Friday, 17 August 2018



Saturday 11th August 2018
While staying with a friend in London for a few days, and in-between our visits to the BBC Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, my friend took me around one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian cemeteries. 
Brompton Cemetery is easy to get to, being right next to a underground station. We approached the magnificent entrance and found ourselves immediately tempted by the café situated there. 
I highly recommend this little café – we sat outside in the warm sunshine eating delicious tartlets while looking over the long, wide central driveway. It’s an excellent place to people-watch. There is no entrance fee so all sorts of people come here to stroll, to cycle, to walk their dogs and go jogging. Yet despite this being true to its original Victorian ideals of being simultaneously a cemetery, as well as a garden park, the peaceful atmosphere is retained. The character of this cemetery is very different from Highgate Cemetery which has perhaps suffered somewhat from its “Victorian gothic” reputation, and plethora of famous graves. Brompton is much more open, and light, based around a wide ceremonial drive taking you straight to the grand Chapel flanked by two great curving arcades. 

My friend and I only had a few hours in hand before we were due to make our way to the Royal Albert Hall, so we decided to simply stroll up the drive and then back again, looking at the monuments just to our left as we went. Occasionally we made a small detour when a particular monument down one of the side paths caught our eye.

And so we took in the most ostentatious of the memorials which stand where everyone could see them on their approach to the chapel. There are a huge variety of monumental crosses of course, and the obligatory angel or two. Many of the bigger plots alongside the central driveway have somehow kept their old railings, whereas in other burial grounds most have long disappeared, swiped as a contribution to the war effort in the Second World War. Here you can therefore see how beautifully ornate the iron work could be in Victorian graveyards. 
Art Noveau style ironwork
Brompton also has a good number of wonderful arts and crafts, art nouveau & art deco examples of monuments which are just stunning. The most famous is the magnificent chest tomb dedicated to the shipowner & businessman, Frederick Leyland, who died in 1892. 
As a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites he was rewarded with the most beautiful monument, designed by no less than Edward Burne-Jones. 
Detail of lilies decorating Leyland's tomb
But there are several less showy, smaller examples of the genre which are works of art in their own right. 
Once, no doubt, a beautiful & stunning Art Noveau monument, only the central panel on this headstone  has survived. Note the highly stylised font used in the inscription. 
The High Gothic which so predominates in Highgate is less common here, but there are still some outstanding examples, including some impressive mausoleums.  
High Gothic mausoleum with some Art Nouveau touches in the door
There are quite a few historic figures buried here, and of course, you can’t help but try to seek them out. I was impressed by Emmeline Pankhurst’s art deco cross (although she’s not my favourite suffragette, she definitely gets brownie points from me for her grave monument!). 
Emmeline Pankhurst's memorial with purple and green flower pots
I rather liked the fact that suffragette colours were used in the ephemeral furniture and flowers which have been placed at the base. A very good illustration of how important ephemera is when considering the symbolism and cultural significance of funerary monuments.

As one would expect in a large city cemetery there is a wide diversity of cultural and social groups represented. At Brompton there is a particularly large number of military graves, including Chelsea Pensioners, and many orthodox burials which can be identified by the presence of the Byzantine or Suppedaneum cross.  
A very fine example of an orthodox cross
On a more familiar theme we came across the occasional weeping maiden draped over an urn or sarcophagus, an agnes dei, chi rho, and a huge range of pedestal crosses, many of which were celtic-revival style.
A pleasing example of a familiar form - the contemplative angel.
We will definitely have to return next year for a stroll around the flanking areas, beyond the sight of the main promenade where the less showy monuments and headstones lie – and pay another visit to the café, of course.


Jane Lunnon

Wednesday, 27 June 2018



Saturday 23 June 2018

Sue Stearn writes: 
Well  it was that time of year again for St Mary’s very popular churchyard tours. 27 people attended and this year’s title was ‘War and Peace, Embsay and Eastby in the Great War’


Jane Lunnon and David Turner our expert family history researchers lead the tours, bringing to life past lives of those buried in the churchyard. 

Including a Belgian refugee called Leopold who died from TB at Eastby Sanatorium in 1917. Interestingly Dr Catherine Arnott who cared for him was a Suffragette and her sister a Suffragist. They must have had some interesting conversations over the dinner table. The Suffragettes' motto was ‘action not words’ ; hence the arson and bombing attacks as part of their campaign for the right for women to vote. Suffragists used a more gentle approach by lobbying MP’s and others.

We put together a small display of two of the 32 Stonemasons whose work is represented at St Mary’s. They were John Lowe of Skipton, who specialised in lead lettering, and who died in 1917, and Henry Crosley, who worked in sandstone and specialised in bold carving.

Example of the work of stone mason, John Lowe
While David and Jane lead the tours, Jennifer and Sue provided refreshments, and yes, Jen made a very large chocolate cake, which had all been eaten by lunch time! We also dog-sat a lovely greyhound called Thomas, while his owner went on a tour.

