|Alan's "rain dance"|
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Wednesday 21 September 2016
Today we entertained the cheeky robin again as he watched us with great curiosity going about our churchyard survey.
We are still working our way across the large area on the north-east corner where there are rows of un-marked graves.
We ended up with a sea of white flags marking them out in their approximate positions according to the burial plan.
The main challenge today was a collapsed monument which had been a cross on a large double-tier plinth. Many of the lead letters had fallen off, and some of the inscriptions were hidden under the tumbled cross, which was too heavy to move.
Alan also wanted to have another go at RTI photography on a memorial stone which similarly had the inscription made from lead letters. Although we have had great success using RTI - even on memorials where the lead letters have completely fallen away - this particular gravestone had not come out well from last week’s photographs. Perhaps the surface of the stone was too pitted to allow enough distinction between stone and lettering. Let’s hope this week’s photographs turn out better.
Our good intentions to resume surveying after our afternoon tea break (thanks for another delicious chocolate cake, Jennifer!) came to nothing as it started to rain about 4pm, so we called it a day.
Friday, 16 September 2016
Wednesday 14th September 2016
After the amazing thunder storm last night we enjoyed an Indian summer today. It was very hot, and in the afternoon the bright sunshine even made the photographing of some of the gravestones almost impossible as the light bounced off the camera lens.
We did well – fortified at lunch-time by Jennifer’s wonderful home-made chocolate cake (baked to perfection, despite the power cuts last night!) - still working on the North side, continuing with the general recording and surveying of memorial stones. One or two stones were also photographed with RTI during the morning.
A small cross memorial was having a haircut (cutting back the grass at the base to enable clear photos to be taken), when it was discovered it was in fact a deeply sunken stone. Careful (very careful!) pushing back of soil and turf revealed much more of the inscription. So that was a nice addition to the records. Needless to say, we put it all back as it was before.
The wasps were still flying in and out of their underground burrow – they seemed a bit dopey, so we kept well away. Hopefully they will soon fly away once the autumn cold starts, and we can start recording that area of the churchyard.
In the meantime, watched by a curious robin, we focused on the large “empty” spaces in the north east section. Of course, these aren’t really empty – they are full of un-marked burial plots. We are lucky in that we have a burial plan where the names of the people buried here are given and marked on the grid. How to record all these?
We use white flags to mark out the plots (using the plan - and assuming an average area of about 3x6ft per plot - as a guide) and record them on our field survey forms (jncluding triangulation data) with the names known. These are each photographed separately for the files, in close-up and in a wider “landscape” context, and then the whole line of flags is photographed together. A copy of this last photograph will be copied into the photo-folder for each un-marked grave.
Thursday, 25 August 2016
Wednesday 24th August 2016
A warm, sunny summer’s day for our little team today, which gave Sue the chance to sport her new pink sun-hat.
We had planned to do some RTI on the north side where 3 gravestones had proved difficult to read with the naked eye last week. But the sun was so bright, throwing a good shadow, that these were very legible today, so we were able to get away with taking straightforward photographs of them before the sun moved too far over and the inscriptions became difficult to read again.
|Using flags to indicate un-marked graves|
The summer sunshine brought out many visitors – relatives tending graves, as well as tourists out for a country walk, passing by and popping in to see the church and have a chat.
The next two weeks we will have a break, but work will resume again after that. In the meantime we are giving a lot of consideration to the next phase of the project – that is how to use and analyse the data we are collecting.
Monday, 22 August 2016
17 August 2016
Another bus day measuring, surveying, photographing and recording gravestones on the north side of St Mary’s churchyard.
Today we were joined by Gina, visiting us from Sussex. She learnt some new skills, made new friends, and enjoyed learning about the people who used to live here.
|Gina enjoying her unusual holiday activity|
We had to be careful today - we have often found ants' nests scattered around the churchyard - but today we found a wasps' nest in the ground - which Tony marked with a wooden post so we were reminded not to get too close!
|Ground-Burrowing wasps' nest|
The weather was changeable, but the most annoying thing was that there was at times too much sunshine!! We complain about the rain when we can’t work on the survey; we complain about the wind, because it disrupts the triangulation tapes; and now we complain about the sunshine because the sunlight reflects on the camera lens. This afternoon no matter how the shade-board was positioned we couldn’t avoid the low sun shining directly into the picture. So two gravestones have to be left for next time – when they will be photographed in the morning.
Nevertheless we had a good day - and enjoyed ourselves as usual!
Friday, 22 July 2016
Wednesday 20 July 2016
The plastering work has been done inside the church and is ready for the painters. So we had a 4 volunteers cleaning up the church through the morning, getting rid of all the dust.
