Tag Archives: gravestones

Picture Postcard Parade: The Church, Singleton

13 Jul

This is another before and after post of sorts. The first image is a postcard of the church at Singleton, Sussex. The postcard was unused, but probably dates from 1910-20.

The Church, Singleton

The image below is not from the same position, but it does illustrate what happened to many of the headstones that were pictured on the postcard.

Singleton Headstones

When I visited the church earlier this year I discovered that most of the older headstones had been re-located and were now lined up along one side of the churchyard. I don’t know when this clearance took place, and there are now more modern burials (and headstones) in their place.

New Headstones

Picture Postcard Parade: Hailsham Church

28 Mar

With my current obsession with the GEERING family of Hailsham, Sussex it was inevitable that my postcard collecting interests would extend to the town of Hailsham before too long.

Hailsham Church

When I saw this wonderful postcard I just had to have it. It was published by Edgar Smith of The Library, Hailsham. It is unused and probably dates from around 1910-20.

Lots of lovely headstones to be seen, I wonder if any of my GEERINGs had a headstone, I know there were at least four buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Hailsham.

It reminds me of the description of the town in Pigot’s Sussex Directory of 1828 which singles out the church as the only thing of interest in the town,

The only object deserving of notice in this place is the church, which has a fine square tower, similar to that of East Grinstead; although extreme age may have shorn some of its beauties, still it bears the mark of having been, formerly, a handsome building, and presents an interesting object for the antiquarian.

I have promised myself not to go crazy buying postcards, so I will only be looking for postcards that will help illustrate the story of my ancestors. I would really like to be able to find a postcard of the High Street showing their shop, of course it will be many years after my ancestors had moved on, but it would at least take me back a bit closer to their time.

Are church postcards undervalued?

4 Feb

Evelyn from A Canadian Family left a comment on my post of a postcard of Nuthurst Parish Church. This got me thinking about whether postcards of parish churches are undervalued.

In terms of collecting, postcards of parish churches are probably the cheapest topographical cards that you can buy. There could be several reasons for this, there probably is a greater supply of parish church postcards (because they were once more common), but more than likely it is because churches just don’t seem as interesting as a high street with shops, public houses or Post Offices.

Evelyn is right of course, in many cases they may represent the only surviving images of some headstones. In most cases the inscriptions on the headstones are not readable, but many of the headstones pictured on these cards have disappeared.

Take for example the two images below of St. George’s Church, West Grinstead, Sussex. The first is a postcard published by A.H. Homewood of Burgess Hill, Sussex, it was posted in 1908.

West Grinstead Church 1908

The next image is a photo I took in 2008, and apart from the growth of the trees, in the intervening 100 years the headstones in front of the church have gone.

West Grinstead Church 2008

Sometimes this is from deterioration but sometimes this is through deliberate clearance, to create space for wedding groups to be photographed outside the church. Now of course health and safety also comes into play, with stones toppled in the name of safety.

How different it must have been for our ancestors to walk through rows of gravestones on their way to church services, rather than today where gravestones are dotted around the churchyard.

As a family historian and postcard collector I am happy that parish churches may not be as eagerly collected by others (it means I can afford them), but for me they are also an essential part of my collection and they are probably the only postcards where I can say for certain that “my ancestors were there”.

Picture Postcard Parade: Henfield Church

25 Sep

It is time I started showing you some of my postcard collection again, this is a recent purchase from eBay and shows St. Peter’s Church, Henfield, Sussex.

St Peter's Church, Henfield, Sussex

St Peter's Church, Henfield, Sussex

I love the fact that the photographer had set up his tripod amongst the gravestones. Even on the original card they are slightly out of focus and unreadable, which is a shame because I am sure amongst those headstones is one for John and Mary Ann FAIRS my 3x great grandparents.

There are no clues as to the date, photographer or publisher of this card. I have seen cards with a similar style of caption, it was almost certainly a local publisher, and I would guess it dates from around 1910-20.

The family connection is not only the FAIRS who were buried here, but countless TROWERs who passed through, for baptism, marriage or burial. There is even a record in the churchwarden’s accounts for 1685 of a John TROWER being paid 3s 4d for work done on the Communion table and the bells. John TROWER was almost certainly my 8x great grandfather.

A Bank Holiday walk to Bolney

31 Aug

What a way to spend Bank Holiday Monday, contrary to expectations the sun was out (in fact it was a lovely afternoon) and I was out walking making the most of it.

The destination for today’s walk was Bolney, Sussex, home to many GASSON and WALDER ancestors and relations. In particular I wanted to visit the church at Bolney and try and find some gravestones.

The South Downs, from near Twineham

The South Downs, from near Twineham

The walk started in a small place called Wineham (thanks to my wife for dropping me off). From here I followed the wonderfully named Bob Lane to Twineham, which is slightly bigger than Wineham and has it’s own delightful little church.

St Peters Church Twineham, Sussex

St Peters Church Twineham, Sussex

There should be a couple of my WELLER ancestors buried here, although I haven’t confirmed that in the burial register. If they are they either never had a headstone or it has long since vanished, because I couldn’t find one.

From Twineham I followed Bolney Chapel Road up to the main A272 and then a short way along the A272 into Bolney itself. I like following these small country roads because I don’t have to worry too much with a map, I can just get on with enjoying the scenery and not have to worry about which footpath I have to take.

St Mary Magdalene is a beautiful church, set on the top of a small hill. About a dozen stone steps lead up to a fabulous lych gate, quite possibly the largest I have ever seen. From the lych gate a path leads up the hill to the church.

