Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Snake catcher
Harry Mills, who was better known as Brusher Mills, lived in an illegal shack in the New
Forest for almost 30 years,   actually the shack burned down just one day before the 30 years required to claim the home and land upon which it stood under ancient forest law.   He was known as Brusher simply because of the meticulous way in which he brushed the village cricket pitch.   His main occupation however, was that of snake catcher  and he is credited with having killed a total of 3,186 New Forest adders, which he sold to London Zoo as live feed for the larger snakes.

Mills was buried in the old churchyard just outside the village where a very fine marble stone marks his grave.  The stone depicts a carving of  Mills near his shack and several snakes.




Too  much  small  beer


A gravestone in the graveyard at Winchester Cathedral records the unusual death of a soldier :

‘ In memory of THOMAS THETCHER,

A Grenadier in the North Regt. Of  Hants. Militia,

Who died of a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small beer when hot

 the 12th of May 1764, Aged 26 years.

In grateful remembrance of whole univerfal good will towards his comrades,

This stone is placed here at their expence, as a fmall teftimony

of their regard and concern.

Here fleeps in peace a Hampfhire Grenadier

Who caught his death by drinking fmall Beer.

Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall

And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all.’

This memorial being decay’d was reftor’d by the Officers and the Garrifon A.D 1781.

An  honeft Soldier never is forgot

Whether he die by Mufket or by Pot.

The stone was replaced in 1802 and again in 1966.


Danish soldiers memorial
An epitaph on the outisde wall of St Mary's Church at Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, tells a sad tale of the death of two Danish soldiers who were passing through the town in 1689 on their way to Ireland to support the army of King James 11. It tells its own story
‘Here two young Danish soldiers lye,
The one in quarrel chanc’d to die.
The other’s head by their own law,
With sword was fever’d at one blow.
December 23d 1689.’

Cholera Stone


This stone, which is situated in a remote spot on the edge of woodland behind Earl’s Cross House to the east of Dornoch, is supposed to mark the grave of a cholera victim. The body was brought to Dornoch in 1832 for burial but was refused entry by guards and was buried near the memorial this stone instead. Such was the stigma of the disease that his son wrote a denial on the stone :




over the remains

of his dutiful Father

K.R who departed this

life July 24 1832 aged 44

years. It was then suppo

sed he died of cholera

but afterwards contra

dicted by most eminent

medical men.



The Guinea Graves


In 1845 Leeds Corporation opened what was one of the first Municipal Cemeteries in the country. Built in open land in what is now Beckett Street, the cemetery was divided into Anglican and Non-Conformist areas.

In the 1880’s the Corporation introduced what became known as ‘Guinea Graves’. They were mass common graves where people could have their details engraved on a common headstone with numerous names of unrelated people on both the back and the front of the stone. This meant  that people who could not afford their own grave could avoid a pauper’s burial by ‘sharing’ a grave and headstone with other unrelated people at a cost of just 21 shillings.




A witches  epitaph


Margaret Harper of Seaton Ross in East Yorkshire was accused of witchcraft and suffered the ultimate penalty, but not before she had written her own epitaph, which can still be seen on her weather worn gravestone in the churchyard at Seaton Ross :

‘ The faults you’ve seen in me strive to avoid.

Search your own hearts and you’ll be well employed.’



A  prodigy  of  nature


Daniel Lambert was only 39 years old when he died in 1809 and he was buried in the graveyard of St Martin’s church at Stamford in Lincolnshire and the epitaph on his gravestone reads :

‘ In remembrance of that Prodigy of Nature, Daniel Lambert, a native of Leicester,

who was possessed of an exalted and convivial mind

and in personal greatness had no competitor.

He measured 3ft round the leg, 9ft 4ins round the body and weighed 52 stones 11 lbs.

He departed this life on 21st June 1809 aged 39 years.

As a testimony of Respect this stone is erected by his friends in Leicester.’

Lambert was the keeper of Leicester Prison.   Apparently he was very fond of a wager and often boasted that he could beat any fit man in a race, provided he had the right to choose the course.  The course he always chose was a long narrow passage. A portrait of Lambert can be seen hanging in the George Hotel at Stamford.


Grave of Stones
An unusual gravestone in Beckett Street Cemetery, Leeds 9, is just a pile of stones. It commemorates Mary STONES who died in 1876 aged 80 years.
I suppose the pile of stones was intentional?


Buried above ground


John Hollins from Stroud in Gloucestershire had  an argument with a former friend who announced publicly that he hope to live long enough to see Hollins ‘safe underground’.  Hollins did indeed die first, but to thwart his adversary, he left instructions that he should not be buried underground but that his coffin should be left on the surface and covered with a pile of stones. The grave and tiered pile of stones can still be seen in St Lawrence’s churchyard at Stroud.





Eccentric  barrister


Anthony Ettricke was an eminent barrister in the small town of Wimborne Minster in Dorset in the 17th century.   It is said that as he grew older, he became ‘humerous, phlegmatic and credulous.  Because he fell out with the inhabitants of the town, Ettricke made a solemn vow that he ‘would never be buried within the church or without it, neither below the ground nor above it.’    However, he lived to regret his vow and managed to obtain permission to make a recess in the wall of the Minster for his coffin.   He was convinced that he would die in 1693 and had this date inscribed on a colourful black coffin, but in fact he died in 1703.   His coffin can still be seen in its recess in Wimborne Minster and the change of date is clear for all to see.




No comments: