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  • 1896
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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 L5 for a first offence, L10 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 Pere 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 proved.”

[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. Williams.

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 London.

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 Association.

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, sexton.

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 existence.


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 eyes.

[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 visit.]

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 since:

“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 trace.

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 interior.

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 kingdom.

[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 L3000 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 “tombs.”

[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 fifth.]


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 told.


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 example.


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 pronounced.

[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, inscribed:

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. Atkinson.]

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 18).

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 read:


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 them.

“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 as–

“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 Churchyard:

“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 Particles:

“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.

Caeesar, 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. Pere 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.

* * * * *


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_President of the Woolwich Antiquarian Society_.

Comprising Woolwich, Plumstead, Charlton, Shooters’ Hill, Westcombe Park, Eltham, Abbey Wood, Belvedere, Erith, and Bexley.


The Work is Dedicated, by permission, to H.R.H. PRINCE ARTHUR, DUKE OF CONNAUGHT, and has been graciously accepted by HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN and H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES. It has 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_.

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