Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Wednesday 11th December 2019 

We spent a cold dreek morning at Holy Trinity Churchyard today – a combination of wet stones from last night’s heavy rain, and the morning’s bright sunshine meant half the churchyard wasn’t suitable for any RTI photography of ledgers. However we did select a few up in the shadow of a boundary wall. 

Sue & Jennifer discuss a plan of action for the day
While I focused on taking as many ordinary photos of ledgers as I could and Sue carried on collecting data on gravestone measurements, Alan, Tony & Jennifer set up the RTI camera scaffold. But then they hit a snag as the camera and flash unit refused to work together. 

After several hours of only partial success with the RTI we called it a day. It had clouded over anyway, and was getting bitterly cold and drizzly. 
Packing up as the clouds threaten rain
We retreated into the little café at the back of the church and had a nice long chat over lunch before going home.

Jane Lunnon

Friday, 22 November 2019

Wednesday 20 October 2019

Sue and I spent half a day back at Holy Trinity churchyard, Skipton. Sue started on the measuring of gravestones and managed to complete all the uprights, before moving on to a row of ledgers.

I was able to crack on some photography – as always with ledgers, cleaning them in preparation for photos took longer than taking the actual shots but at least it was a still day and there was no breeze to blow back the autumn leaves. 

By 2pm we were so cold  we had to call it a day – a good excuse to get a late lunch at the new Bobbins coffee shop in Embsay. 

Jane Lunnon

Thursday 24th October 2019 

We attended a day workshop at the King’s Manor, University of York. Our colleagues from the Friends of Raikes Road Burial Ground came along too and we were delighted to meet up with members of some of the other groups working with the project. 
DEBS workshop at Kings Manor, York - photo courtesy of Jean Robinson

Toby Pillatt introduced us to his colleagues on the DEBS project, including Dr Debbie Maxwell, Professor Harold Mytum and Professor Julian Richards. We spent a thoroughly enjoyable day being updated on the progress of the DEBS project and trying out some of the prototype resources.

All too short a time was spent in the churchyard of nearby St Olave’s – for health and safety reasons normally closed to the public. Here we tried out the latest version of Harold’s paper-based forms for recording gravestones, as well as the mobile app. 

The latter is still only in the very early stages of development but we can see great potential in it, despite some misgivings. We were able to make some suggestions on how it can be developed further.  Harold’s paper forms, on the other hand, are pretty much in their final draft. They are easy to use, and Jennifer and I sailed through them, entering data on a couple of gravestones. 

Back in the lecture room we tried out some data entry onto the prototype database and made some suggestions as to how it can be improved for use by community groups such as ours. 

The day finished with an informal chat about the potential of the project and ideas for the next phase.

Jane Lunnon

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Friday 18th October 2019

We were very grateful today for Toby Pillatt (DEBS project) joining us as he brought along a total station borrowed from the University of York.
It took some time to set it up but once we got going we were, with his help and guidance, able to plot in the precise locations of all the gravestones on the south and west sides. At times there were interesting problems such as trees which broke the line of sight between the total station and the prism, but with all hands brought in to hold the branches back we were able to get all the readings we needed. 
photo by Sue Stearn
Sometimes the total station refused to take readings due to “wind turbulence” which we suspect was sometimes due to us giggling too much! So we hold our breath and tried again.

Having tried before to take GPS readings without any success due to the tree cover, it was a relief that the total station appeared to work well. Even when other gravestones initially broke the line of sight to one we wanted to record, we were able to use prisms of different heights to find the appropriate position to take a reading.


Our method was to always plot in the left side of an upright gravestone before the right side (ie. as you are facing the inscription). With box tombs and ledgers (recumbent stones) we always started with the top left corner and worked clockwise to plot in the other 3 corners. Where we had a surrounding feature (such as railings of kerbstones), or a secondary memorial within the same grave plot, these were plotted in separately, in the hope it will be clear on the final plan how they relate to the main memorial. Each gravestone was of course given its own code reference (generated by the total station) which we can later cross-reference to the grave-ID.


While 3 of us were learning how to use the total station, Alan and Tony caught up with some RTI photography which needed re-doing – the lighting conditions were much better than they have been on some days, in particular because there was no dappled sunshine on some of the memorials under the trees.

On the north side of the churchyard the church sidesman had arranged for extensive clearance of the old vegetation which was beginning to die back for the autumn – a huge amount of nettles, weeds and brambles have now disappeared, revealing more gravestones, which gave the photographers the opportunity to record them after they had been hidden all though the summer.   

Our thanks to Toby – hopefully he will soon be back to help us finish plotting in the remainder of the churchyard.

