Britain’s churchyards are one of the nation’s priceless and unique heritages. Generations of our forebears are commemorated humorously, eccentrically and often anonymously.
Epitaphs and inscriptions on memorials record the frailty and continuity of human life. They tell us how our ancestors have lived and what they believed, as well as frequently telling us about the trades and occupations of the people who lived in a particular location at a particular time.
There are simply thousands of churchyards in England alone and today, we hope to whet your appetite with five unusual British epitaphs.
At St Mary, Lambeth:
Sacred to the memory of Mr John Stevenson, late of this parish, who was unfortunately killed by a stag at Astley’s Amphitheatre, 6 Dec 1814 aged 49 years
At St Lawrence, Reading:
In memory of Henry West, who lost his life in a whirlwind at the Great Western Railway Station, Reading, on the 24th of March 1840, aged 24 years
At Great Chart, Kent, the stone of Nicholas Toke:
He married five wives whom he survived. At the age of 93 he walked to London to seek a sixth but died before he found her
At Baldock, Hertfordshire, Henry George Brown died on 20 March 1861, aged ten years and ten months. One wonders just what sort of structure is being referred to on his memorial:
How soon I was cut down, When innocent at play, The wind it blew a scaffold down and took my LIFE away
At Banbury, Oxfordshire:
To the memory of Richard Richards, Who by gangrene lost first a Toe, afterwards a Leg, And lastly his Life
On the 7th day of April 1656
There are many excellent books published on this topic and we would highly recommend Geoffrey N. Wright’s Discovering Epitaphs (2004).