Welcome to part five of my series documenting my contribution to the Adopt a Grave project. Click here to access the links to the first four parts of the series where you can read about Windleshaw Chantry, my adopted and family graves, eerie warnings on headstones, and my attempts to tidy and unearth buried and neglected monuments. Thanks once again to those who have read the first few posts, and also for your lovely comments. I became part of this project a couple of months ago with my mum, and we do try to go regularly, however, last week we had a lovely Arts and Heritage Festival to attend in the North Yorkshire village of Staithes, where we managed to avoid the rain, so we were unable to make it. Due to a broken phone, I was unable to take any photographs this year so below are a couple from last year’s festival so that you can see the unusual and quirky nature of the village and its architecture.
We returned last weekend to much drier conditions, and the second open day/heritage weekend. As our head volunteer was busy leading the talks all day, the rest of the volunteers began to work on some separate graves. My mum and I began by attempting to clean up the headstone of James and Mary Wharton, which was in a fairly poor condition. My mum had promised someone via Facebook that she would locate the grave and take photographs, however, it didn’t seem right to leave it in such a poor condition.
Below you can see photographs of the grave as we found it last week.
As I have stated previously, there is little anyone can do for broken stones like this, we can however, clean up the headstone, and ensure that the pieces remain together. I also have a little information about the occupants to share thanks to one of their descendants who shared this on the Chantry Facebook page. James Wharton was born in 1814 in Little Crosby, whereas Mary Wharton, née Rawlinson was born in 1811 in Great Crosby. They were married at St. Mary’s Catholic chapel in Great Crosby on 1st May 1841 and eventually moved to Eccleston in St. Helens where they raised their six children. It’s so nice to be able to put together a picture of who the people in the graves were. It was also nice to spot the comments from another descendant in the group. People remain passionate about their family history and heritage, which is why we do what we do in the graveyard.
With the help of some rather stronger volunteers (see below), the headstone was cleaned up, raised, and pieced together again.
Below you can see the restored Wharton grave. It looks much better now. One thing that struck me was just how clear the inscription is despite the damage to the rest of the stone.
Secondly we began to tidy a few graves in preparation for them eventually being raised. These graves were actually in good condition, with no damage to the stones, and once again with beautifully clear writing.
And below is a close-up of the middle grave in which an 18 month old child rests along with William and Mary Tickle who were interred here in 1969 and 1979 respectively, perhaps indicating why the grave was still in reasonably good condition.
Following this, a couple of particularly overgrown headstones caught my eye. You can see from the photograph below how desperate they were for some T.L.C. and the beginnings of their restoration.
We also found two bricks lying under the earth at the top of the stone on the left-hand grave. We have no idea what they were doing there, so simply placed them back again once the grave had been raised.
Could they possibly be from the chantry itself? Who knows?
Unfortunately, the stone on the right-hand side was cracked and split in two upon being raised from the ground. Fortunately, the inscription was on the top half of the stone and was unaffected by the damage. We can only hope that the pieces stay together as part of a monument my mum and I cleaned and restored during our last visit had mysteriously disappeared without trace when we returned.
As you can see from above, the before (L) and after (R) photographs are quite remarkable! And below you can see a close up of the beautiful stone on the left-hand side and its lengthy inscription featuring the surnames Harrison and Brockbank.
Finally, I decided to tidy around the edges of a few more graves (as the hard work was being done lifting the other stones!). Below you can see a few photographs of them looking a little tidier and proof that I do actually pick up a spade sometimes rather than just my pen and laptop. The stone below features the surname Seddon, as does the stone immediately next to it.
Above you can see that James Seddon is laid to rest here. The larger stone next to it includes the names William and Sarah Fairhurst who died on April 13th 1859 and 9th March 1827 respectively. You can see this in the images below along with the stone of William and Mary Swifts/Swift, the latter of whom died in her 49th year in June 1819. I’m unsure whether William is actually buried here too.
Our little corner of the graveyard is looking a lot tidier. Although we haven’t been able to place any tribute on our Flanagan family grave yet due to it being a flat stone, the plants we put in the Beesley grave are looking good, as are the crocheted flowers my mum brought along (below R).
Finally, it was really nice to see so many enthusiastic people turn up for the open day, and great to discover that several of them have now adopted graves and joined our project. I hope to see you all soon.
By Nicola F.
Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first. Please also remember to credit me for my original photographs.