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  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Wednesday 6th December 2017

We had a lovely day today – chatting with Gareth and Nicole Beale about their exciting new project “Discovering England’s burial spaces”. We are genuinely really pleased that they have chosen us as one of their case studies. As they develop a model for community groups to adopt for graveyard surveys and recording, we hope our experiences and the lessons we have learned as a small local heritage group will prove helpful to Gareth and Nicole.

We had an interesting discussion about authority files for describing gravestones – physical appearance, condition monitoring and design features – as well as ideas on survey form structures, and the practicalities of using mobile apps over paper forms. A very important aspect of the project is that of affordable data storage and archiving which is something we are very concerned about. 

The recent CBA (Yorkshire) showcase for community heritage groups had made us very aware of the need for sharing good practice and project findings not only between local groups, but also with academics. Publication and dissemination is a vital component of research, yet local case studies are susceptible to being unnoticed and unappreciated beyond their local community.   
Ralph decidedly unimpressed with discussions on database modelling
  We look forward to taking part in the project.

Jane Lunnon

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Thursday 30 November 2017

We have just spent 2 days brushing up on our RTI photography in 2 burial grounds.

On Wednesday we went to Skipton – at the invitation of Jean Robinson, of the Friends of Raikes Road Burial Ground we took a series of RTI sequences for 6 gravestones considered to be most at risk from weathering over this coming winter.

Erosion typical of Raikes Road Burial Ground
We were surprised that despite this burial ground being only 2 miles from Embsay, and opened at about the same time as St Mary’s churchyard, the nature and scale of erosion was very different. The main problem at St Mary’s, Embsay, is delamination, while at Raikes Road the stones are more likely to be weathered, the lettering blurred and fuzzy due to a powdery, friable granulation presumably caused by wind and rain. Raikes Road stands on a slope, facing towards the town. Perhaps this combined with a different quality of the stone used by Skipton masons has something to do with it – although some of the masons in Skipton also provided stones for Embsay churchyard. 

It was a cold, crisp day and the light was perfect for RTI. We finished off all 6 gravestones by lunch-time, and were able to get back to Embsay in time for a hearty, warming pub lunch at the Elm Tree Inn.

And so to Kettlewell Thursday. We arrived just after lunchtime, in order to avoid the very low temperatures of the morning. We took advantage of the brief “warmer” spell over the next couple of hours to set up our horizontal camera beam and have another go at the listed gravestone. We had taken RTI photos of this earlier in the year, but hadn’t been fully satisfied with the results. This time we didn’t try to fill the frame with the whole grave slab, but took two sets of photos to enable us to zoom in closer to the details of the carving. We also managed to avoid the bright sunlight of last spring’s session. Besides, this time when the sun did briefly shine, followed by a snow flurry, we were prepared with our umbrella attached to a tripod – although Sue did somehow manage to turn the umbrella inside out at first!

Using the horizontal beam for a ledger stone
Hopefully this will produce better results. The only problem is that we were unable to do anything about the ice embedded into the surface of the grave stone – it was so hard and thick that we couldn’t remove it without risking damage to the stone, so had to leave it in. It will be interesting to see how this new problem affects the results.

Jane Lunnon

Monday, 6 November 2017

Saturday 4th November 2017

Members of the Embsay Churchyard project attended the inaugural Council for British Archaeology – Yorkshire’s Autumn Showcase at the weekend in York. This was the first time community heritage groups across Yorkshire had been brought together to share their work, ideas and experiences. It was a great success – our Sue gave an excellent presentation for Embsay – despite each speaker only having 20 minutes, Sue packed a lot into her talk on how we had used RTI to advance and develop our project into something really exciting. She seems to have inspired others to start thinking about churchyard heritage too – as we had a lot of visitors to our stand asking about RTI.

There were some interesting workshops which some of us attended – such as Jon Kenny’s Project design and planning; a drone workshop; and LIDAR session.

At the end of the day some very interesting “food for thought” was put forward by archaeologist John Buglass, following up on the issue of networking for local heritage groups. Several comments had been made informally throughout the day that so many groups were beavering away and doing such wonderful work, yet we seem unaware of each other’s expertise, findings and potential to support each other and share experiences. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of John Buglass’s encouragement for this to be addressed.  Let’s hope the autumn showcase becomes an annual feature, and that more “professionals” and academics are encouraged to come along and see what “amateur” heritage can achieve.  

It was certainly an excellent opportunity to network with groups that are operating even quite close to our own little “patch”.

Jane Lunnon 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Saturday & Sunday, 21st – 22nd October 2017

We have spent a wonderful weekend down in West Sussex. Our Churchyard Survey team had been invited to deliver a 2-day workshop to the enthusiastic Lavant History Group, based near Chichester.

We met in St Nicholas Church and received a very friendly welcome from everyone and great hospitality all weekend.
Even Storm Brian, which threatened to disrupt the outdoor practical sessions, bypassed us.

It’s an interesting exercise to deliver such a workshop – it made us look again at our working practices, our aims and objectives, and consider how much we have learnt over the last two years.

It has given us extra impetus too – placing our knowledge of our Upper Wharfedale churchyards against the differences we found in the Lavant churchyards helps to give us a new perspective on our local case study.

The preparation and delivery of the workshop has also given us the opportunity to formalise our documentation as we start to consider how we are going to publish our study and share our knowledge and experience in print.

We have always said that one of our main objectives is to share our experiences and the lessons we have learnt from the project – and we couldn’t have hoped for a better reception than this weekend. We wish Lavant History Group every success with their churchyard project.

Jane Lunnon 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Wednesday 20th September 2017

One of the lessons we have learnt over the course of this project is that you need to assume that every detail is important no matter if it seems insignificant at first.
Now that we are more familiar with our gravestones and the cultural history bound up with them we are returning several times to re-take photographs and more detailed measurements. Such details as the very small carved motifs, the shaping of mouldings at the sides ; these should be recorded with as much care as the inscriptions.

When the weather permits we now take the opportunity to go back out into the churchyard and fill in some of these gaps with new measurements and photos.  Today was such a day and we enjoyed a nice day out in the open, while Jen rested her sprained foot, sitting at the laptop inside the church entering the new data. 

This is a serious business, I'll have you know .... 
Much of the afternoon was taken discussing arrangements for the weekend workshop we’ll be running down in Sussex soon. We conducted a test planning exercise using triangulation and scale drawing to assess the best scale to use for a churchyard. We have been lucky at St Mary’s Embsay in having a good plan already for the grave plots, but this is not available to everyone and we are aware we will probably need to make our own plans when we survey other churchyards.
Check. Double-check. ...
Speaking of which, we were pleased to make contact recently with the new project co-ordinator for the churchyard survey at Long Preston near Settle. We wish them every luck with their project and look forward to helping them in any way we can. It’s an exciting prospect to see others working on gravestones in the Dales.

And congratulations too, to Gareth and Nicole Beale for securing funding to develop their project at the University of York – “Discovering England’s Burial Spaces.” (more information at:
Hopefully this will lead to the creation of a national database which will allow little projects like us to share our data and run comparative studies which will be meaningful on a national scale. We are genuinely excited about this project and its potential and feel very privileged to be involved.

Jane Lunnon