Summer is here at last although short sharp heavy rain showers forced us inside the church twice during the day. Now that the scaffolding has all gone, we were able to set to work on the North Side of the churchyard at last. We started on surveying and recording memorials, as well as triangulating positions.
|Essential piece of equipment - a broom!|
We found a little memorial stone which had been mysteriously moved from its original position to a shadowy spot under the far wall, which posed the question – should we leave it there or return it to its home? We decided we must leave it where it was.
Several memorials which need RTI photography were identified – but they lie under the shade of large trees and on a sunny day they are in dappled sunlight. They were too large (being long kerbstones) to be shaded by a simple plywood board so we had to leave them for another day.
As with last week we were faced with long rows of un-marked burial plots and had to use the flagging out method again to plot them in on the plan. It’s a simple but effective method.
While we were there the new interpretation board arrived – this was designed and installed with the support of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Diocese.
The board now stands proudly by the lych gate, welcoming visitors into the churchyard.
|Admiring the new interpretation board|
We were joined today by a friend of mine, visiting from London, staying in Embsay for a holiday, and quickly put her to work!
Hello, from said friend from London! Thrilled to be invited to join the surveying group again on both Wednesdays of my stay.
The process of recording and photographing each gravestone or memorial or unmarked plot is exact and absorbing, but once Jane, Eileen and I had got into a routine the day didn’t seem long enough! The gravestones are very interesting; the wording chosen (where we could read it), the designs -fruit and flowers etc, the recording of the passing on of babies and young children over a hundred and fifty years ago still poignant.
On last year’s visit I noticed a number of gravestones and memorials in a row together with the name ‘Heyworth’ on them. This is a family name of the family I married into from Newcastle; my mother-in-law said she was told they were mill-people who moved to the north-east. The story she recounted, by her own admission, seemed to owe much to Catherine Cookson – involving someone from a wealthy mill-owning family eloping with a worker for love. I am going to try and research this myself -what are the odds of my family being descended from the ones in this area?
|Debbie and Eileen hard at work earning their right to have cake at lunchtime!|
One consequence of the churchyard survey is that many people have visited this beautiful church and churchyard to look for their own family graves and history and I can understand the draw of this. They are lucky if they visit on Wednesdays when the surveying takes place as a warm welcome and expert help is on hand to show them the data-base and assist their search.
I was made very welcome, catching up with old friends and making new ones and I thoroughly enjoyed the day and am looking forward to next Wednesday.
Friday, 15 July 2016
Wednesday 13th July 2016
It’s mid-summer and the day began with some welcome sunshine, although by the end of the day we were donning our coats or jumpers again as it turned chilly.
The roofing work is complete except for some work that needs doing on a cross at the east end, and the plastering work inside the church. It was nice to have the scaffolding down at last, which means we can soon start surveying on the north side of the churchyard.
In the meantime we still have some work to do to finish off the west side memorials – there was some RTI to do, and some locations to plot in.
This picture shows one of the problems with the triangulation method.
Some RTI photography was done – we have discovered over several sessions that it is very important to have high-power batteries in the flash units. The high frequency of flashes overheats normal-strength batteries and can even cause the flash unit to stop working properly. We now always use rechargeable Ansmann AA 2850mAh NiMH Digital batteries.
There is also a slightly tricky problem when you have a large number of un-marked burial plots grouped together - how to measure them in?
|We know there are 10 burials here somewhere.....|
Since we knew from the grave plans and burial registers the actual number of burials in the row we decided to set out a line of that number of white flags at regular intervals, and measure those in.
It seemed to work well - a neat and simple solution.
We had some visitors to the church today – a couple from Ripon who enjoyed a good chat with Sue about the church and its history; and two ladies who had come to see their family graves and follow up on some family history. We were able to share information and show them our village genealogical database on the laptop computer. Working on a churchyard project is certainly a useful way of making contact with visitors, and encouraging them to appreciate local heritage.
Saturday, 9 July 2016
Wednesday 6th July 2016
We spent much of the day finishing off the surveying and recording of the west side of the churchyard. Most of the modern graves are here so they are quite easy to record – despite being prone to occasional changes as new burials are made!
Their design tends to be quite homogeneous - sadly contemporary English gravestones are far less likely than Scottish ones to emphasise the individuality of the deceased person. I spent part of my holiday in northern Scotland recently wandering around graveyards (strange woman!) and was impressed by the ingenuity of some of the newer memorials, and moved by the little personal touches often put onto them. However, happily there are a couple of recent gravestones at St Mary's which celebrate individuality - for example, a lover of cricket is commemorated with a little carving of a cricket ball, wicket and bat.
Repairs to the church roof are nearly completed and we are hoping the scaffolding will come down soon so we can start work on the north side.
In the meantime we have plenty to do setting up the documentary records taking the information from the fieldwork forms – this is a good opportunity for some people to extend their computing skills! Now the weather is warmer we can work inside the church on our laptops.
Work is progressing well and we are still on schedule, which is surprising considering the delays caused by weather, technical problems, the roof work and having to work around the timetable of an active, living church.