Friday, 4 May 2018

4 May 2018
We are almost at the finish of phase 1; that is, having surveyed the churchyard, and collected all the data on the headstones, we have cross-checked and double-checked them against the churchyard plan, church and parish records to make sure everyone is where they should be, and also created a Reference sheet of the vital data for each individual headstone. Work has been slow – probably because we talk too much! But we find the nattering has been a very useful and meaningful exercise, helping us to re-think our attitudes, and develop an appreciation of churchyards as a vital part of our history. 
That’s our excuse anyway…. 
So with just a handful more Grave reference sheets to go, we can look forward to a celebratory lunch soon, and then on to the next phase. 
We aim to research the people buried at St Mary’s Church, Embsay, so that a Person Reference Sheet can accompany each Grave Reference Sheet. In addition we will be analysing the gravestones as archaeological artefacts – creating a database which will enable us to look at the stylistic aspects , symbolism, and other social and cultural aspects of the grave markers in all their varied forms. 
A couple of weeks ago I took time out from the project to go down to London – to cheer on our niece as she ran the London Marathon – extraordinary girl! She did a great run – and, as one does, when one is on a break, we visited a cemetery. It was Highgate Cemetery again – but this time we managed to get onto one of the tours of the West Side. The catacombs are of course, impressive, but I particularly loved the jumble of headstones amongst the undergrowth – such an interesting variety of styles and iconography. Unfortunately I had to keep up with the guided party and couldn’t wander off to take lots of photos but my camera was kept pretty busy snapping as many as I could on the way.

Of course, a large municipal cemetery is so very different from a small, country churchyard. It might seem ridiculous to compare the two, but there are surprising similarities as well as stark contrasts in form, design, style and purpose, especially when you start looking at the smaller details. 
High gothic at Embsay Churchyard

High Gothic in Highgate Cemetery

This week, 3 of us briefly returned to St Mary’s churchyard to finish off a few measurements & photos  which needed doing again.

While there, enjoying a bit of spring sunshine, we fell into conversation (as we do!) about what it is that fascinates us about headstones, and wondering how we can best convey that to others who may think it a curious, if not morbid, hobby. It was interesting to find we each have a slightly different angle on the subject, but agree that it gives us a connection to our local history we couldn’t get anywhere else; the headstones are not necessarily sad reminders, for we choose to regard them as physical expressions of love and affection for people that were once – or indeed still are – loved and respected. They each celebrate a life that deserves to be remembered. And here in the churchyard they act as constant reminders of the history of the parish, being so physically close to continuing parish life as people come and go – whether to the church, or simply passing by on the pavement outside as they walk their dogs, or take the children to school.  
One of our Research Team, David Turner, gave one of his excellent talks last week - to a packed village hall - on the Baynes family of Quakers and mill owners who built the grand Georgian house known as Embsay Kirk. The locals were astonished to hear all about John Baynes, a young man of radical politics, who was friends with Benjamin Franklin. His promising career was cut short however, as he died when still in the 20s. 
No doubt David will soon make his history of the Baynes family more widely available soon. 

Jane Lunnon

Sunday, 1 April 2018

31 March 2018

A number of our group attended the launch of DEBS – Discovering England’s Burial Spaces – hosted by Gareth and Nicole Beale at King’s Manor, in York, last Tuesday. It was an opportunity not only to be introduced to the aims of the project, but also to meet some of the other groups who are involved.  We were pleased to see our friends from Raikes Road Burial Ground, Skipton, were there too.
Alan with Peter from Raikes Road

A good spread was provided at lunchtime, and Nicole thoughtfully provided lots of chocolate to keep us going through the afternoon! It was intended to be an overview, a general introduction to the objectives of the project and what they hope to achieve. For more details see the website:

It was a really enjoyable day – we especially found Dr Harold Mytum’s lecture interesting and entertaining. And it was gratifying to see that we are on the right lines with the way our project is progressing. He talked about how gravestones can be studied for their cultural and social significance as well as their family history, and many of the aspects he talked about are on our “to do” list, or we are looking at already.  

Then it was round to the Lion and Lamb pub across the street for a general chat over a few drinks to round the day off. Some of us put the world to rights, of course, as you tend to do in a pub once you’ve a couple of drinks!

