Sunday, 5 January 2014


There are some very interesting epitaphs to be seen on gravestones in our
churchyards and cemeteries.
The Blacksmith


The gravestone of a young 19th century blacksmith in the churchyard at Sprotborough in South Yorkshire bears an emblem of a sickle, a hammer and a pair of  pincers. 

The epitaph reads :

‘ Sacred to the memory of George Naffaw

who departed this life May 10 1825 aged 26 years.

My sledge and hammer has declined

My bellows have lost their wind.

My fire’s extinct,. My forge decayed,

My vice now in the dust is laid.

My iron and my coals have gone.

My nails are drove, my work is done.

My fire-dried corpse lies here at rest

My soul is waiting to be blest.’




The Watchmaker


In the churchyard at St Petroc’s church at Lydford in Devon is a tomb with the outline of a long case clock carved on the stone top and the following epitaph :

‘ Here lies in horizontal position the outside case of

George Routleigh,  Watchmaker,

Whose abilities in that line were an honour to his profession.

Integrity was his mainspring, and prudence the regulator of all the actions of his life.

Humane, generous and liberal, his hand never stopped till he had relieved distress.

So nicely regulated were all his motions

that he never went wrong except when set agoing by people who did not know his key.

Even then he was easily set right again.

He had the art of disposing his time so well that his hours glided away,

In one continual round of pleasure and delight,

 till an unlucky minute put a period to his existence.

He departed this life Nov.14  1802, Aged 57.

Wound up in the hopes of being taken in hand by his Maker and of being thoroughly cleaned repaired and set agoing in the world to come..’

The long case clock is a drawing of an original made by Goerge Routleigh whose business was at Launceston.   The clock case was made from surplus oak planks from Princetown church,   The striking clock is in excellent working order and in possession of his family.

The Organ Builder

An unusual gravestone can be seen in the churchyard at Kildwick near Keighley in West Yorkshire. It is a stone replica of the first organ to be built by local man John Laycock. He died in 1889 at the age of 81 years




The  bell  ringer

Hezekiah Briggs was sexton and bell ringer at Bingley parish church in West Yorkshire and apparently attended some 7,000 funerals.  He was buried in the churchyard in 1844 and the following epitaph appears on his gravestone :
‘ Here lies an old ringer beneath the cold clay,
Who has rung many peals for serious and gay,
Bob majors and trebles with ease he could bang
Till death called a ‘bob’ which brought the last clang.’

The Gravedigger


Robert Poole (1842 – 1906) was the gravedigger at Low Bentham between 1875 and 1906.   All this is recorded on his fitting gravestone in the churchyard at Low Bentham in North Yorkshire.




The Angler


A gravestone situated just behind Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire

The Cricketer
A gravestone in the cemetery at Eyam in Derbyshire.



Sundials  galore


Local farmer, William Watson of Seaton Ross in East Yorkshire, was very keen on  sundials.   He put one on the church wall and another on his own farmhouse and he was also responsible for a third one – a huge sundial – which can still be seen on the front of a cottage in the village.     Watson died in 1857 and his gravestone in the churchyard bears his own epitaph :     

At this church I so often with pleasure did call

That I made a sundial upon the church wall.



A  railway  tragedy


Two gravestones in the churchyard of St John the Baptist at Bromsgrove in Worcestershire tell their own story :

‘ Sacred to the memory of Thomas Scaife, late engineer on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, who lost his life at Bromsgrove Station by explosion of an engine boiler on Tuesday the 10th of Nov. 1840.  He was 28 yrs of age, highly esteemed by his fellow workmen for his many amiable qualities, and his Death will be long lamented by all those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.  The following lines were composed by an unknown friend as a memento of the worthiness of the deceased.

‘My engine now is cold and still, No water does my boiler fill.

My coke affords its flames no more, My days of usefulness are o’er.

My wheels deny their noted speed, No more my guiding hands they need.

My whistle too has lost its tone, Its shrill and thrilling sound has gone.

My valves are now thrown open wide, My flanges all refuse to guide.

My clacks, although once so strong, Refuse to aid the busy throng.

No more I feel each urging breath, My steam is now condens’d in death.

Life’s railway’s o’er each station’s pass, In death I’m stopp’d & rest at last.

Farewell dear friends and cease to weep, In Christ I’m safe in him I sleep.’

This stone was erected at the joint expense of his fellow workmen 1842.


‘ Sacred to the memory of Joseph Rutherford, late engineer to the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway Co. who died Nov 11 1840 Aged 32 yrs.

O’h! Reader stay, and cast an eye, Upon the grave where I lie.

For cruel Death has challenged me, And soon alas! Will call on thee.

Repeat in time, make no delay, For Christ will call you all away.

Mt time was spent like Dew in Sun, Beyond my cure my glass is run.

This stone was erected by his affectionate relict 1841.



Samboo’s  grave


A simple stone slab marks a lonely grave on the water’s edge at Sunderland Point overlooking Morecambe Bay in Lancashire.  A metal plate reads :

Here lies Poor Samboo

A faithful Negro who (attending his mafter from the Weft Indies)

Died on his arrival at Sunderland


A nearby jetty was where cotton, first brought from the West Indies, was unloaded en route to the Lancashire mill towns.


A  Japanese  Official


A striking gravestone can be seen in the churchyard of St John the Evangelist at Hurst Green near Clitheroe in Lancashire.   It is that of a Japanese subject who was apparently living in the area at the time of his death, although no one seems to know what brought him to the area or indeed his untimely death.   His funeral at Hurst Green was attended by the Japanese Consul in London.    The details on his gravestone read :

In memory of Ikutaro Sugi

(A Japanese subject)

6th Class order of the Rising Sun

1st Assistant Commissioner of the Japanese Imperial Maritime Customs.

Died Oct 30  1905.  Aged 30 years.

Killed   by  a ‘Tyger fierce’


A poignant gravestone in the Abbey graveyard at Malmsbury in Wiltshire is a stark reminder of the days when the Circus came to town, in this case as far back as 1703.  33 years old Hannah Twynnoy was a maid at the White Lion Hotel in Malmsbury.  She died on October 23rd, 1703, after being savaged by a lion.   The epitaph on her gravestone reads :

In the bloom of life

She’s snatchd from hence

She had not room

To make defence

For Tyger fierce

Took her life away

And here she lies

In a bed of clay

Until the Resurrection Day.


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