IN SEARCH OF

GRAVESTONES

OLD AND CURIOUS.



With One Hundred and Two Illustrations



BY

W. T. VINCENT,

PRESIDENT OF THE WOOLWICH DISTRICT ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY;

AUTHOR OF "THE RECORDS OF THE WOOLWICH DISTRICT,"

ETC., ETC.



LONDON:

MITCHELL & HUGHES, 140, WARDOUR STREET.

1896.



page decoration



IN SEARCH OF

GRAVESTONES

OLD AND CURIOUS.



Frontispiece.
AN EARLY EXAMPLE AT HIGHAM.
AN EARLY EXAMPLE AT HIGHAM. (Page 11.)



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER

  1. OLD GRAVESTONES — 1
  2. THE EVOLUTION OF GRAVESTONES — 9
  3. ARTISTIC GRAVESTONES — 20
  4. PROFESSIONAL GRAVESTONES — 31
  5. A TYPICAL TRAMP IN KENT — 35
  6. MORE TYPICAL TRAMPS — 43
  7. EARLIER GRAVESTONES — 49
  8. REFORM AMONG THE GRAVESTONES — 57
  9. PRESERVING THE GRAVESTONES — 62
  10. OLD GRAVESTONES IN IRELAND — 78
  11. OLD GRAVESTONES IN SCOTLAND — 84
  12. OLD GRAVESTONES ABROAD — 91
  13. VERY OLD GRAVESTONES — 97
  14. THE REGULATION OF GRAVESTONES — 105

INDEX 111




TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL STANHOPE, F.S.A.,
LORD LIEUTENANT OF KENT,
PRESIDENT OF THE KENT ARCHÆOLOGICAL SOCIETY,
ETC.,



THIS COLLECTION OF
OLD AND CURIOUS GRAVESTONES
IS BY SPECIAL PERMISSION
RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.






ILLUSTRATIONS OF GRAVESTONES.

AN EARLY EXAMPLE AT HIGHAM

1 NEWHAVEN

2 NEWHAVEN

3 WIDCOMBE

4 NEWHAVEN

5 LEWES

6 PLUMSTEAD

7 DARTFORD

8 DARTFORD

9 FRANKFORT

10 EAST WICKHAM

11 RIDLEY

12 HOO

13 ERITH

14 HIGH HALSTOW

15 FRINDSBURY

16 HIGHAM

17 SHORNE AND CHALK

18. MEOPHAM

19 STANSTEAD

20 OLD ROMNEY

21 CRAYFORD

22 SHOREHAM

23 LEWISHAM

24 HORNSEY

25 TEDDINGTON

26 FINCHLEY

27 FARNBOROUGH

28 CHISELHURST

29 HARTLEY

30 WEST WICKHAM

31 HORNSEY

32 HORTON KIRBY

33 CLIFFE

34 DARENTH

35 KINGSDOWN

36 FAWKHAM

37 SWANSCOMBE

38 ASHFORD

39 COOLING

40 HENDON

41 EAST WICKHAM

42 SNARGATE

43 EAST HAM

44 WILMINGTON

45 WANSTEAD

46 SOUTHFLEET

47 WILMINGTON

48 LEWISHAM

49 BUNHILL FIELDS

50 WOOLWICH

51 LONGFIELD

52 LYDD

53 BERMONDSEY

54 RICHMOND

55 RIPLEY

56 COBHAM

57 BARNES

58 FRINDSBURY

59 SUTTON AT HONE

60 BROMLEY

61 BECKENHAM

62 GREEENFORD

63 WEST HAM

64 LEE

65 ORPINGTON

66 ST. MARY CRAY

67 ST. PAUL'S CRAY

68 FOOT'S CRAY

69 BEXLEY

70 BARKING

71 WOOLWICH

72 DEPTFORD

73 WEST HAM

74 AND

75 WANSTEAD

76 WALTHAMSTOW

77 BROXBOURNE

78 STAPLEFORD TAWNEY

79 SHORNE

80 BETHNAL GREEN

81 PLUMSTEAD

82 CHESHUNT

83 HATFIELD

84 NORTHOLT

85 TWICKENHAM

86 HIGH BARNET

87 KINGSTON-ON-THAMES

88. SWORDS

89. DROGHEDA

90. BANGOR

91 MUCKROSS AND QUEENSTOWN

92 INVERNESS

93 BRAEMAR

94. STIRLING

95. BLAIRGOWRIE

96. LAUFEN

97. NEUHAUSEN

98. HEIDELBERG

99 LUCERNE

100 THE BRESSAY STONE

101 LUNNASTING AND KILBAR STONES


PREFACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WILLIAM THOMAS VINCENT.





