Monday, 3 April 2017


Wednesday, 29 March 2017,

After a break last week, we got together again for another session of typing up Grave reference sheets. The damage caused by Storm Doris has now to be entered as part of the condition monitoring. The tree has now been cut up and is being removed so we can assess the damage - but it is remarkable how lucky we were that minimal damage was caused.
Photo by Sue Stearn

One gravestone has been pushed forward by a falling tree, so it now leans, and a surface crack which existed previously is now much larger; while another, a cross, has been tipped off its plinth - this should be fairly easy to get put back. The greatest damage was to a kerbstone-surround - an inscribed kerbstone has been smashed by the fallen tree. So overall we are very lucky that not more extensive damage was caused. 
Photo by Sue Stearn
Among the grave plots being entered into the reference sheets today were several un-marked graves. In the absence of headstones we are heavily dependent upon the grave plan and burial register to indicate who is buried here. We feel it is very important to record the names of the people buried in these plots - and make it clear that an "empty" space is usually someone's resting place. 


Jane Lunnon



Sunday, 12 March 2017


Friday 10 March 2017

We had another good day typing up Grave Reference Sheets.
Included amongst the survey forms was one for a very small headstone that is barely legible. But the wonders of RTI reveals the inscription clearly. This was the memorial to a Belgian refugee of the First World War, who died at the local Sanatorium.
RTI photography reveals the inscription
The inscription reads:
To the memory of Leopold Joseph Van Duyvenboden, Died Nov. 28th 1917, Aged 22 Years.
Belgian Refugee since Feb. 1915, & late guest of the Walton le Dale Wesleyan Congregation.

Leopold's headstone in its lichen-cover obscurity
This plain, unassuming little headstone is a wonderful piece of social and local history – At once we are drawn into not only an emotional response to the death of this young man, in a strange country, but our interest is piqued by a series of issues & questions that we must follow up.
We know he died at the Eastby Sanatorium which was established by Bradford Corporation to care for tuberculosis patients – the history of this convalescent home is quite well researched already. But, so far as we know, this is the only memorial in the local churchyard to a patient from outside the parish who died there.

What was Leopold’s own story – where did he flee from? And how did he arrive in England? How does his personal story fit in with the story of the thousands of Belgian refugees who fled to England at the start of the First World War?
What part did the Walton le Dale Wesleyan chapel play in taking him in? And why is he not buried in that part of the world? Who came to his funeral here in Embsay? Did he have any family?

We definitely need to find out more.

On Thursday evening, I gave a talk to the Skipton Historical Society on the iconography of the gravestones – using examples not only from Embsay, but also  churchyards across the Dales and other parts of the country.
The more I look at the imagery the more fascinating it becomes, particularly when I compare what is popular in different areas, how choices of the type of motifs changed over time, or was affected by religious affiliation.
Even though the imagery and styles of gravestones in Embsay churchyard are relatively modest and conservative, by comparison with some other burial sites, there is still much of great interest here.

The fruit and flower covered Tait memorial, 1858
The Tait memorial, for example, with its cornucopia of sculpted fruits and flowers, as a testament to his grief over the death of his wife and two babies. It not only gives us an insight into his personal feelings, but also into his religious beliefs – as a member of the New Jerusalem Church he would have been very aware of the symbolism of plants as expounded by the church’s founder, Emanuel Swedenborg (1668-1772). Hence the elaborate imagery.
Broken flower bud on Tait memorial - for the loss of a young child
The audience at the Skipton History Society, were very appreciative, which was nice, and had plenty of questions at the end of the talk, which is always gratifying. I hope many of them will be encouraged to look at churchyards with fresh eyes.


 Jane Lunnon 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Thursday 2 March 2017

At the Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group’s AGM there was an opportunity to hear about some of the current projects being carried out by the Group.

Sue had 20 minutes to deliver a presentation about the Embsay Churchyard Project – I know all about the project being involved with it, yet I thought her approach was fresh and gave a completely different perspective. Inspired by the recently published essay by Nicole and Gareth in “Participatory Heritage” [see below] Sue focused on our churchyard survey’s use of digital technology in its various forms, showing how a small community heritage project can effectively employ digital photography, databases, and RTI.

One mention she made was of the use of Social Media - 


As well as our own Blog, we are now featured on Facebook on the pages of the Archaeology section of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority - our use of RTI at Kettlewell for a 17th C gravestone is on a post by Rebecca Cadbury-Simmons (dated 17 February 2017) - https://www.facebook.com/dalesarch. Thanks for the mention, Rebecca!




And thank you Sue for an excellent talk on Thursday.


G.Beale, N. Smith and St. Mary the Virgin Embsay Eastby Churchyard Survey Team – “New approaches to the community recording and preservation of burial space”, in H. Roued-Cunliffe and A.Copeland (eds.) – Participatory Heritage (Facit Publishing, 2017, pp. 173-184)


Jane Lunnon. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Wednesday 1st March 2017

After a break last week we were back around the table typing up more Grave reference sheets today. Every session we do we find ourselves chasing queries, wondering why so-and-so is buried with that other person, or why there’s no inscription for someone. Then there are anomalies to check against the church records. We find having the genealogical database invaluable in helping us out with a lot of these queries.  

Photo by Sue Stearn
Well, Storm Doris wreaked havoc last week – A large tree blew down over the churchyard. Incredibly, like that old Buster Keaton silent movie where a building falls down and misses him, simply because he is where the doorway was as the wall falls over him, there’s a headstone that ended up totally unscathed in the narrow space between two big branches.  

