Friday, 12 October 2018

Thursday 11th November 2018

The weather was a little different today – we delayed going this morning as there was some rain, and it didn’t look hopeful, but by about 10am the sun came out and we all dashed out of our respective homes to descend on Skipton and see how much we could get done before the forecast rain came. 

We were lucky in that we were able to keep working until well past 1 p.m.  The sunny skies soon turned a bit dull, which made the task of reading many of the inscriptions a little more difficult. Peter’s super-duper LED torch was used to provide some raking light and clarifying some of them, but it’s evident that some RTI photography will be needed.

When the kitchen extension was added to the back of the church in 1979 some old gravestones were cut up for use as steps.
I continued taking ordinary photographs -  Not always easy for a short person like me – even standing on a double-step step-ladder I can only just get a ledger in frame provided I stretch right up and hold my arms out at full stretch. Sometimes I couldn’t really see what I was taking even with my swivel display screen as the sun was in my eyes. Still I think I got most of them ok. 

Jane Lunnon, Embsay Research Group.

9th & 10th November 2018 

Started on a new Churchyard survey project today. Joined forces with the Friends of Raikes Road Burial Ground (Skipton) to work on recording the gravestones at Holy Trinity Church, Skipton. Old engravings of the church clearly show the south graveyard was once filled with a large number of table tops and chest tombs – but in the 1950s the south side was completely cleared and landscaped, so that now it is a large plain lawn with a few benches ranged around the perimeter – a popular resting place for locals and tourists alike as it provides a good view down the high street.
North side with re-located headstones under the castle walls
Many of the gravestones were moved round to the back in what is now a very pleasant, quiet, walled enclosure under the shadow of the castle outbuildings. 
The north graveyard extends under the shadow of the church
The majority of the gravestones are now set into the ground as ledgers – most were formerly table tops, but there are a good number of uprights ranged against the walls. This area is secluded because of the iron gates, which are often locked, but the vicar has been kind enough to give us access.
The weather on Tuesday and Wednesday took us by surprise – several of us turned up wearing our thermals expecting a cold chilly day – it was actually a beautiful warm summer’s day, excellent for reading inscriptions. Good for a lot of the photography too, although in some instances the high contrasting shadows thrown across the gravestones proved troublesome.
The wind blew around the autumn leaves - which kept Pete busy with the broom
Our project co-ordinator, Jean, who has for several years run the highly successful Friends of Raikes Road Burial Ground, has allocated an identifying number to each gravestone, and has set our first task as checking the accuracy of a previous recording of the memorial inscriptions. As with so many MI records, the primary purpose had been to simply record the names and dates of the deceased to serve genealogists’ needs. But this means that subtle messages and interesting foibles are often missed. So we are now transcribing the full inscriptions verbatim, complete with contemporary spelling and punctuation. Most of the inscriptions in the area we are starting on are actually in surprisingly good condition. The masons of Skipton appear to have used very good quality stone (although, of course, we have no idea how many poor quality headstones were discarded in the clearance of the south graveyard).  The sunshine proved very helpful in the reading.
In the meantime, Pete started measuring up the graveyard to produce a plan, while I set to on the task of making a detailed photographic record of the headstones. I’m photographing not only the face of each gravestone, but also specific details such as iconography, close-ups of the inscription, design details, and signs of damage and deterioration for condition monitoring purposes.

We were grateful to the caretaker who has invited us to use the kitchen to make tea and coffee, and indeed to the gentleman who even made us tea and coffee on Wednesday. 

Jane Lunnon

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