Wednesday, 14 August 2019

13 August 2019

Another really nice summer’s day for us at Conistone again. We had a full house with 9 of us turning up.

Alan and Tony tried yet again to carry out some RTI on a particular table top gravestone which has been proving troublesome. Alan has today tried a new ball-head to clamp the camera to the horizontal bar to see if that helps frame the composition better and allow the camera to be held closer to the memorial. Let’s hope it works.

Lynne and I worked steadily along the final row of graves of modern burials. 
Lynne - dangerous with shears!
Although we didn’t manage to finish it we made good progress, most of our time as usual spent in preparing them for photography. This has the added advantage of helping to tidy up the gravesides in case any relatives visit. Indeed, the areas we cleared last time around another couple of rows – previously at least waist high in nettles, brambles and wild flowers well past their spring-time best – had now been lovingly dressed with bouquets of flowers by visiting relatives, adding a wonderful personal touch and bright colour. 
A few of the newly laid flower bouquets
We felt very moved by the sudden appearance of so many fresh flowers in the churchyard. It brought to the fore that vexed question again about the right balance between allowing churchyards to be nature reserves, paying the costs of maintenance as congregations shrink, and the need to cater for those who visit the graves of relatives and ancestors.

The rest of the team set to work in the far corner where the tall plant growth is known to be hiding several gravestones – although we had decided these would have to wait until the vegetation had died down in the autumn, the tantalising glimpse of the corner of a raised cope-roofed ledger stone was too much to resist. 
As all of the team had experience of archaeological digs, they enthusiastically set to in order to uncover the stone. 
It took pretty much all day – the going was tough – but also the stone was revealed to be just the centrepiece of a much larger family plot which was defined by large lintel kerbstones punctuated with large side and corner posts. To add to that there was another small memorial next to it – a single plot defined by more kerbstones. 
The double memorial finally exposed ; Alan prepares for RTI
The inscriptions needed some RTI photography, but enough was readable to show that it included a memorial to a young man who had died in the First World War. 
Measuring up for survey data
 We were also visited by the senior sidesman again, who helped clear up some grave-id queries. And by a local lady who was able to provide some family history on her relatives. Another lady also brought her little grandson to lay flowers on her grandparents’ grave and a couple of passing hikers popped in to visit the church too. 
A well deserved tea break

Jane Lunnon.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Tuesday 6th August 2019

Again the weather forecasters got it wrong – we expected to be rained off by noon but although dark clouds threatened us, it never actually rained and we managed to get quite a bit done. 
Cleaning a memorial for photography, and measuring another
One of the things which has struck us is that in this churchyard the unevenness of the ground, and the sloping down to the west has created enormous problems with stabilising many of the gravestones. Modern memorials in particular have succumbed to collapse – many have not been fixed properly to begin with, and we have discovered several gravestones lying hidden in the undergrowth. 
Perhaps then it is not surprising that the most recent burials tend to favour the local Wharfedale custom of using natural, undressed limestone boulders instead of conventional memorial uprights. Yet even here poor craftsmanship had led to the memorial plaques falling off and being lost on some of them. Poor record-keeping in the past has meant we have a large number of un-marked plots without any information on who was buried there – and where the plaques are missing even a few graves marked with the limestone boulders are as yet unknown. Hopefully we can find someone local who can remember who is buried under those at least. 

Natural limestone boulders used instead of standard kerbstones
Another local variant we have found here, on some of the more recent grave plots, is the use of long limestone pieces, again undressed and in their natural irregular shapes, used to form kerb surrounds.  
Jane Lunnon

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Friday 2 August 2019

They said it would rain by lunchtime but in the event we had a very pleasant summer’s day until we left at about 4pm. 
Cleaning up in preparation for photography
Tony and Alan did some more RTI photography. 

Tony & Alan work deep undercover
Meanwhile Sue and I worked on the North side, spending most of the morning cleaning up and exposing the kerbstones of three grave plots which had become completely enveloped in moss. Two of these were unusual in that they were made up of natural limestone rocks. 

We had several visitors today – the senior sidesman stopped by to help us sort out some queries on grave-ids; we had a very nice chat to a passing hiker who had a particular interest in family history and was curious as to what we were up to; two hikers came to see the memorial to cavers who died at Mossdale in 1967; a family on holiday strolled through as part of their leisurely exploration of the village; and a local resident chatted with us when she came to tend a grave. It served to emphasise that any churchyard, no matter how unassuming,  is such an important local asset – as much there for the sake of the living as for the dead.  
Jane Lunnon

Tuesday 30th July 2019

It was a hot, hot day.  Beautifully sunny despite the dire warnings of impending thunderstorms. The moths and butterflies were out in force today, emphasising how important such burial sites can be for wildlife. We did feel a little guilty about clearing away some of the vegetation, but there was plenty left elsewhere in the churchyard for them to retreat to. 
Tony had brought along a petrol-powered strimmer which would work much better than the battery-powered one to clear away the thick stems of nettles and brambles from the frontages of the gravestones we wanted to record today. It took him all morning and it was extremely hard work, but he managed it. He did a grand job.

Meanwhile, Jennifer and I spent much of the morning preparing a particularly overgrown burial plot to reveal a memorial of the 1960s which has long since collapsed into pieces. We felt it especially important to do a good job not only for the photographic record, but also because it is obviously still visited by relatives who had recently left fresh roses at the graveside. 
Sue and Lynne worked on the north side to record some of the newer gravestones there.

Sue amused by the use of a beer can as a flower vase
While having lunch we heard the thunderclaps approaching and decided to call it a day – none too soon, as we were battered by heavy rain on our drive homeward.

Jane Lunnon