In Stanton Harcourt churchyard stands a stone with the following epitaph, telling a very sad story of this day in 1718:
Near this place lie the bodies
Of JOHN HEWET and SARAH DREW
An industrious young man
And virtuous young maiden of this parish;
Who, being at harvest work (with several others),
Were in one instant killed by lightning,
The last day of July, 1718.
Think not by rigorous judgment seized
A pair so faithful could expire;
Victims so pure, Heaven saw well pleased.
And snatched them in eternal fire.
Live well, and fear no sudden fate;
When God calls victims to the grave,
Alike ’tis justice soon or late,
Mercy alike to kill or save.
Virtue unmoved can hear the call,
And face the flash that melts the ball.
Two young lovers – having, that very morning, obtained the consent of Sarah’s parents to marry – were killed by lightning as they worked in an Oxfordshire field at harvest time. According to an account of the incident written by John Gay (1685-1732), Sarah collapsed in fright as the storm broke. Her fiancé remained at her side in an attempt to comfort and protect her. There was a flash of lightning and an ear-splitting crash of thunder, and the other workers ran to where John and Sarah lay, to find them dead in each other’s arms amid the smoking barley. What a sad story….