Come Ye Blessed...
CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL
Church Post Code LE14 3HU
There are five Vale of Belvoir Angel stones in the church grounds here. One is uprooted and is leaning against a perimeter wall. The other four are still standing. The stones here, particularly the four that are still standing in situ are not in great condition compared to many others.
Leaning over at an angle is a gravestone to a married couple who each lived to, by the standards of the day, a fairly long life.
There is no inscription at the foot of this stone, just the basic details of the couple. It reads as follows...
Here lies the body of John Stokes and Eliz his wife he died July ye 27th 1723 aged 63 years she died October ye 26th 1732 aged 75 years
There is heart symbolism at the top of this stone but this is a fairly basic stone compared to some.
I will start with the stone that has been uprooted. This leans against a wall to the north side of the church. This one is in the best condition of the five by some way.
This stone reads 'Here lies the body (carved in relief) of Henry the son of Matthew House by Anne his wife he died March ye 6yh 1720 in ye 16th year of his age'
Sadly, as was often the case here this gravestone was for someone who had died young. Death was an ever present part of life for the people who lived at that time; with the inscription further down the stone reflecting this...
'Reader stand still and lend a tear upon the dust that sleepeth here. Death does not always warning give, therefore be carefull how you live Repent in time no time delay I in my youth was call'd away'.
Carved across the top of the grave is 'Be Ye Also Ready', again a call to those looking on to acknowledge that they would follow the deceased; and to live their life accordingly. Live a good Godly life as any day could be your last.
The gravestone to Sarah Stokes is another that tells a sad story. The angel here peers out through a covering of white lichen.
'Here lies the body of Sarah the wife of William Stokes she died August ye 5th 1737 aged 41 Also 3 children William Oswin and Thomas'
All through the research for this site sad stories such as this occur time and time again. Hard, short lives with the prospect of death never far away! There are no ages shown for the three children; possibly this indicates that all three were very young.
It was certainly possible for people at that time to live to a very old age; a gravestone to Elizabeth Dexter close by records that she died in 1719 at the age of 93 years, but for the most part people died young.
This gravestones concludes by stating 'She that lies here was in her life a tender mother and a loving wife A quiet neighbour to the poor a friend happy is she that such a life doth end'.
The gravestone to one John Stokes is another that is a fairly basic affair compared to some. The angel, with delightful pointed chin and who looks to be asleep has less detail in the wings than many of those seen. This is a late example, dated 1757; just two years before the last stone recorded; Could we see here the quality that this firm of masons was renowned for dipping as the business reached the end of its time?
Again, there is a slight problem with while lichen here and the stone is discolouerd in places making it hard to read.
This stone reads 'Here lyeth the body of John Stokes he died April the 10th 1757 aged 28 years'
The stone here has sunk further in to the ground and inscription has been lost, what can be read though is 'A sore disease my body seized that pierced me to my heart'
The fifth and final stone here is another late one; this being 1756 and again the quality doesn't seem to be as high as in the past!
It reads 'Here lyeth the body of Mr William Stokes he died August ye 16th 1756 in the 71st year of his age'
There is an inscription below but this is unreadable due to while lichen covering the script.
Of the five Bale Of Belvoir Angel gravestones here that survive, four of these were made for the members of the Stokes family over the course of nearly 40 years.
It is my belief that a person had to have some means to be able to afford one of these stones. Even if the quality had dipped in later years this was still a quality item which I am sure that few would have been able to afford.
It was fascinating then to find a will on line for William, along with an inventory of goods from 1756. Yes, these were people of means!