On a different note, Chris has been looking at the medieval Embsay and Eastby – after much hard work, he put together a paper which he delivered to the Craven and Skipton History Society earlier this month. Much of what he talked about was from his work on the Bolton Priory Compotus – the fragmentary financial accounts of the priory’s estates in the 14th century, which included many references to Embsay and Eastby. Together with some research on Skipton’s history he has come up with some very interesting revelations about the medieval crisis in the Craven area. The talk was well received and he hopes to produce an expanded version for publication.  

Jane Lunnon

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Wednesday 28 February 2018

I love the snow! So yesterday I went out with my camera taking pictures of our lovely snow – I included a visit to the churchyard. Looks lovely in the snow.

St Mary the Virgin's parish church, Embsay, near Skipton  (c) Jane Lunnon
Today we sheltered indoors – and watched the blizzards from the comfort of a warm living room, while we did some more data inputting to our gravestones database.

We were rather held up by coming across some very curious anomalies. Sue has now recorded getting on for 70 or so in the records – we sometimes think it would have been easier if we didn’t have any historical records because there are so many instances when they don’t seem to agree with the actual gravestones! But in the long run, we know we are very lucky to have plans and grave lists, which many parish churches don’t possess. In the end our records of who is buried where will be more accurate, but it’s sometimes a very confusing business.  Today’s curiosities were particularly frustrating – people not buried where they are supposed to be or missing. We didn’t get them sorted out today, it was so complicated. 
No! That's not what I mean! Yes, It's fine now! No it's not! They should be here - not there!
Still, it’s interesting watching mother and daughter trying to resolve these issues together.

Jane Lunnon

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Wednesday 21st February  2018

We got together again at Sue’s house to have another good look at the memorabilia and ephemera documents that were so kindly donated by a local resident in the village. This very interesting collection - late 19th and early 20th century in date - relates mostly to his grandfather’s grocery business, the Methodist Chapel’s Sunday School, and the Embsay Brotherhood.
The Embsay Brotherhood, 1933

The Brotherhood Movement, founded in 1875, is something we knew nothing of before we saw this collection – a Non-Conformist society, it was intended to bring together men, especially young men, to promote Christian values and mutual support (They merged with the Sisterhood Movement in 1967).  The Embsay-with-Eastby branch was established in 1928 and lasted until well into the 1930s.

It was an intensive day of cataloguing, photographing and scanning the materials so that we have a permanent digital record of everything in the collection.

We surprised ourselves that we actually managed to get it all done by the end of the day, and even fitted in an hour or so to discuss progress on our preparations for the Armistice Event in November.

We confirmed who is doing what, and the central themes to focus upon. Now all we have to do is go away and research it all, and put it all together…

There’s also the annual Churchyard Tour, which David and I are to give – we shall have to start thinking about that too. Perhaps we shall give that a First World War perspective as well.

Jane Lunnon.

Friday, 16 February 2018

16th February 2018.

The blog has been quiet, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working hard. In fact, we’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to update the posts.

Last week we were looking carefully through a boxful of documents – leaflets, postcards, receipts, souvenir programmes – kindly donated to the Embsay Research group by a local resident. We have categorised them, and next week will spend a day making digital copies, and setting up a detailed catalogue of the collection.
one of the items from the collection -
a sketch of a local old pole-gate post - now sadly lost
Yesterday we had a visit from a representative of the Washburn Heritage Centre at Fewston, which is between Skipton and Harrogate in the Washburn Valley. She was intrigued by our Churchyard Survey project, so we gave her a little tour of St Mary’s Church and then retreated out of the bitter cold to Sue’s house to get warm again. We explained our methodology and objectives, and she went away at lunch-time with plenty to think about and take back to her next committee meeting. It’s always satisfying to know that we have been able to enthuse someone else with churchyard studies. We spent the afternoon putting in more data on the grave reference sheets.

I have spent many intensive hours in the public library searching through the archives of the local newspapers for the period of the 1914-18 war, for any references I can find on Embsay and Eastby. It’s a tedious and slow process, and with the Armistice commemoration now approaching in November, Sue, Eileen and Jennifer have volunteered to help me out by going through the 1917 archives. Their first go on the microfilm reader was a bit of a surprise – the tiny print prompted them to ask for a magnifying glass so they could read the display – I wish I’d had a camera with me!
We are planning to setup an exhibition in our village hall over the Armistice weekend, and to present some readings, so we’re very busy researching a range of topics associated with the impact of the First World on British society and particularly on our parish. Lots to do!

Jane Lunnon

Sunday, 7 January 2018

7th January 2018

At the request of the Trustees of the Ilkley Manor House Museum (soon to be transformed into a “Heritage Centre”), Sue, Tony, Alan and Jane spent Friday afternoon putting our RTI skills to good use in order to record two unusual items in the museum’s collection.