Photo by Sue Stearn
We’re not yet sure about the other headstones that are now under the branches, but we’re hoping when the tree is cleared away that they will be equally untouched.

We’re glad we have all the photos of the  headstones before this happened – so there’s another reason for doing the survey! It’s a timely reminder that graveyards are as vulnerable as any other heritage site to the vagaries of nature as well as intervention of people.


Jane Lunnon

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Thursday 16th February 2017

There isn’t much to report this week, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been progressing.

Alan contemplates the imminent approach of lunch-time
We continued typing up Grave reference sheets at yesterday’s session  – as always,  taking the opportunity to check for anomalies in the original church records, and to plan ahead for the kind of data we wish to gather and analyse for the next phase of the project, which will look at the memorials as a collective group in terms of their historical and cultural significance.

And of course we check the photographs carefully, and there is a growing list of those which need to be taken again for greater clarity or more detail. For some team members it is also proving a useful learning experience as they develop their computer literacy.  

Jane Lunnon



Friday, 10 February 2017

Friday 10th Feb 2017

We’ve been busy over the last couple of weeks.

With my husband I took a trip up the Wharfedale valley last Saturday and we had a quick look around three churchyards – at Burnsall, Linton and Hubberholme. 
Example of a gravestone style & design that is found at both Burnsall and Embsay
I took about 200 photographs trying to get a rough idea of the overlap in gravestone layout and design, and assess how local styles and particularly iconography vary from one parish to another. It was a fascinating exercise and one I think is well worth following up
Example of a gravestone style & design that is found at both Hubberholme and Embsay

– the differences and the similarities between neighbouring parishes is very interesting and raises all sorts of questions about the cultural interaction between communities within the same dale, the use of the same stone masons, and even the influence of changing local geology.
Undressed Limestone boulder - examples are found throughout Upper Wharfedale -
only in small numbers in Embsay & Linton,
but in large numbers at Kettlewell and Conistone-with-Kilnsey
It was surprising though to find that very few of the older gravestones have survived – we must assume that even though these three churches are medieval in origin that the Victorians have swept away the old memorials from their churchyards – only a handful of late 18thC headstones have survived in these ancient churchyards - it seems unlikely that no one could afford to set up headstones before the early 19thC in these parishes. (Of course, I am not counting the Anglo-Scandinavian hogbacks and early medieval crosses which are housed inside Burnsall church in this assessment!).  Looks like any comparative studies that we may decide to carry out in Upper Wharfedale may have to be confined to the 19th century.

There have been two more sessions at Sue’s house of typing up more Reference Sheets for individual gravestones. This is a surprisingly slow process even with people working in pairs as we are checking the photographic record against the field survey notes, and adding more information that we can glean from the photographs. It has shown how important it is to take a comprehensive set of photographs, making sure all the details of inscriptions, design features and carved imagery are included as close-ups so these can all be examined and entered onto the record sheets.

This stage of the process also allows us to check and cross-check any anomalies against the burial register, and to recognise the variety that there is in the designs and styles of gravestones.
It is also the time to list any queries that need following up, and notes on any further field work that needs doing – such as blurred photos that need to be taken again, or missing measurements, etc.

Sue and I have also been busy preparing a presentation – we finally gave our talk to the Friends of the Craven Museum in Skipton on Wednesday evening. Sue started with an overview of the project and how it started and is progressing, while I followed with two case studies – the gravestones of George Chamberlain and of Shacklock Mason’s family. 
The gravestone of George Chamberlain,
the very first burial at St Mary's Church, Embsay, 1853
There were lots of questions afterwards which is a good sign that they found it interesting. The title of the talk was “All life is here; the village churchyard as a window into local history”, and hopefully encouraged the audience to look at parish churchyards as an important heritage asset for social, local and family historians alike.  


Jane Lunnon 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017


Wednesday 25th January 2017.

Ventured further up Upper Wharfedale this morning to visit Kettlewell churchyard.
Who knew gravestones could be so much fun?
At the invitation of Pete Reynolds from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, we were to demonstrate RTI photography to him and his colleague, Rebecca Cadbury-Simmons.

The subject for the photography was a listed 17thC gravestone which lays on the ground near the church building. The inscription is mostly fairly legible, but several vital words are badly worn, so we are hoping the RTI will reveal it all.

Essential kit - kitchen towel to wipe wet gravestones dry
It was, of course, a gloriously sunny day – so 4 of us had to huddle up to throw an even shadow over the gravestone – once we had taken the shine off the wet surface which had been caused by the dew. 

Setting up the horizontal bar proved a little tricky as it needed to be very high to get the whole memorial within the frame, and Alan was too short to look into the viewfinder. Thank goodness we had Tony with us, as he was tall enough to check the test shots for composition and the correct exposure. 
Setting up the tripod is the easy bit....

A small incident – the snooker ball rolled off halfway through the first set – meant we had to start all over again, but apart from that, it all went smoothly. Tried to upload the photos to my laptop so we could demonstrate the software, but my laptop wouldn’t recognise Alan’s camera, so that had to be abandoned.

After Pete and Rebecca left, the rest of us wandered around for about an hour, exploring the churchyard and the gravestones, before having a good, hearty lunch and general natter at the Racehorses pub.

Jane Lunnon.