found adjacent
to the cities and large towns of Western Europe there are tombs and
gravestones as many and as costly as are to be found in any round
London. In Germany the present practice appears to be single
interments, and one inscription only on the stone, and that studiously
brief. Thus:

[Transcriber's note: inscriptions below enclosed in a border]

  Eduard Schmidt
  Geb d. 8 Oct., 1886.
  Gest d. 10 Jan., 1887.

This I copied in the cemetery at Schaffhausen. But at Hendon, a
north-west suburb of London, has recently been placed against
the church wall a still simpler memorial, a small slab of marble,

  Carl Richard Loose
  B. 21. 1. 52: D. 14. 10. 81.

For brevity _in excelsis_ the following, from the cemetery at
Heidelberg, can hardly be eclipsed:

  Michael Seiler

Sometimes the asterisk is used by the Germans to denote birth, and the
dagger (or cross) for death, thus:

  Hier Risht in Gott
  Natalie Brethke
  * 1850  ± 1884



Although, for reasons already explained or surmised, the gravestones
in our burial-grounds seldom exceed an age of 200 years, there has
probably been no time and no race of men in which such memorials were
unknown. Professor Dr. John Stuart, the Scottish antiquary,[15] opines
that "the erection of stones to the memory of the dead has been
common to all the world from the earliest times," and there are many
instances recorded in the Old Testament, as when Rachel died and Jacob
"set a pillar upon her grave" (Genesis, chapter xxxv. verse 20); and
another authority, Mr. R. R. Brash,[16] in a similar strain, comments
on the sentiment which appears to have been common to human nature
in all ages, and among all conditions of mankind, namely a desire to
leave after him something to perpetuate his memory, something more
durable than his frail humanity. This propensity doubtless led him in
his earliest and rudest state to set on end in the earth the rough and
unhewn pillar stone which he found lying prostrate on the surface, and
these hoar memorials exist in almost every country.

[Footnote 15: "The Sculptured Stones of Scotland" (two volumes), by
John Stuart, LL.D., Secretary to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries.]

[Footnote 16: "Ogam Inscribed Monuments," by R.R. Brash; edited by G.M.

A remarkable instance is afforded by Absalom, the son of David, who
himself set up a stone to record his memory: "Now Absalom in his
lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in
the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in
remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is
called unto this day, Absalom's place" (2 Samuel, chapter xviii. verse

Professor Stuart indeed declares that there is no custom in the
history of human progress which serves so much to connect the remote
past with the present period as the erection of pillar stones. We meet
with it, he says, in the infancy of history, and it is even yet, in
some shape or other, the means by which man hopes to hand down his
memory to the future. The sculptured tombs of early nations often
furnish the only key to their modes of life; and their memorial
stones, if they may not in all cases be classed with sepulchral
records, must yet be considered as remains of the same early period
when the rock was the only book in which an author could convey his
thoughts, and when history was to be handed down by memorials which
should always meet the eye and prompt the question, "What mean ye by
these stones?"

To such remote antiquity, however, it is probably undesirable to
follow our subject. It will no doubt be thought sufficient for this
essay if we leave altogether out of view the researches which have
been made in the older empires of the earth, and confine ourselves to
the records of our own country. Of these, however, there are many,
and they are full of interest. In date they probably occupy a period
partly Pagan and partly Christian, and it has been conjectured that
all or most of those discovered had their source in Ireland, with
a possibility of an earlier importation into Ireland by Icelandic,
Danish, or other peoples. Many of these stones have been found buried
in the ruins of old churches, and most of them may be supposed to owe
their preservation to some such protection. The drawings of one or two
may be given as samples. Those here sketched (Figs. 100 and 101) are
in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, and occupy
with others a considerable space, being well displayed to shew the
inscriptions on both sides.[17] It is by the fact of both sides being
written upon that we assign to them the character of gravestones,
that is upright gravestones; but it is also well authenticated by
historical records that the memorial of a Pagan chief in Ireland was a
cairn with a pillar stone standing upon it, and there is little doubt
that the Irish invaders carried the practice with them into Scotland.
It is indeed in Scotland that a large proportion of these stones have
been discovered, and there are more than a hundred of them in the
Edinburgh Museum. In the Museum at Dublin there is also a good
collection, conveniently arranged; but the British Museum in London
has less than half a dozen--only five--specimens. The number in each
of the three museums fairly represents the relative abundance of
such remains in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Marked on a chart
the discoveries are thickly grouped in the North-Western parts of
Scotland, in the South of Ireland, and on the South-Western promontory
of Wales. In Cornwall and Devonshire, along the coast line, there have
been found a goodly few, and the others are dotted sparsely over the
whole kingdom--England, as just indicated, furnishing only a modicum.

[Footnote 17: The National Museum of Antiquities in Queen Street,
Edinburgh, is unequalled by any other collection of British and Celtic
remains. All these memorial stones are carefully catalogued, and
have, moreover, the advantage of being described at length, with
full illustration, in Professor Stuart's copious work (previously
mentioned) on "The Sculptured Stones of Scotland."]

[Illustration: THE BRESSAY STONE FIG. 100.



The inscriptions upon such stones, when they are inscribed, are
usually in Ogam or Runic characters. An example of the Ogam writing
is shewn on the edges of the Bressay stone (Fig. 100), and also on
the front side of the Lunnasting stone (Fig. 101a). The Ogam style
was used by the ancient Irish and some other Celtic nations, and the
"Ogams," or letters, consist principally of lines, or groups of lines,
deriving their signification from their position on a single stem,
or chief line, over, under, or through which they are drawn,
perpendicularly or obliquely. Curves rarely occur; but some are
seen in the inscription on the Bressay stone, which has been thus
interpreted by Dr. Graves, Bishop of Limerick: "Bentire, or the Son
of the Druid, lies here." "The Cross of Nordred's daughter is here
placed." This stone was found by a labourer about 1851, while digging
in a piece of waste ground near the ruinous church of Culbinsgarth at
Bressay, Shetland. The design is said to be thoroughly Irish, and the
inscription a mixture of Irish and Icelandic. The stone measures 4 ft.
by 1 ft. 4-1/2 in. by 2 in. It is attributed to the ninth century.

The stone 101a is a slab of brownish sandstone, 44 in. by 13 in. by
11/2 in., from Lunnasting, also in Shetland. It was found five
feet below the surface in 1876, and, having probably lain there for
centuries, was in excellent preservation. The authorities, however,
are unable to make a satisfactory translation. The cross or dagger is
also of doubtful explanation; and Mr. Gilbert Goudie thinks it is
a mere mason's mark. It is, however, admitted on all hands that
the stone is of Christian origin, and probably of the period just
subsequent to the termination of the Roman rule in Britain. It has
been suggested that most of these ancient gravestones were carved and
set up by the Irish missionary monks not earlier than A.D. 580. The
Ogam inscription on the Lumasting stone has been made by one expert to


A strange and inexplicable aggregation of consonants.

The stone represented below, 101 _b_, bears an inscription in Runic
characters. Runic is a term applied to any mysterious writing; but
there were three leading classes of "runes"--Scandinavian, German,
and Anglo-Saxon--all agreeing in certain features, and all ascribed
by some authorities to the Phoenicians. The stone 101 _b_ was found in
1865, at Kilbar, Barra, a remote island of the outer Hebrides, off the
north-west coast of Scotland. It measures 6 ft. 5-1/2 in. in
height, and its greatest width is 15-1/2 inches. Mr. Carmichael has
conjectured that it was probably brought from Iona about the beginning
of the seventeenth century, and erected in Barra at the head of a
grave made by a son of McNeil for himself. But it is believed to
have been in any case a Norse memorial in the first instance, though
certainly Christian, for it reads:

"Ur and Thur Gared set up the stones of Riskar.[18] May Christ guard
his soul."

[Footnote 18: Riskar, or Raskar, is a surname of the Norwegians, who
were early settled in the Western Islands and adopted the Christian
faith.--"Old Northern Runic Monuments of Scandinavia and England," by
Dr. George Stephens, F.S.A.]

The Barra stone has on the reverse side a large cross, carved in
plaited bands. Dr. Petrie has pointed out that the cross is not
necessarily indicative of belief, the ancient Danes and other peoples
having used various signs--the cross frequently--to mark their
boundaries, their cattle, and their graves.[19] There is little doubt,
however, that in most of these British and Irish memorials, although
the stones may originally have been Pagan, the cross is typical of
Christianity. We are told that it was not unusual for St. Patrick
to dedicate Pagan monuments to the honour of the true God. On one
occasion, it is related, on the authority of an ancient life of the
Saint, that, on coming to the Plain of Magh Solga, near Elphin, he
found three pillar stones which had been raised there by the Pagans,
either as memorials of events or for the celebration of Pagan rites,
on one of which he inscribed the name of Jesus, on another Soter, and
on the third Salvator, along probably with the cross, such as is seen
on nearly every Christian monument in Ireland. In the same way on
two of five upright pillars in the parish of Maroun, Isle of Man, are
crosses deeply incised. This spot is traditionally associated with St.
Patrick as the place where he preached, and the stones appear to be
remains of a Druidical circle.