Yet another successful day and lots of positive feedback.

Sue Stearn


Tuesday, 26 June 2018


Tuesday 19th June 2018

We had a trip out today to two churchyards in Upper Wharfedale.

Arriving at Conistone-with-Kilnsey this morning, we met with the churchwarden to have an informal chat about our proposed project for a churchyard survey at St Mary’s Church there. It was a glorious sunny day and we had a very pleasant morning wandering around the churchyard and discussing the project with Philip. 
The project here will be very similar to that we have carried out at Embsay-with-Eastby, and should nicely complement the other projects which Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group have been carrying out at Kilnsey over the past few years. 


The churchyard at Conistone is similar in many ways, as are the styles and forms of many of the gravestones – they are mostly Victorian or later – although the church is much older, dating back to pre-Norman times. 

There are some table top and chest tombs which are pre-Victorian – RTI will be necessary to establish their actual dates.
It is fortunate for us that concern over the condition of some of the trees surrounding the churchyard mean that the extensive ground vegetation (maintained as a nature reserve until recently) will have to be cleared to facilitate a detailed tree survey. This should give us access to some of the gravestones which cannot at the moment be seen.

Conistone churchyard has undergone many changes – apart from the table tops and chest tombs there appears to few pre-Victorian survivals – no doubt many old tombstones were cleared away during the extensive restoration of the church (which is still very beautiful inside) which took place in the nineteenth century. This would explain the large “empty” expanse on the north side, which is where the new burials are now being placed.

We had an early (and very nice) lunch at the Café in the Kilnsey Trout Farm, before heading off for Arncliffe in Littondale. The vicar had kindly given us permission to carry out some RTI photography on a table top here which bears a striking resemblance to the listed grave slab we photographed at Kettlewell at the beginning of the year.

However this one proved awkward to photograph – unlike the Kettlewell example, the one at Arncliffe is supported on legs, and therefore we found it difficult to fit it within the camera frame as our tripods were not high enough above it. The sunshine also made it difficult to view what we were shooting as the light reflected on the camera display screen.
 
On processing the photographs at home Alan later found that the bottom half of the gravestone came out quite well, but we need to re-shoot the top half.
Top half - Before

and after ; The initial attempt at RTI reveals a little more detail
Some thought needs to go into how we deal with raising the camera level above a horizontal grave, and still maintain visual checks upon the framing of the photographs. Alan hopes to use a remote display on his laptop next time, and Chris reckons he can fix something onto the camera beam to raise the height. So the challenge is there for them both.

We had a very nice afternoon in Arncliffe, and spoke to quite a few passers-by who were either visiting the church, or on a country hike on the footpath that runs alongside the churchyard.

And after all that hard work, naturally we felt the need to revisit the Trout Farm for a bit of tea and cake, and a long natter.  

Jane Lunnon

Wednesday, 20 June 2018


20 June 2018


The local clergy monthly meeting was held at St Mary’s on Monday 11th June. Sue gave a short talk to a group of 11 clergy about our project, followed by a tour round the churchyard. 

The tour included the kerbstone grave which looks like black marble, but is in fact ceramic. This was a surprise to the group as no one had seen a ceramic gravestone before. These ceramic gravestones tended to have been used in the 1940s–1950s. Sue has only seen two others - both in Lincolnshire - and would like to know the location of any others around the country. 

Ceramic memorial in Sibsey, Lincolnshire 
She also showed them Revd Charles Hardman’s grave. He was St Mary’s second vicar (1865 – 1879), and had the ignominy of being declared bankrupt in 1868. His income at the time was £225 per annum, but he carried on being vicar of St Mary’s. His father-in-law, Revd Phillip Charbert Kidd, rector of Holy Trinity, Skipton, did not appear to help him, or pay his debts! 

Rev. Charles Hardman's gravestone, Embsay-with-Eastby
There is also a stonemason’s error on the grave. At the bottom of the inscription it says:  ‘He was not for God took him.’ The group was asked what the missing word/words should be. The consensus was ‘Forsaken’.

They were very interested in the project, and one vicar asked if we could do one of his four churchyards next!


Sue Stearn, Project Co-ordinator, Embsay-with-Eastby St Mary the Virgin Churchyard project

Monday, 18 June 2018


Wednesday 13th June 2018
Sue and I tested the new data entry forms for the gravestones database this morning, using Eileen as a fresh pair of eyes to see if it is user friendly enough. The experiment went quite well, although I shall be making a few more tweaks to the form to make it easier to fill in. Our authority file of terms to use in the database is now huge, but it just goes to show how complex gravestones are, and what variety there is in their style and design.

After lunch, Sue and I re-visited Silsden churchyard to take some photographs. Sue focused on the work of specific stone masons, while I looked at symbolism, imagery, and design details which would help to illustrate the database authority file. 
Amongst the giants, this small and very touching memorial
Time flew by, and it was a lovely day for wandering around gravestones. But by late afternoon the sun was so bright that taking photographs on the west side proved too difficult.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks – not only have we been filming with BBC Look North, but Sue has been talking about our project to a meeting of the Skipton Deanery, and a live interview with BBC Radio. But I will let her write about those experiences in detail in another blog post.