Bolney Church from the lych gate

Bolney Church from the lych gate

The church itself was closed, but there was plenty to see outside, but one day I ought to actually try and get inside. There is a huge variety of gravestones in the churchyard, so many different ages and types. Of course the older ones are not so easy to read, in fact many are now just slabs of stone with no sign of an inscription.

A pair of gravestones in Bolney Churchyard

A pair of gravestones in Bolney Churchyard

Unfortunately I didn’t have the churchyard to myself, there appeared to be some sort of treasure hunt going on as small groups of people with clipboards made their way through the churchyard searching for a particular gravestone before moving on.

My own hunt was quite successful, several modern GASSON gravestones and some older WALDER and LEWRY ones, although how much of the older ones I am going to be able to make out is another question. I need to have a look and see if there are any monumental inscriptions available that I can use to fill in some gaps. Hopefully someone went around a hundred years ago and recorded all the older ones for me before the inscriptions disappeared.

From the church I head further into the village, past the war memorial and then headed west. This long and winding road (and quite hilly) took me through some nice woodland, with a beautiful scent of pine in the air and past an ancestral home Chatesgrove. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the present owners of Chatesgrove are that keen on letting anyone see their house. Lots of thick hedges and tall fences, meant all I could see were a few glimpses of a timber framed building.

The road eventually took me back to Wineham, where I was due to get picked up again. All in all a nice afternoon spent walking (about 11 miles), lots of photos on my camera, although I don’t think any of the gravestones are direct ancestors. It is surprising how quick the temperature dropped and the light began to disappear, there is no escaping it, autumn is on the way.

A sad pair of FAIRS gravestones at West Grinstead

25 Jul

This was one of the photos that I took yesterday at West Grinstead, Sussex. Both the gravestones belong to my FAIRS family and I think together they paint a rather sad picture.

A sad pair of FAIRS gravestones at West Grinstead

A sad pair of FAIRS gravestones at West Grinstead

It seems sad to me on two counts, firstly the condition of the stone on the left and secondly for the story that the one on the right tells.

The stone on the left is that of my 5x great grandparents Thomas and Elizabeth FAIRS, she died first on the 10th August 1835 aged 62 and Thomas died on the 20th February 1844 aged 73. What is really sad is the condition of the gravestone. The inscription on the stone is almost gone, and there was obviously some sort of carving at the top of the stone above the inscription, but now it is too worn to be able to make out.

Fortunately the inscription has already been recorded (at least twice) so I was able to check parts of it and confirm it was the right stone, but I doubt very much whether the carving was ever recorded anywhere.

The stone on the right is for Richard FAIRS the youngest son of Thomas and Elizabeth. He died on the 6th October 1832 aged 22. Therein lies the sadness, another FAIRS family member who died at a young age. We often hear about infant mortality, but this hardly falls into that category. Of course it is too early for a death certificate, so I am unlikely to ever find out why he died so young.

What does make me smile about the whole situation is the way that both stones are leaning towards each other, almost as if making contact again. What a wonderful illustration of the sentiment so often recorded on gravestones “together again”.

There doesn’t seem to have been much wandering going on recently

25 Jul

You could be forgiven for thinking that I haven’t done much walking recently, well I have been doing a bit, but having been on holiday there hasn’t really been any genealogy related walks to report on.

I have been recording my daily number of steps and mileage for a couple of years, as measured with my pedometer, so not necessarily accurate but close enough for me. Interestingly this week has seen me pass two milestones (pun intend) with my walking. Monday saw me reach 2,000,000 steps for the year and today my total mileage for the year passed a 1,000 miles.

Yesterday, despite the threat of showers, I went for a walk to West Grinstead church to look for FAIRS gravestones. I found the main ones I was interested in and got some photos, but didn’t linger as the weather conditions were looking less than promising as I set off for home.

Something nasty on the way?

Something nasty on the way?

This was the view looking north from West Grinstead church, however I should have been worrying about what was coming in the opposite direction. Unusually I heard the rain first, as it started to splash in the river, then it started to splash on me, so I put on my raincoat and hurried on.

The rain got harder as I started to head away from the river and towards a wood, which I hoped would give me shelter from what I hoped would only a passing shower. As I stepped inside the wood the hailstones started, not very big hailstones (some as big as peas but mostly smaller) but I moved deeper into the wood in search of shelter.

Soon I was on the other side of the wood, I had pulled my umbrella from my rucksack as well and at least my head was protected from the rain. At the gate on the other side of the wood I was more sheltered by a larger oak tree, and I could safely look out across the field where the other side of the field was barely visible.

Then as quickly as the rain had started, sunlight began to spread across the field, and the rain eased, and it was drops of water from the trees that were hitting my umbrella not rain. I started to make my way out into the field, edging my way along the side of the wood as the rain died away.

Then some where to my right there was an almighty crack of thunder, I decided that walking in the shelter of the wood might not be such a good idea after all and I edged my way out into the middle of the field and put my umbrella down, just in case.

Soon however the inside of my raincoat was getting wetter than the outside as I started to sweat in the sunshine, and I had to take it off. As I passed through the gate on the opposite side of the field I turned to look back towards the wood, and was surprised to see steam rising up off the field.

The whole incident had probably only lasted five minutes, and the sky had cleared again. I had avoided the worst of the rain and hail by taking shelter in the wood, but wondered if I had upset someone up at West Grinstead church!

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