IN SEARCH OF

GRAVESTONES

OLD AND CURIOUS.





CHAPTER I.

OLD GRAVESTONES.

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

FIG. 1. NEWHAVEN.

FIG. 1—AT NEWHAVEN, SUSSEX.

The inscription below the design reads as follows:

"Here lyeth the remains of Andrew Brown,

who departed this life the 14th day of

January 1768, aged 66 years. Also of

Mary his wife, who departed this life the

3d day of July 1802, aged 88 years."

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

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

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

FIG. 2. NEWHAVEN.

FIG. 2.—AT NEWHAVEN, SUSSEX.

The words below were:

"To the memory of Thomas, the son of

Thomas and Ann Alderton, who departed

this life the 10th day of April 1767, in the

13th year of his age."

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

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

FIG. 3. WIDCOMBE.

FIG. 3.—AT WIDCOMBE, NEAR BATH.

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

FIG. 4. NEWHAVEN.

FIG. 4.—AT NEWHAVEN, SUSSEX.

Under the design is the following inscription:

"To the Memory of Thomas Tipper, who

departed this life May y'e 14th, 1785, Aged

54 Years.

"READER, with kind regard this GRAVE survey

Nor heedless pass where TIPPER'S ashes lay.

Honest he was, ingenuous, blunt, and kind;

And dared do, what few dare do, speak his mind.

PHILOSOPHY and History well he knew,

Was versed in PHYSICK and in Surgery too.

The best old STINGO he both brewed and sold,

Nor did one knavish act to get his Gold.

He played through Life a varied comic part,

And knew immortal HUDIBRAS by heart.

READER, in real truth, such was the Man,

Be better, wiser, laugh more if you can."

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

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

FIG. 5. LEWES.

FIG. 5.—AT LEWES.

"To Samuel Earnes, died May 6th, 1757, aged

21 years."

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

FIG. 6. PLUMSTEAD.

FIG. 6.—AT PLUMSTEAD, KENT.

"To Elizabeth Bennett, died 1781, aged

53 years."

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

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

It is dedicated

"To John Clark, died 1793, aged 62 years;

and Rebecca his wife, died 1794, aged 61

years."

The inscription adds:

"What manner of persons these were the last

day will discover."

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

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

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

FIG. 7. DARTFORD.

FIG. 7.—AT DARTFORD.

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

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

FIG 8. DARTFORD.

FIG. 8.—AT DARTFORD.

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

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

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

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





CHAPTER II.

THE EVOLUTION OF GRAVESTONES.

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

FIG. 9. FRANKFORT.

FIG. 9.—AT FRANKFORT, GERMANY.

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

FIG. 10. EAST WICKHAM.

FIG. 10.—AT EAST WICKHAM.

"To Eliza and Lydia, the two wives of Anthony

Neighbours, died 18th Nov. 1675 and 11th

March 1702."

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

FIG. 11. RIDLEY.

FIG. 11.—AT RIDLEY.

"To the three sons of Will. Deane, died 1704,

1707, and 1709, aged 2 weeks, 2 years,

and 5 years."

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

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

FRONTISPIECE.—AT HIGHAM.

"To Philip Hawes, died June 24, 1733, aged

19 years."

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

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

FIG. 12. HOO.

FIG. 12.—AT HOO, NEAR ROCHESTER

"To Robert Scott, Yeoman, died 24 Dec. 1677,

aged 70 years."

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

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

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

FIG. 13. ERITH.

FIG. 13.—AT ERITH.

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

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

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