We are also considering a botanical and wildlife survey and preparing plans for a second churchyard project in Upper Wharfedale.  Looks like we will be busy for several years to come!

Jane Lunnon

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Thursday 7th June 2018

It was with some trepidation that some of us gathered together at St Mary's Church this morning to be joined by Nicole and Gareth for a morning of filming. We had been invited by Gareth and Nicole to be the case study fronting a piece on the "Discovering England's Burial Spaces Project" (DEBS), to be shown on BBC Look North. 

Jen & Sue show how it's done
None of us wanted to be actually filmed - we all wanted to let Nicole do all the talking to camera while we were busy carrying out survey work in the background - such a shy bunch we are! But Heidi, who came to film us, wasn't having any of that. She was with us pretty much all day - from 10am to 3pm. She didn't even stop for lunch, although we managed to get her to have some tea and biscuits. There's no hiding from Heidi - she even managed to persuade Alan to be filmed demonstrating the RTI software, which was quite a feat.  
Camera-shy photographer prepares to be filmed
Apart from those moments when we were each talking to camera, it was a very enjoyable day!!

Sue, Jen & Tony were filmed demonstrating the technique of RTI photography - it was early in the day, and Alan thought at that stage he could get away with staying out of camera shot …
Revd Louise was filmed inside the church, talking about the church records and importance of the project, while the rest of us quietly sat nearby. 
Waiting while Louise is filming
Jen and Sue were filmed measuring up a gravestone, and the whole bunch of us wandered around the churchyard discussing the memorials - we forgot the camera at that stage, we were so engrossed in talking to Nicole about our early forays into comparative studies through the Craven area and Upper Wharfedale. Heidi had to call to us several times to direct us to walk towards her, or show certain features of the memorials to camera. 

I had my terrifying moments telling the stories behind two gravestones. I tried my best to just pretend I was doing another of our annual churchyard tours to a small group of people. 

It was a beautiful day and we had several walkers passing through, so Sue was backwards and forwards, chatting to them and giving them a brief churchyard tour, then popping back to the filming. Heidi really wanted to interview one visitor who was an American, but he and his friends said they didn't have time as they were on a long walk, which was a shame. 

So there we are! We shall have our 2 minutes of fame.
It was nice working with Heidi - she made it as relaxed and painless as possible. Nevertheless - Glad that's over....

Jane Lunnon 





Thursday, 7 June 2018

Wednesday 6th June 2018 

It is with great sadness that we heard about the death of Ruth Spencer this week, a founder member of Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group, and an early member of the Embsay-with-Eastby Research Group. 
Ruth Spencer - greatly missed

She was such a wonderful lady - warm, kind, tactful, caring and always so welcoming, helpful and generous of spirit. She was the most delightful company, and we all loved her very much. Her enthusiasm for history and archaeology was boundless, and she contributed greatly to the success of both groups. She will be greatly missed by a large number of people. 

Since our last post on 4th May we have had a little bit of a quiet period, as we build up towards a busy summer.

We had a stand at the local heritage fair in Skipton Public Library in May 15th, and managed to talk to quite a few visitors about our Churchyard project and how we have used RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) to help us. The occasion was also an opportunity for us to talk to some of the other local history societies and other organisations from the Craven area, and for the Library to launch the new Rowley-Ellwood Collection website: https://rowleycollection.co.uk/  (although this is mostly focused on the history of the town of Skipton, we have an interest in it as one of our Embsay-with-Eastby group is a member of the library team involved in transcribing the Rowley research notebooks).  

We have also had two of our monthly meetings with the World War One Armistice Event village committee, and are busily researching for our display and presentation in November.

We are also turning our attention towards developing a database, with an authority file for analysing the gravestones in detail – looking at the structural and design elements in each. It’s still very experimental at this stage but seems to be coming together.

We also have our annual churchyard tour coming up in a couple of weeks, so David and I are putting together our scripts for that, which is taking up a lot of time, of course.
Dutifully gathered at the Fire Assembly Point in Silsden Churchyard.

And today, our little group was given a tour of Silsden churchyard by David Mason, of the local history group there. We spent a fascinating afternoon hearing about Silsden’s history, and making comparisons with Embsay churchyard.  


The back entrance and walkway favoured by the late Victorian Silsden Methodists
It was particularly interesting to see how the social and economic history affected the choice and style of gravestones. The Silsden examples are in general much more flamboyant, better quality (very few of the stones there are weathered or eroded), heavier and bigger than those in Embsay, probably reflecting the very different social structure of the much larger village of Silsden, which had a much later and longer industrial period than that in Embsay.

So our thanks to David for a really good afternoon.  

Jane Lunnon.