Jane Lunnon

Saturday, 28 September 2019

As mentioned earlier, here are some retrospective blog posts from Jennifer:

Friday 21st September 2019

This week was spent mostly up ladders – at least for those of us who were volunteered! We were blessed with good weather so took the opportunity to re-photograph some of the table graves , however they are too tall and long to photograph without a ladder, therefore the shortest (and youngest) person went up the ladder, kindly supported by two arm rests so that photographs could be taken, one handed and blinded by sunshine. Some were even taken upside down, or between other graves in an attempt to accurately record the inscriptions. The rest of the team were finishing off recording gravestones with a little less gymnastics. There’s not really much else to say, the week was mostly about catching up and finishing taking photographs, the only downside was that we used up all the camera battery and ended up sharing one camera between us all! However on the upside there was no-one to take photographs of us practising the sometimes extreme sport of graveyard surveying. 

Under sufferance my mother has allowed this photographed to be used, solely because it has the step ladder in! (I promise I was trying to take a picture of the gravestone really!!)

Jennifer Stearn

Wednesday 23rd August, 2019

The weather at last had sorted itself out with sunshine on the cards; brilliant for plain photographs, but next to useless for RTI, but never the less we persevered. Splitting our time between Holy Trinity Skipton and Conistone churchyards we made a happy caravan of taphopiles. The sun just about remained behind the clouds for several tricky RTI’s, eventually setting aside the infamous table top RTI and finishing at a reasonable time, once the sun had made itself well known.

The challenge of doing RTI on a sunny-with-cloud-interval day and the different angles and conditions of each grave certainly challenged us all. Interestingly it took four of us to do one grave, one taking the pictures, one holding the flash, one holding the string and one holding the coat. The coat was very key to blocking the sun, but also provided a rather strange line up for passers-by. Owing to the fact that we left behind the very useful if slightly “Heath Robinson” garden cane to hold the string, we even had to fashion a string-hold stick out of a handy branch - with only minor puncture wounds. Obviously we worked very hard and didn’t do any dancing or eating of chocolate cake!

Jennifer Stearn

Friday, 25th August, 2019

With the sun inching out between the clouds at very awkward moments we attempted the intricate art of horizontal RTI’s, with same added slope work. The bar, once eventually set up and strapped together and screwed the right way, we realised why we need tall people with allen keys. But once the bar was set to the magic height of 130cm above grave slab we got into the swing of things, right as the sun made everything rather useless.

There aren’t many people in Britain who are unhappy when the sun comes out, but we are some of the few. It is a very good thing that we were all too busy and otherwise engaged in the very careful and slow dance of the RTI photographing that we couldn’t take pictures because we would have had some very interesting angles and shapes. 

We also learnt that it is very difficult to angle a flash when perched precariously on a grassy slope, and even more difficult to swap sides when the string attached to the flash is attached to cane that someone else is holding. Despite the challenges, we managed some work and briefly mused on the challenges yet to come of performing RTI on half a step in the sunshine, hemmed in by walls and gates.

Jennifer Stearn

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Saturday 7th September 2019

It was the Embsay-with-Eastby village fete today so we set up our little History Group stall. We were in a prime position which was excellent, and the sun came out encouraging a good turnout of residents. 

Our village has a wonderful community base and there’s always a good atmosphere at village “dos” like this. 

Our display was on the history of the Post Office, which from the 1870s to the present day has moved several times, mostly within the Elm Tree Tree Square – Shires Lane area at the top of the hill. 

We made several new contacts and were able to talk to many people about the village history. There certainly is an audience for our work. 
Overall a very satisfying day.

Jane Lunnon

Wednesday 4th September 2019

I missed last week’s session at Conistone, but Jennifer will fill you in with another post on what happened as they continued to battle against the vegetation. 

Despite the intermittent showers we were determined to get out today to continue at Skipton Holy Trinity Churchyard. 
A small team arrived and immediately started work on more memorial inscriptions checking, while I continued taking photographs on Row C. As always preparing the ledge stones – clearing away the weeds, and brushing them clean – took much more time than actually taking the photos, but it’s worth the effort for a good photographic record. 

We beat a hasty retreat from a short sharp shower and had a brew and some cake in the church vestry tea room. 
Jean chats to Tony about the Holy Trinity Project
We hadn’t been back out long when Toby Pillatt from the DEBs project, based at the University of York, arrived. He was interested to talk to Jean about the Holy Trinity survey and her other project at the Raikes Road Burial Ground. By looking at how different groups manage and organise their churchyard surveys it should help him develop the resources for other groups. 

About lunch-time we all went into town for a quick meal. We were able to have a very interesting conversation about churchyards, and the problems associated with contracting professionals to carry out churchyard plans, while voluntary groups struggle to finance expensive total stations or manage GPS under various conditions – such as tree canopies.  

The Embsay contingent took Toby to see St Mary’s churchyard at Embsay and despite getting soaked in the rain again we hope he found it interesting and informative.

Jane Lunnon