Having said hello to the Museum cat (sadly un-named, but very friendly and very pretty and dainty), we were greeted by Adam White who let us in.
Alan & Sue setting up for photography
The first item was an intriguing and very large stone slab which has proved to be quite a mystery. Its original function is not known, neither is it clear where it has come from. The carvings on it are obviously from various times, carved by a series of different people, for different purposes. Much of the work on it is still quite clear, but we are hoping the RTI will make it even clearer, and perhaps reveal some additional information that can’t easily be seen with the naked eye.
Photographing the Verbeia stone
The second item was a rather plain looking Roman altar stone, dedicated to the pagan goddess Verbeia – there is a very faint, badly eroded inscription on one side. There is apparently a 17th century copy which reveals some of the Latin letters, but we are hoping RTI can reveal a little more. Not that we were so hopeful with this one as the erosion was so bad.

Jane Lunnon
3rd January, 2018

After the Christmas break, we welcome in the New Year, looking forward to lots more work on our churchyard projects.
I spent New Year visiting West Sussex again. Met up with James who is heading the Lavant History Group’s churchyard survey. After our October workshop, they wasted no time in getting stuck in and are already well into recording the gravestones at St Nicholas’s Church. Their enthusiasm is wonderful. They have yet to start on RTI photography, but preparations for that are well in hand. We noticed a couple of gravestones that have started leaning over significantly further than they were even in October – possibly the result of bioturbation – moles or rabbits perhaps?

The next day, I dragged my husband, sister-in-law and nephew out for a day smooching around other local churchyards – Tangmere and Boxgrove. 

Tangmere is well-known for its Commonwealth War Graves, including a number to German pilots, but it also has an interesting collection of brick body-stones which we wanted to examine. There are a couple at Lavant, which are smaller and less obvious, so we wanted to compare them.

Brick-built body-stone at St Nicholas, Lavant - virtually flat, and now grass-covered.
No headstone survives
The Lavant examples have no accompanying headstones anymore, while those at Tangmere have headstones and footstones. 

Large, well-built brick body stone at Tangmere - the date on this one is readable as 1777

The age range was difficult to ascertain as many of the inscriptions are mostly now illegible, but the designs of the headstones at Tangmere suggest a very broad date range spanning the late 18thC to the late 19thC. 
Early to mid-19th Century brick body-stones at Tangmere
The sizes and quality of the bricks used, and the structural design also varied, so we took some measurements to see how they compare to those in Lavant.
Measuring bricks at Tangmere 

We moved on to Boxgrove – a fascinating churchyard, with a very wide variety of styles, designs and date ranges – it is also in a lovely setting, overlooked by the priory ruins. 
We had time for a little of my husband's family history, too ; 
The grave of Mary Ann & George Norrell in the romantic setting of Boxgrove Priory grounds
But interestingly there were no Victorian polished granite headstones of the type we see so much of in Scotland, and of which we have several examples in Embsay. 
Line of Baroque-style gravestones at Boxgrove
There are here some wonderful examples of late 18thC Baroque headstones complete with the winged cherub heads, as well as Neo-classical, Victorian High Gothic, and plainer traditional styles. There's even an Edwardian angel. 
The Boxgrove angel
I was pleased to see plenty of little ephemeral Christmas memorials and “gifts” had been laid at the Garden of Remembrance, and other graves. Always nice to see.

Unfortunately our visit to Chichester Cathedral proved less fruitful as so many gravestones have been rooted out many years ago, with just a few left standing. 
Chris wondering where all the Cathedral gravestones have gone
There were enough though to show that the local styles we had seen in Lavant, Tangmere and Boxgrove could also be found in the city’s burial grounds. Inside the Cathedral we spent quite a bit of time admiring the huge array of interior monuments – something we haven’t really looked at for our own project, as much work has already been done on this area of church history in England. Chichester Cathedral has some fine interior monuments, including what may be the earliest “weepers” depicted on a medieval tombstone; and an imposing statue of William Huskisson, M.P., the first victim of a fatal railway accident. Why he is shown dressed in a toga is anybody’s guess!

Some photographs of the monuments can be found on the website of the Sussex Church Monuments Society:

Sadly, as in so many churches and cathedrals, the floor is covered with old gravestones, which are wearing away to smooth surfaces. I do hope someone has recorded them properly before the inscriptions and iconography disappears completely. 

Jane Lunnon