[Footnote 19: "Christian Inscriptions in the Irish Language." Collected
by George Petrie, and edited by Miss M. Stokes.]

This practice is quite consistent with the principles upon which the
Christian conversion was established by the early missionaries. Thus,
Gregory, in a letter from Rome, in 601, directed that the idolatrous
temples in England should not be destroyed, but turned into Christian
churches, in order that the people might be induced to resort to their
customary places of worship; and they were even allowed to kill cattle
as sacrifices to God, as had been their practice in their previous
idolatry. Hence also arose the system of establishing new churches on
the sites previously held as consecrated by heathen worship.

Of the five old gravestones in the British Museum, four are from
Ireland and one from Fardell in Devonshire. The Fardell stone was
found about the year 1850, acting as a footbridge across a small brook
at Fardell, near Ivybridge, Devonshire--a district once inhabited by
a Celtic tribe. It is of coarse granite, 6 ft. 3 in. high, 2 ft. 9 in.
broad, and from 7 to 9 inches thick. It bears an Ogam inscription on
two angles of the same face, and debased Roman characters on the front
and back. It reads, according to Mr. Brash, in the Ogam, "Safagguc the
son of Cuic;" and, in the Roman, "Fanon the son of Rian."

The three Irish Ogam stones were presented to the British Museum by
Colonel A. Lane Fox, F.S.A., who dug them out of an ancient fort at
Roovesmore, near Kilcrea, on the Cork Railway, where they were
forming the roof of a subterranean chamber. No. 1 cannot be positively
deciphered or translated; No. 2 is inscribed to "the son of Falaman,"
who lived in the eighth century, and also to "the son of Erca," one of
a family of Kings and Bishops who flourished in the ancient kingdom
of Ireland; and No. 3, which is damaged, is supposed to have been
dedicated to a Bishop Usaille, about A.D. 454. All the stones came
probably from some cemetery in the district in which they were found.

It has been remarked that the distribution of these old stones marks
clearly the ancient history of our islands; their frequency or rarity
in each case corresponding accurately with the relations existing in
remote times between Ireland on the one side, and Wales, Cornwall, and
Scotland on the other. Further enquiry into the subject is scarcely to
be expected in this rudimentary work.

To seek for the germ of the gravestone is indeed a far quest. Like the
_ignis fatuus_, it recedes as we seem to approach it. In the sculpture
galleries of the British Museum there are several examples preserved
to us from the ancient Empire of Assyria, and one described as the
"Monolith of Shahnaneser II., King of Assyria, B.C. 850," is almost
the exact counterpart of the headstones which are in vogue to-day. It
stands 5 ft. 6 in. high, is 2 ft. 9 in. wide, and 8 inches thick. Like
the Scottish stones of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it is
inscribed on both faces.



It has been already pointed out, and is probably well known, that the
clergyman of the parish church has possessed from immemorial time the
prerogative of refusing to allow in the churchyard under his control
any monument, gravestone, design, or epitaph which is, in his opinion,
irreverent, indecorous, or in any way unbecoming the solemnity and
sanctity of the place. This authority, wherever exercised, has
been subject to the higher jurisdiction of the Diocesan Bishop, and
presumably to the rule of the Ecclesiastical Courts; but, as we have
seen, the authority has been but indifferently employed, and the
inference is that the clergy have in times past been wofully ignorant
or lamentably careless as to their powers and obligations. A more
healthy system now prevails, and we seldom or never find anything
in the way of ornament, emblem, or inscription of an offensive or
ridiculous character placed in any of our burial-grounds, the Burial
Boards being as strict and watchful over the cemeteries as the rectors
and vicars are in the management of the churchyards. Nor has there
been, so far as we have gone, any difficulty in reconciling this
stringency of supervision with the Acts of Parliament which have been
passed in recognition of religious equality at the grave; and it is
not too much to hope that there is in the present day such universal
prevalence of good taste and propriety under the solemnity of death as
to ensure concurrence among all sects and parties in securing decorum
in all things relating to interments. To the incongruities which have
been left to us as legacies from our ancestors we may be indulgent.
They are landmarks of the generations which created them, and records
of times and manners which we would fain believe that we have left
behind in these days of better education and better thought. They are
therefore of value to us as items of history, and, though we would
not repeat many of them, we shall preserve them, not only because we
reverence the graves of our forefathers, but because they are entitled
to our protection as ancient monuments. However uncouth they may be in
design or expression, they must be tolerated for their age. It cannot
be denied that some of them try our patience, in the epitaphs even
more perhaps than in the carvings, and "merely mock whom they were
meant to honour." Two out of a vast number may be selected as painful
evidences of a departed century's tombstone ribaldry. The first, from
a village near Bath, is a deplorable mixture of piety and profanity,
sentiment and vulgarity:

    "To the memory of Thomas and Richard Fry, stonemasons, who
    were crushed to death, Aug. the 25th, 1776, by the slipdown
    of a wall they were in the act of building. Thomas was 19 and
    Richard 21 years.

    "They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death
    were not divided.

    "Blessed are they that die in the Lord, for their works follow

    "A sacred Truth: now learn our awful fate.

  "Dear Friends, we were first cousins, and what not:
  To toil as masons was our humble lot.
  As just returning from a house of call,
  The parson bade us set about his wall.
  Flush'd with good liquor, cheerfully we strove
  To place big stones below and big above;
  We made too quick work--down the fabric came;
  It crush'd our vitals: people call'd out shame!
  But we heard nothing, mute as fish we lay,
  And shall lie sprawling till the judgment day.
  From our misfortune this good moral know--
  Never to work too fast nor drink too slow."

The other is at Cray ford, and is as follows:

    "Here lieth the body of Peter Isnet, 30 years clerk of this
    parish. He lived respected as a Pious and a Mirthful Man, and
    died on his way to church to assist at a wedding on the 31st
    day of March 1811, aged 70 years. The inhabitants of Crayford
    have raised this stone to his cheerful memory and as a Tribute
    to his Long and Faithful Services.

  "The age of this clerk was just three score and ten,
  Nearly half of which time he had sung out _Amen!_
  In his youth he was married, like other young men,
  But his wife died one day, and he chanted _Amen!_
  A second he took. She departed: what then?
  He married and buried a third, with _Amen!_
  Thus his joys and his sorrows were _Treble_, but then,
  His voice was deep _Bass_ as he sung out _Amen!_
  On the Horn he could blow as well as most men,
  So his horn was exalted in blowing _Amen!_
  But he lost all his wind after Three Score and Ten,
  And here with Three Wives he waits till again
  The trumpet shall rouse him to sing out _Amen!_"

The habit of imitation which we have noticed in the masonry of the
gravestone is even more pronounced in the epitaphs. One of the most
familiar verses is that which usually reads:

  "Affliction sore long time I bore,
        Physicians were in vain,
  Till Death did seize and God did please
        To ease me of my pain."

These lines, however, have undergone variations out of number, a not
infrequent device being to adapt them to circumstances by such changes

  "Affliction sore short time I bore," etc.

The same idea has an extended application at the grave of Joseph
Crate, who died in 1805, aged 42 years, and is buried at Hendon

  "Affliction sore long time I bore,
        Physicians were in vain:
  My children dear and wife, whose care
        Assuaged my every pain,
  Are left behind to mourn my fate:
        Then Christians let them find
  That pity which their case excites
        And prove to them most kind."

But the most startling perversion of the original text I saw in the
churchyard at Saundersfoot, South Wales, where the stone-carver
had evidently had his lesson by dictation, and made many original
mistakes, the most notable of which was in the second line:--

  "Affliction sore long time I bore,
        _Anitions_ were in vain," etc.

The following from Hyden, Yorkshire, is remarkable:

    "William Strutton, of Padrington, buried 18th May, 1734,
    aged 97 years, who had by his first wife 28 children, by
    his second, 17: was own father to 45, grandfather to 86,
    great-grandfather to 23; in all 154 children."

Witty tombstones, even when they are not vulgar, are always in bad
taste. Two well-known instances may suffice--

  On Dr. Walker, who wrote a book on English

    "Here lie Walker's Particles."

  On Dr. Fuller:

    "Here lies Fuller's Earth."

The same misplaced jocularity must be accountable for an enigmatical
inscription at St. Andrew's, Worcester, on the tomb of a man who died
in 1780, aged 65 years:


This, we are told, should be read as follows:

  "Here lyeth the Body of
      Richard Weston
  In hope of a Joyful Resurrection."

