Sunday, 7 January 2018

7th January 2018

At the request of the Trustees of the Ilkley Manor House Museum (soon to be transformed into a “Heritage Centre”), Sue, Tony, Alan and Jane spent Friday afternoon putting our RTI skills to good use in order to record two unusual items in the museum’s collection.

Having said hello to the Museum cat (sadly un-named, but very friendly and very pretty and dainty), we were greeted by Adam White who let us in.
Alan & Sue setting up for photography
The first item was an intriguing and very large stone slab which has proved to be quite a mystery. Its original function is not known, neither is it clear where it has come from. The carvings on it are obviously from various times, carved by a series of different people, for different purposes. Much of the work on it is still quite clear, but we are hoping the RTI will make it even clearer, and perhaps reveal some additional information that can’t easily be seen with the naked eye.
Photographing the Verbeia stone
The second item was a rather plain looking Roman altar stone, dedicated to the pagan goddess Verbeia – there is a very faint, badly eroded inscription on one side. There is apparently a 17th century copy which reveals some of the Latin letters, but we are hoping RTI can reveal a little more. Not that we were so hopeful with this one as the erosion was so bad.

Jane Lunnon
3rd January, 2018

After the Christmas break, we welcome in the New Year, looking forward to lots more work on our churchyard projects.
I spent New Year visiting West Sussex again. Met up with James who is heading the Lavant History Group’s churchyard survey. After our October workshop, they wasted no time in getting stuck in and are already well into recording the gravestones at St Nicholas’s Church. Their enthusiasm is wonderful. They have yet to start on RTI photography, but preparations for that are well in hand. We noticed a couple of gravestones that have started leaning over significantly further than they were even in October – possibly the result of bioturbation – moles or rabbits perhaps?

The next day, I dragged my husband, sister-in-law and nephew out for a day smooching around other local churchyards – Tangmere and Boxgrove. 

Tangmere is well-known for its Commonwealth War Graves, including a number to German pilots, but it also has an interesting collection of brick body-stones which we wanted to examine. There are a couple at Lavant, which are smaller and less obvious, so we wanted to compare them.

Brick-built body-stone at St Nicholas, Lavant - virtually flat, and now grass-covered.
No headstone survives
The Lavant examples have no accompanying headstones anymore, while those at Tangmere have headstones and footstones. 

Large, well-built brick body stone at Tangmere - the date on this one is readable as 1777

The age range was difficult to ascertain as many of the inscriptions are mostly now illegible, but the designs of the headstones at Tangmere suggest a very broad date range spanning the late 18thC to the late 19thC. 
Early to mid-19th Century brick body-stones at Tangmere
The sizes and quality of the bricks used, and the structural design also varied, so we took some measurements to see how they compare to those in Lavant.
Measuring bricks at Tangmere 

We moved on to Boxgrove – a fascinating churchyard, with a very wide variety of styles, designs and date ranges – it is also in a lovely setting, overlooked by the priory ruins. 
We had time for a little of my husband's family history, too ; 
The grave of Mary Ann & George Norrell in the romantic setting of Boxgrove Priory grounds
But interestingly there were no Victorian polished granite headstones of the type we see so much of in Scotland, and of which we have several examples in Embsay. 
Line of Baroque-style gravestones at Boxgrove
There are here some wonderful examples of late 18thC Baroque headstones complete with the winged cherub heads, as well as Neo-classical, Victorian High Gothic, and plainer traditional styles. There's even an Edwardian angel. 
The Boxgrove angel
I was pleased to see plenty of little ephemeral Christmas memorials and “gifts” had been laid at the Garden of Remembrance, and other graves. Always nice to see.

Unfortunately our visit to Chichester Cathedral proved less fruitful as so many gravestones have been rooted out many years ago, with just a few left standing. 
Chris wondering where all the Cathedral gravestones have gone
There were enough though to show that the local styles we had seen in Lavant, Tangmere and Boxgrove could also be found in the city’s burial grounds. Inside the Cathedral we spent quite a bit of time admiring the huge array of interior monuments – something we haven’t really looked at for our own project, as much work has already been done on this area of church history in England. Chichester Cathedral has some fine interior monuments, including what may be the earliest “weepers” depicted on a medieval tombstone; and an imposing statue of William Huskisson, M.P., the first victim of a fatal railway accident. Why he is shown dressed in a toga is anybody’s guess!

Some photographs of the monuments can be found on the website of the Sussex Church Monuments Society:

Sadly, as in so many churches and cathedrals, the floor is covered with old gravestones, which are wearing away to smooth surfaces. I do hope someone has recorded them properly before the inscriptions and iconography disappears completely. 

Jane Lunnon