CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST
Church Post Code LE14 3LB
The Heathcote study recorded 12 Vale of Belvoir Angel gravestones. I only saw 11. Quite a lot of the gravestones here are not standing any more and have been leaned against churchyard perimeter walls; with a few of them pretty badly covered over with nettles and brambles. A few are laid flat and having seen a photograph of the one that I missed this one is laid flat.
The stone to Elizabeth Bishop was beautifully crafted but is a little battered and bruised now. 'Come Ye Blessed' was originally carved across the top. Just the word 'blessed' remains now with the angel's left hand wing as we look at it also missing.
It reads 'Here lies ye body of Elizabeth (the wife of Thomas Bishop) who departed this life November the 15th 1718 her age 38 years'
The inscription below reads 'Though death has parted you and I our bodys to dust must turn I hope yt (that) we shall meet again you have no cause to mourn Dear friends do not lament for me chere up now your heart and hope yt you may come to me where we no more will part'
A lovely inscription; still moving today a little more than 300 years later.
Starting off with weathered double angel gravestone to one Edward Purdey; which tells a fascinating but very sad story.
'Here lieth the body of Edward Purdey he died August 9th 1743 aged 28 years'
The inscription below continues... 'Through a woman I received the wound which quickly brought my body to the ground It's sure in time that she will have her due The murdering hand God's vengence will pursue The debt I ow'd that caused all the strife (one half penny) was very small to cost my sweet life She threatened to give me a mark and made her cause look very dark'
The story is that after drinking at the Durham Ox public house, Purdey was unable to pay the half penny for his drink. The landlady turned her dog on him, which was rabid, the luckless victim dying of that disease soon after.
The gravestone to Anne Holling is leaned against a wall with a large amount of damage to the top. Only the left wing of the angel is undamaged.' Remember' is carved at the top left of the grave the corresponding 'thy end' at the right hand side is now mossing.
This stone says 'Here lies the body of Anne the wife of Thomas Holling she departed this life Sept the 26th 1720 her age 70 years'
The inscription further down reads 'Blessed are they that in the Lord they die from their labours they rest eternally'
This is taken from Revelation Chapter 14 verse 13.
Another to lean against a wall, ivy encroaching and the bottom broken off is a finely crafted double angel stone to Mary Davies; another to highlight how hard and sometimes tragic lives the people living at that time went through.
'Hard Pangs of labour gave Benoni birth the child of sorrows caused ye mothers death Mary & Anne Davies wife & daughter of Thos Davies and granddaughter of Rob Barnes & Ann his wife lies here interred Mary died Mar 17th 1725 aged 35 years Anne aged 7 weeks'.
The term Benoni birth is Biblical. In Genesis Chapter 35 verses 16 - 18 Jacob's wife Rachel dies soon after giving birth. Just before she dies she names her son Benoni, which means son of my suffering or son of my sorrows.
Laying flat against the ground and partially buried is the stone to Joseph Welch. In its day this was of fine quality, with the top two lines carved in relief. This is where the background around the lettering is carved away, leaving the letter itself standing proud of the stone. A real skill!
This one reads 'Joseph Welch died Feb the 7th 1722 aged 71 years
Also Will the son of Joseph Welch died Aug 20th 1720 aged 28 years
Also Samuel the son also of Joseph Welch died Octr ye 27th 1721 aged 23 years
Also Alice the wife of Joseph Welch above died May 6th 1703 her age 43 years'
With a little guesswork the inscription below reads ' 'Those who doth behold our stone pray think how quickly we were gone Death does not always warning give so be careful how you live'
Another to stand up against a wall, just about winning the battle with encroaching ivy is the stone to Ann Hill. The angel here is distinctive, with pointed chin, no hair and downturned mouth.
The stone is inscribed 'Here lies the body of Ann the wife of Robert Hill she died May the 26th 1740 aged 28 years
Blessed are they that in the Lord they die from their labours they rest eternally'
This stone highlights the problems that these masons had with lettering. There is no doubt that these were very skilled masons in certain areas but they sometimes struggled with lettering.
On this one the inscription at the foot of the stone is on two lines. On the first line the final two words wouldn't fit in and were included above the line in small lettering. On the bottom line one word wouldn't fit in and was included below the line in smaller lettering. Curious given that there was ample space to have included a third line should they have wished. It's all part of their charm!
The gravestone to William Lovett is a striking affair, with the angel incredibly well carved, even by the high standards of the others. The angel peers out through a covering of lichen; the hourglass and crossed bones reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die.
It reads as follows 'Here lyeth the body of William Lovett who departed this life April 22nd 1694 in ye 44th year of his age'
'Grieve not for me my glass is run it is the Lord his will be done'
This is a fairly early stone from this firm of masons. There are 13 stones surviving today from them with a total of 65 years between the first and the last!
Sadly the death of another young person. What hard times these were!
'Here lies the body of Eliz daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Harris she died February 15th 1722 in the 19th year of her age'
'Sleep thou blessed creature in thy vine my sighs & tears will not awake thee I must live my appointed time and then O then I'll overtake thee'
The stone to Sarah, the wife of John Eite, is of great quality, with five lines with the letters carved in relief. Two angels look out from the top of the stone, the one of the right as we look at it having curiously set eyes which appears to look out to its right! In between the angels is a heart shape with 'To Die Is Gain' carved in to it.
This stone reads 'Here lies the body of Sarah the wife of John Eite lately deceased who departed this life Jan ye 19th 1731 her age 52 years'
'To grieve for me alas it is in vain for your great loss will be my eternal gain My peace is made with God I hope before I'm gone from hence & shall be seen no more'.
I am assuming that the John Eite here was the husband of Sarah above. The date fits, with him passing away less than a year before. There is a big age difference though between the two so it did make me question it!
The stone here is of a different style, with sloping side, 'Memento Mori' carved on to both sides 'Remember death'!
It is inscribed (in relief) 'Here lies the body of John Eite who departed this life May 11th 1730 his age 79 years'
The inscription that follows is identical to that on the stone of what I assume to be his wife.
'To grieve for me alas it is in vain for your great loss is my eternal gain my peace was made with God I hope before I went from hence & shall be seen no more'.
The final stone that I saw is another to be leaning against a wall. A double angel stone of the very highest quality; with the angel on the right as we look at it appearing very surprised. Another sad tale here with this stone being to two children, both girls, of John and Sarah Eite.
'Here lies interr'd ye body of Sarah ye dear child of John Eite by Sarah his wife who departed this life Jan ye 19th 1728 her age 17 years
Also Margaret daughter of John and Sarah Eite afovesd died March the 28th 1721 in ye 7th year of her age'
The inscription below is pit together with a little guesswork, a broken bottom to the stone and taking away a small amount of text
'Grieve not for us dear friends it is the Lord his will be done short was our race long is our rest God takes them soonest that he loves best make sure of Christ and death (rest broken off)
The stone that I failed to track down has a date of 1759 on it; making this the latest surviving example of this firm of stonemason's work. The stone reads as follows...
'Here lies the body of Thomas Holling he died Oct ye 7th 1721 aged 79 years Here also lieth the body of William Hollwell son of the above who dy'd July the 9th 1759 aged 80 years