Rhymed epitaphs have a history almost contemporaneous with that of the
old gravestones, having their flourishing period between the middle of
the seventeenth century and the early part of the nineteenth century.
They were little used in England prior to the reign of James the
First, and it is supposed that Mary, Queen of Scots, brought the
custom from France. She is also said to have been an adept at
composing epitaphs, and some attributed to her are extant.

It may be suspected also that other inventors have written a vast
number of the more or less apocryphal elegies which go to make up the
many books of epitaphs which have been published; but this is a point
wide of our subject, and we must be careful in our Rambles that we do
not go astray.


Abbotts, Stapleford, 47. Aberdeen, 89. Aberystwith, 31. Absalom's
Pillar, 98. Acts of Parliament, 58, 59. Afghanistan, 62. Agricultural
gravestones, 32, 33, 34. "Amazon," privateer ship, 81. America, 58.
Anglo-Saxon Churches, 38. Artizaus' gravestones, 31. Ashford, 23.
Assyrian tomb, 104. Atkinson, G. M., on "Ogams." 97.

Balbriggan, 79. Bangor, Ireland, 80, 81. Barking, 43. Barnes, 32.
Barnet, 46, 76. Barra, 101, 102. Bath, 106. Beckenham, 33. Belfast,
78. Belgium, 91. Benenden, 16. Bermondsey, 29. Bethnal Green,
65. Bexley, 41, 42. Bishop of diocese, 73. Black gravestones, 76.
Blackheath, 38. Blacksmith, village, 31. "Blackwood's Magazine,"
75. Blairgowrie, 88. Board of Health, 59. Bodiam, 16. Book of Common
Prayer, 54. Boutell's "Monuments," 36. Braemar, 86, 89. Brandeston,
Suffolk, 56. Brash on "Ogams," 97, 103. Bressay stone, 100. Bretons,
62, 63. Bricklayer's gravestone, 33. British Museum, 99, 103, 104.
Britons, aboriginal, 50. Bromley, 33. Broxbourne, 45. Buckhurst Hill,
45. Bunhill Fields graveyard, 26, 27. Burial in churches, 51. Burial
Service, 54. Burke, Edmund, 51.

Cæesar, 50. Carmichael, Mr., 101. Carpenters' gravestones, 31, 32.
Cattle in churchyards, 55. Chalk, parish of, 13, 14. Champion, S.,
41. Cheltenham, 68. Cheshunt, 22, 69. Chigwell, 46. Chinese,
62. Chingford, 45. Chiselhurst, 19. Christian burial, 50. City
Corporation, 58. Clarkson, D.A., 61. Cliffe, 21. Closing graveyards,
59, 60. Clubbe, Rev. Mr., 55. Cobham, 31. Colchester, court at, 55.
Colvill, Capt., 81. Commonwealth, 53. Continental gravestones,
91. Cooling parish, 23. Cornwall, 100, 104. Covenanters, 84, 86.
Cranbrook, 16, 48. Crayford, 17, 107. Cray Valley, 38. Culbinsgarth,
Shetland, 100. Cuthbert, Archbishop, 49.

Darenth, 21. Dartford, 6, 7, 21, 24, 33. Deptford, 44. Destruction of
gravestones, 75. Devonshire, 100, 103. Dickens country, 11. Diocesan
Chancellor, 73. Disused graveyards, 71. Drogheda, 80. Drury Lane, 58.
Dublin, 78; Museum, 99. Dunblane, 89. Dundee, 87.

Early churchyards, 49. East Ham, 24. East Wickham, 10, 24. Edgware,
46. Edinburgh Museum, 99. Edward VI., 52. Elgin, 89. Elizabeth, Queen,
52. Elphin, 102. Epitaphs, 4, 81, 106. Epping Forest, 43, 45. Erith,
12. Essex, 43, 46. Evolution of gravestones, 9. Expense of preserving
graveyards, 73.

Fardell stone, 103. Farnborough, 18. Fawkham, 22. Figure 4 reversed,
87. Finchley, 18. Foot's Cray, 41. Fox, Col., 103. France, 91, 109;
graveyards in, 57. Freemasons, 29. Frindsbury, 13, 32. Fuller, Dr.,
epitaph, 108.

