Tales from the Graveyard

Seale Church – Tales from the Graveyard 2

The project of documenting the graveyard is now nearing completion and has taken much longer than originally anticipated due to lack of or incorrect records. We now know the names of nearly everyone buried in the churchyard since records started in January 1538, there are one or two gaps due to damaged pages in the registers, but we don’t know where they are all buried. Prior to 1900 we have no records indicating who is buried in the unmarked graves, also the records between 1900 and 1950 are a bit sketchy such that while we think we know who has been buried we do not necessarily know where they have been buried.
In sorting through the records I came across a number of certificates for disposal of cremated remains for people who were not listed in the burial register; in the case of two people I had a call from a relative asking if it was possible to have a plaque placed on the grave where the ashes had been buried. I then sorted through the service registers covering the years in question and was able to find references to burials in most cases. This highlighted another anomaly, it would seem that during the 1980s and 90s funeral services were registered as “Burial of the Dead as in quite a number of cases the actual burial of ashes took place some days or even weeks later and in some the ashes weren’t even buried in Seale!

The Registers of Service make quite interesting reading as during the days of Canon Oldaker and Arthur Ransome notes were made recording the weather conditions as well as information regarding service attendance.

I have now based the Record of Burials on the official Registers of Burial and have listed all those who have been buried since 1900 plus earlier ones where a legible headstone still exists, the oldest one being that of John Hart who was the armour bearer of Geo Woodroff of Poyle and who died in 1691. Some mysteries still remain but hopefully these might get solved in due course and so I am now going to make the record available in the Parish Office and at the same time I will be copying the transcripts of the six Parish burial registers onto the Parish computer.

The final phase of the project is to update the document, produced by the Seale and Sands WI in 1984 which described all the Monuments in the Churchyard, by incorporating a description of all the Headstones added since the document was produced and to fill in some of the missing data due to erosion of the stones

January 2007 Mike Randell

Tales from the Graveyard 1

Progress has not been as fast over the last few months as I have been sidetracked to sort out the Garden of Remembrance and find some empty slots for future burials. Section B has now been surveyed and photographs of most of the headstones have been taken. There is a chest tomb in line with the East end of the church for which 1 have no records and the inscription has been totally eroded – does anyone know who resides in it? You need to keep clear of it, as whenever I clear the ivy and brambles ftom it I get the feeling that a hand is going to come out of the crack and grab me!
The Garden of Remembrance, where the ashes are buried, has got a bit muddled, apparently a few years ago some children removed all the row markers and when they were found were not replaced in the correct positions; this is why there are unequal gaps between some of the rows, however I will not be moving the markers as their current positions have been used to locate the positions of the ashes. I have now placed markers on all four sides of the garden so that the centre of any grave can be readily located.

I had always thought that when someone was buried the body was placed such that if it was to sit up it would face Jerusalem and that the Headstone was placed at the head with the inscription normally visible from the foot end; this is not the case as it would seem that people can be buried facing in whatever direction they like, there are no regulations concerning direction. I had a conversation recently with a couple of gravediggers when a grave was being dug and it would seem that they determine which way round the grave is dug based on the general layout in the graveyard.

As you go down the path from the Lych gate to Manor Farm all the headstones face West, it was assumed that they were put this way round so they could be read from the path; however, according to the gravediggers the graves are under the path. Originally all these graves plus many others had both headstones and footstones; in 1969 a faculty was issued to allow the removal of footstones, I assume this was to make it easier to cut the grass. According to one of the Churchwardens responsible for this, the footstones were just moved to rest against the headstone at its footside.

This is where I need some help – if anyone has some old (pre 1969) photographs taken in the graveyard which show both headstones and footstones I would be very grateful if they could let me have a look at them as I would like to confirm the direction and hence true location of the graves. I can then complete the map of the graveyard and ensure that when a new grave is dug we are not encroaching on an existing one.

Mike Randell August 2004

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