Here Lyeth the Bodye – A Selection of Epitaphs from the Churchyard at Kilpeck

churchyard2A study of the epitaphs on the gravestones in the church can reveal a good deal about the thoughts and life-styles of some ancestors.

There are some splendid stones here, the earliest dated 1696. Many of them are the work of son and father Parry who lived here in the early part of the nineteenth century. Joseph Parry, who died in 1846, lived at Marlas and Richard Parry, who died in 1876, lived at Grafton Oak; both are buried here.

There are few memorials inside the church; the large one immediately in front of the altar recalls the Sayce family – sayce/saise is a slightly derogatory name for an Englishman!

churchyard4There are two memorials on the south wall of the chancel to the Gomond family who lived at Dippersmoor, one dated 1683 and 1688. The other nearby also carries the date of 1863. Was the Thomas Gomond of the first brother to William Henry Gomond of the other? There are – surprisingly – no memorials to the Lords who lived here, and just one to members of the Pye family, Mary Pye in 1789 aged 82, and husband Edward Pye aged 81 in 1797.

In general the churchyard epitaphs follow the deep religious certainty of the times: an acceptance of death and of eternal life. Many might be regarded as sermons in stone, giving warning to all with eyes to see how short and uncertain is the time given to any of us here on earth.

Acceptance

Very early stone, undated but pre 1696:

My brother rests next father dear
Then I did death obey.
My mother and my brother here
Wait the appointed day.

1696 Mary ye wife of Thomas Jameson:

Farewell my loving husband,
God save you by his grace
Prepare thyself to follow me
And he will give you peace.

1746 William George:

The God which parted us
Loved thee well.
I hope in heaven for us to meet
And there for ever dwell.

1819 Child of three months:

The great Jehovah full of love
His angel bright did send
To come and take this little babe
To joys that never end.

1829 Farmer aged 57:

According to my sudden fall
The Lord was pleased on me to call.
Dear wife and child pray be content
For God has claimed what he has lent.

1897 Girl aged 18:

This lovely bud, so young and fair,
Called home by early doom.
Just came to show how sweet a flower
In paradise would bloom.

1897 Young wife, aged 21:

So lately wedded and so early taken,
Yet mourner there is comfort in thy loss.
Neither in life or death are they forsaken
Who look to him who died upon the cross.

Affliction, sickness and suffering

1783 This early stone is in memory of a daughter of the Pye family who lived for any years at the Mynde, and a branch at New House:

Affliction sore long time I bore,
Physicians were in vain,
Till God did please, death should me seize
To ease me of my pain.

1783 Charles Minton:

My life in sickness here have been
And much affliction have I seen.
Christ by death hath set me free
To live with him eternally.

1826 Man aged 82, which was a long life to have lived in those days:

While in this world I did remain
My latter days were spent in pain.
The Lord was pleased and thought it best
To take me to eternal rest.

Preaching

A great preponderance of the 19th Century epitaphs took the opportunity of doing a little preaching, and many carried warnings to the passer by.

1893 A husband aged 83 and his wife aged 85:
Each dying within the space of 24 hours, were buried together and had one burial and committal service. It is the first stone on the right as you enter from the gate. The words are taken from 2Samuel 1, verse 23.

Lovely and pleasant they were in their lives,
And in death they were not divided.

1820 To a departed wife:

Time swept by his overwhelming tide
My faithful partner from my side.
And you of yours deprived may be
#As unexpectedly as me.

1825 Girl aged 12:

My frost that nipped my bloom
Will conquer thee.
It takes the bud, the blossom
and the Tree.

1843 Your last thing to be remembering:

Death - Judgment - Hell - Heaven.

1854 Child of three months:

Short as my infant life did last
It much resembles thine.
Thy longer span when once ‘tis past
Will seem as short as mine.

1855 Man aged 55:

Is there not an appointed time for man upon earth ?
Are not his days like the days of an hireling ?

Tributes

And now a few lovely tributes to the departed.

1820 Tribute to a mother:

A mother who with every grace was blest,
with all the ornaments of virtue drest.
Blest are the children who such mother have
Who smile in death and triumph o’er the grave.

1834 Wife and mother, aged 55:

A virtuous wife, tender other,
A faithful friend to whosoever.

And, to finish with, an epitaph that has become a local legend.

A curse over the grave of a young woman.

This young woman died in childbirth after being jilted by her lover, a young farmer of the parish. It was usual rather than otherwise for the first child of a family to be conceived, if not born, out of wedlock. Among a prospective wife’s attributes, her ability to bear children was essential; a large family of boys would be needed to help work the farm. It was however a different matter when for any reason the young man failed to stand up to his responsibilities. A very aggrieved family put up this epitaph on her gravestone.

May he by whom I was deceived
And seeming left forlorn,
Let sleepless nights, and gloomy eves,
Ever his brow adorn.

Local people used to swear that the curse worked, not only in the first case but also down the generations. A direct descendent of the offending swain, known personally to me, was certainly one of the most miserable men of my acquaintance.

Note: Most of this article is taken from a document penned by Norris Meadmore, churchwarden for many years, a farmer, respected benefactor and generous donor to church and village. The full text may be found in the compendium at the back of the church.

In 2007/08 under Angela Golding the Herefordshire Family History Society recorded the monuments, mostly up to 31.12.1949, though some later dates are also included, 18 inside and 223 outside. The church holds a copy and there is one in the Hereford Records Office.

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