Gardener's gravestone, 34. Gaskell's "Prymer," 54. Germany, 91, 92,
95, 96. Goudhurst, 16. Goudie, G, 101. Gravediggers, 64. Graves, Dr.,
100. Gravesend, 21, 34. Gravestones, abroad, 91; agricultural, 32;
artizans', 31; bricklayer's, 33; black, 76; carpenters', 31, 32;
evolution of, 9; destruction of, 75; gardener's, 34; grotesque, 10-16;
hunting, 36; incised, 11; Kentish, peculiar, 22; neglected, 64,
71; ornamented, 3, 70, 71; preservation of, 62, 71; primitive, 12;
professional, 31; rough, 78, 86; schoolmaster's, 33; sinking, 64;
unhewn, 78, 86; very old, 97. Graveyards, closing of, 59; disused, 71;
early, 49; preserving, 57; preservation expenses, 73. Greenford, 34.
Gregory, Pope, 103. Grotesque gravestones, 10-16. Gusthorp, ancient
coffin at, 50.

Ham, East, 24. Ham, West, 6, 34, 44. Harrow-on-the-Hill, 34. Hartley,
Kent, 19. Hatfield, 17. Hawkhurst, 16. Hebrides, 101. Heidelberg, 93,
95. Hendon, 23, 24, 66, 95, 108. Henry VIII., 52. Higham, 11, 13. High
Halstow, 12, 13. Hoo, 11, 12. Hornsey, 18, 19, 66. Horton Kirby, 20,
21. House of Commons, 58. Howff, Dundee, 87. Hunting gravestones, 36.
Hyden, Yorkshire, 108.

Incised stones, 11. Inverness, 85, 89. Iona, 101. Ireland, 78, 90, 99,
100, 102, 104. Irish monuments, 102. Isle of Man, 102. Isnet, Peter,
107. Ivybridge, Devonshire, 103.

Jacob and Rachel, 97. James I., 109. Jaw, the lower, 17,18. Jewish
burial-ground, 49.

Keith, Scotland, 89. Kent, tramps in, 35. Kentish gravestones,
peculiar, 22. Keston, 64. Kilbar, Barra, 101. Killaghie, 82.
Killarney, 78, 82. Kingsdown, 22. Kingston-on-Thames, 76, 77. Kirke
White, 75.

Lambourn, 47. Laufen, Zurich, 91, 92. Lee, Kent, 22, 38. Letheringham,
Suffolk, 55. Lewes, Sussex, 4, 5. Lewisham, 17, 26. Limerick, Bishop
of, 100. London, 28, 29, 58, 59, 66, 99. London County Council, 60.
Longfield, 28, 29. Louis XVI., 57. Lucerne, 94. Lunnasting, Shetland,
100. Lydd, 29.

Magh Solga, 102. Malahide, 79. Maroun, Isle of Man, 102. Mary, Queen
of Scots, 109. Medway Marshes, 23. Meopham, 16. Metropolitan Board of
Works, 60. Moorish graveyards, 62. Muckross Abbey, 82.

Neglected gravestones, 64, 71. Neuhausen, 92, 93. Newhaven, 1, 2, 3,
4, 21. New Zealand, 62. Nightcap on skull, 18. Norse memorial, 102.
North Cray, 41. Northolt, Middlesex, 71.

Ogam inscriptions, 97, 100, 103. Old Romney, 17. Ornaments on
gravestones, 3, 70, 71. Orpington, 38, 39.

Padrington, 108. Paganism, 50, 67, 98, 102. Paris, burial reform,
57. Pennant, 85, 87. Penry, J., a Welshman, 53. Père la Chaise, 57.
Petrie, Dr., 102. Phoenicians, 101. Pickwick Papers, 31. Plumstead, 5,
65. Portrush, 78. Port Victoria, 12. Prayer Book, 54. Preservation
of gravestones, 62, 71. Primitive gravestones, 12. Professional
gravestones, 31. Public Gardens Association, 60. Puritans, 53, 54.

Queen Elizabeth, 52. Queen of Scots, Mary, 109. Queenstown, 78, 82.

Rachel and Jacob, 97. Rector's prerogative, 73, 105. Reform of
graveyards, 57, 66. Rhine Falls, 91. Richmond, 29, 30, 45. Ridley, 10.
Ripley, 30, 45. Rochester, 13, 32. Roden, River, 47. Roman Catholic
gravestones in Scotland, 86. Romans, 49, 101. Romney Marsh, 29.
Romney, Old, 17. Roovesmore, Ireland, 103. Rough gravestones, 78, 86.
Round Tower, 78. Royal Artillery, 27. Rubbings of gravestones, 13.
Runic inscriptions, 83, 101, 102, 103. Rush, Ireland, 79.

