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  

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