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.