St. Mary Cray, 40. St. Oswald, York, 27. St. Patrick, 102. St. Paul's
Cray, 41. Saundersfoot, Wales, 108. Scandinavia, 102. Schaffhausen,
95. Schoolmaster's gravestone, 33. Scotland, 84, 100,104; antiquities,
99; sculptured stones of, 97. Scots Greys, 27. Sculptured stones of
Scotland, 97. Sects of sixteenth century, 53. Sexton, the village, 36,
64, 75. Shahnaneser II. of Assyria, 104. Shetland, 100. Shoreham, 17.
Shorne, 13, 14, 47, 48. Sinking gravestones, 64. Sir Benjamin Brodie,
59. Sir Benjamin Hall's Act, 58. Skulls, grotesque, 11. Slate slabs,
76, 80. Snargate, 24. Southfleet, 25, 48. Stanstead, 16. Stapleford
Abbotts, 47. Stapleford Tawney, 22, 47, 48. Stephens, Dr. G., 83,
102. Stirling, Scotland, 87, 88. Stokes, Miss M., 102. Stone's (Mrs.)
"God's Acre," 62. Stuart, Professor J., 97, 98, 99. Sunda Isles,
62. Sutton at Hone, 33. Swanscombe, 23. Switzerland, 91, 92. Swords,
Ireland, 78.

Table tombs, 86, 89. Tawney, Stapleford, 22, 47, 48. Teddington, 18.
Thames, Upper, 29. Theydon Bois, 46. Tipper ale, 3. Tombs, age of, 51.
Totteridge, 46. Tramps in Kent, 35. Tramps, typical, 35, 43. Turks'
graveyards, 62. Twickenham, 29, 71.

Usaille, Bishop, 104.

Very old gravestones, 97. Victory over Death, 1, 20, 21. Villages and
cities, 28.

Wales, 75, 76, 104, 108. Walker, Dr., epitaph, 108. Walker, Dr. G.A.,
58. Walthamstow, 45. Wanstead, 25, 44, 45. Warwickshire, 75. Weald
of Kent, 16. Weever, antiquary, 35, 52, 53. West Ham, 6, 34, 44. West
Wickham, 19, 29. White, Kirke, 75. Wickham, East, 10, 24. Wickham,
West, 19, 29. Widcombe, Bath, 3. Wilmington, 24, 25 (2). Woolwich, 24,
27, 43, 44. Worcester, 109.

York, 27.

Zurich, Canton, 91.

       *       *       *       *       *


    In Eighteen One Shilling Parts, or bound in Two handsome

    at 25s.



    _President of the Woolwich Antiquarian Society_.

    Comprising Woolwich, Plumstead, Charlton, Shooters' Hill,
    Westcombe Park, Eltham, Abbey Wood, Belvedere, Erith, and


    The Work is Dedicated, by permission, to H.R.H. PRINCE ARTHUR,
    DUKE OF CONNAUGHT, and has been graciously accepted by HER
    also been universally extolled in the Press, from which the
    following are a few extracts:--

    "THE RECORDS OF WOOLWICH.--Mr. Freeman long ago suggested that
    it would be a useful division of labour if separate towns and
    districts were described by those in the several localities
    who had special knowledge on the subject, and he himself led
    the way in carrying out the design. Of local guide-books so
    called there is no end, but what is wanted in each case is an
    exhaustive history of the district, its natural formation, its
    antiquities, and the many objects of interest that are sure to
    abound, and that only want to be brought to light in order to
    form material for the future historian of the English nation.
    This labour Mr. W.T. Vincent proposes to perform for Woolwich
    in a work which he entitles 'The Records of the Woolwich
    District.' Mr. Vincent has been engaged in the task for
    twelve years. This is the work of a writer who has studied his
    subject in all the places where information can be obtained.
    The Preface alone will gain the reader's attention, even if
    the locality itself had no interest for him. It appears that
    Mr. Vincent had scented out the existence of a sealed packet
    of papers having reference to Woolwich, and, after a long
    hunt, ran the packet to earth in the British Museum. It was
    not until the authorities of the War Office had deliberated
    for a month on the subject that Mr. Vincent was allowed to see
    and open the packet, which was more than a hundred years old,
    and contained maps, plans, and views, several of which he
    produces."--_The Times_.

    "We must resist the temptation to extract, and conclude this
    notice by expressing our approval of the numerous _facsimile_
    reproductions of old prints illustrative of the text, each on
    a leaf of plate paper, while vignettes, maps, and plans are
    liberally dispersed through the letterpress, which is executed
    by Messrs. Virtue and Co., the well-known printers of the _Art
    Journal_. As to the text, the industry, care, research, and
    observation expended shew that it has been a labour of love.
    No prospect of profit could urge the production of such a
    work. It is, therefore, doubly reliable as a contribution
    to the antiquarian, topographical, anecdotal, pictorial, and
    descriptive history of an interesting locality, executed by
    a writer who is 'to the manner born.' We fully hope that Mr.
    Thomas Vincent, whose name is not unknown in the literary
    world, will reap his reward of fame and respect from his
    townsmen, and of fair profit, which his public spirit
    deserves."--_The Morning Advertiser_.

    "'The Records of the Woolwich District' deal with all the
    parishes which surround Shooters' Hill, necessarily dwelling
    most fully upon the northern slope. Of Shooters' Hill itself,
    and of all the other suburbs, some novel and attractive
    tidings may be expected."--_The Kentish Independent._

    "There can be no doubt that such a work, adequately and
    conscientiously executed, is much needed, and may be of great
    value. It has been undertaken by Mr. Vincent, well known as a
    journalist in the locality, and as the author of that useful
    directory 'Warlike Woolwich.' ... The printing has been
    entrusted to Messrs. Virtue and Co., the proprietors of the
    _Art Journal_, a sufficient guarantee for its quality. We are
    notified that there are over five hundred illustrations to be
    introduced, including a series of maps and drawings, included
    in the 'sealed packet,' and a hundred and fifty portraits of
    public persons, past and present. ... We hope the publication
    will command the success it deserves. The object of the author
    is evidently not mere money-making; he has undertaken the work
    from an earnest and enthusiastic desire to supply a worthy
    history of the locality with which he has been for his life
    connected, and we congratulate him upon the excellent promise
    of his First Number."--_The Kentish Mercury_.

    "The elegance of the illustrations at once attracts attention.
    The pictures, not only in their abundance and their interest,
    but in their exquisite presentment, are really excellent.
    Take the first of them, the charming view of 'Pleasant Little
    Woolwich,' a steel plate engraved in 1798, and now reproduced
    by photographic process. The scene which it presents at a time
    when the author tells us this brick-covered, hard-working,
    dingy old town was a pretty village, and actually a
    fashionable watering-place, to which people came from London
    to recruit health, as they now go to Malvern and Scarborough,
    is delightful and refreshing beyond measure. The whole of
    these illustrations are indeed full of agreeable contemplation
    and fruitful in speculation.... He may honestly be
    congratulated on the product of his labours, which, he tells
    us, have been his recreation for many years. We can well
    believe it, and assure him, if he has any regrets at the
    impossibility of a pecuniary return, that the satisfaction
    which his book will give will be a full reward. Such books
    seldom pay; they are not expected to do so, and any one may
    tell that there is no profit in the venture. But it will
    supply a need, and the writer's name will be handed down to
    posterity as having provided a very agreeable book."--_The
    Woolwich Gazette_.

    "The neighbourhood, rich as it is in historical material, has
    hitherto met with scanty recognition from historians, and
    we welcome Mr. Vincent's efforts to supply the need, and the
    generous spirit of his labours. He has spared no pains to make
    the records complete. Patient research and much literary skill
    are combined in the letterpress and woodcuts, engravings,
    drawings, and photographs, with maps and plans, which have
    been lavishly introduced by way of illustration.... We
    content ourselves now with pointing out its great value and
    entertaining power. The style is easy, and the writer is
    happily successful in his endeavour to avoid any appearance
    of merely dry-as-dust research."--_The Eltham, Sidcup, and
    District Times_.

    "It is a work which should prove of vast interest in our
    district, and we ought to say very far beyond it, for
    there must be many who, though not now residing in the area
    comprised in the 'Records,' would be glad to possess the book
    on its existence becoming known."--_The Erith Times_.

    "Mr. W.T. Vincent's 'Records of the Woolwich District' is
    undoubtedly the first volume which pretends to give a full and
    concise history of the whole district."--_The Bexley Heath and
    Erith Observer_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Order of Mr. W.T. VINCENT, 189 Burrage Road, Woolwich; of Messrs.
MITCHELL and HUGHES, 140 Wardour Street, London, W.; or of any






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