Cemeteries, Graveyards & Gravestones

Cemeteries, graveyards and gravestones that I have visited throughout the country.

The Antiquity of Kilmartin Churchyard, Scotland


Kilmartin Parish Church stands in the centre of  Kilmartin Glen, and just south down the glen, are a profusion of prehistoric remains, including a linear cemetery, numerous standing stones, and several sites with cup and ring carved rocks.  But for me, it was the graveyard and church that lured me in to explore this ancient site.   You can see the church from the road, and in 2014 we didn’t have time to visit, but in May of 2016, we did.  You know when you see sometime, and you hold your breath, think wow, this is going to be amazing, thats what I felt when we walked through the arch to explore.

I have already posted about some of the stones, those thought to be most at risk from weathering, under cover of a former mausoleum building at the rear of the churchyard, this post is of what is still in situ in the graveyard.

Together with the sub-circular form of the church graveyard, the stones hint at a much longer history of religious activity at Kilmartin, ranging in date from the 900’s to the 1600’s. 



 I think most of the mediaeval grave slabs in the raised enclosure, photos above, beautifully carved slabs that once covered the graves of members of the Malcolm family, are from St Columba’s Chapel in Poltalloch, which have been move to Kilmartin.  Many of the stones were the work of a group of sculptors working in the Loch Awe area through the 14th and 15th centuries.  The carvers may have had a workshop at Kilmartin itself or in the surrounding area.  The quality of the carvings of the highest order, and the designs are similar to others in the West Highlands, such as Kilberry, Keills, and Kilmory Knap.

I found an early Christian Stone with a cross very similar to the one I found on Tiree, a Hebridean Island, but as yet I haven’t found any information on it.

The above slabs are still in situ and have wonderful symbols on them.

I will post about the museum, church and the two remain stone crosses later.  It is worth a visit before going off down the Glen to visit the more well known sites.  

Killmartin Grave Slabs, Scotland

The information board invites you to step into this burial aisle for a glimpse of the Gaelic warrior culture that dominated the West Highlands in the Middle Ages….. and so we did, last May 2016.  Kilmartin is a small village in Western Scotland, famous for Kilmartin Glen, where there are over 320 prehistoric monuments in a six mile radius.  But for me, the graveyard of the village church holds untold stories of buried Highlanders, which got my imagination working overtime.  These grave slabs were collected from the graveyard, but there are still more grave slabs to be seen.  There are also historic crosses inside the church and next door you will find a museum that will tell you the story of the Glen.  This post is to show the grave slabs, that now stand side by side.

A little history for you……..Originally, the 23 stones would have been laid flat on the ground to cover a grave. After the Reformation, however, many of the stones were moved, and in 1956 they were moved inside a shelter to protect them from the weather. The symbolism of the motifs carved onto the slabs is the subject of much discussion and speculation. Many feature swords or claymores, some alone, others with surrounding designs of twining or interlaced foliage. Several depict armed men. 

The structure was originally built as a burial aisle for Neil Campbell and his wife Christiane in 1627. Neil Campbell became Bishop of Argyll, while Christiane was the daughter of Bishop John Carswell, who built nearby Carnasserie Castle in the late 1660s. Since 1956 their mausoleum has served as a lapidarium, sheltering the best of the medieval graveslabs identified in the churchyard.

More about Kilmartin to follow.


St Sebastian’s Church, Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire – Gargoyles & Angels


St Sebastian’s Church, Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire, another church which was well and truly locked, in May 2015, the same as on the first occasion that I tried to visit, in 2014.  I think actually that the exterior far out weighs the interior, from what I have read, although again it would be nice to make up my own mind.  Externally the 15th century builders added battlements and pinnacles to the roof line to give the building a uniform appearance. Below these, on the tower and clerestory, there is also a frieze of shields.   From what I have read that the earliest parts could be early 13c, the south arcade and the chancel.  Late Romanesque capitals on the eastern most bay of the north arcade suggest that there were transepts here that were superseded by the aisles. The north arcade is much taller than its southern counterpart and is in Perpendicular style.  The Late Romanesque capitals are worth a third visit, maybe one day.  The exterior is full of wonderful medieval gargoyles and grotesques,

There are some very interesting creatures on a frieze, although I only took a few photos, I’m sure that they must have a symbolic meaning, but as yet I have no idea.

The churchyard is full of fascinating headstones, including some “Belvoir Angels” winged angel faces, which are a type of early 18th century Swithland slate tombstone found in the district, named after the Vale of Belvoir, in the East Midlands.  

A little history ………The Belvoir Angel is a motif local to the Vale of Belvoir (Beever) and the Framland, in the East Midlands, carved in slate in the late 1600’s and first part of the 18th century. Usually found immaculately preserved on small slate headstones, it speaks of the blessing of God at the time of passing from the earthly to the heavenly state, with a protective angelic covering. A typical Belvoir Angel design has certain standard features, stylised as the following first photo.  

I found a lot of these angels in America and even one on the Isle of Lismore in Scotland.  There are highly decorative ones and the plainer ones are called Naive, which are the one I like most.

Dated 1719, a true Belvoir Angel Headstone.

A more ornate Belvoir Angel.

This angel is on stone and not slate, so is not a typical Belvoir, but still a nice angel.  It could be that the Belvoir Angels were expensive and some people copied them.

Again a more ornate Belvoir Angel.

An angel headstone, although not on slate.

A very ornate Belvoir Angel.




Soroby/Soiribidh Graveyard, Isle of Tiree, Sotland


This is the last religious site, Soroby Graveyard, that we came across on the Isle Tiree, off the west coast of Scotland in May 2016.  There are many more sites, but those sites have hardly any remains left and it just makes it a bit difficult to post about a mark in a field……..I need at least a few rocks to get my imagination going.  Just want to point out, the whole graveyard was covered in primroses, they made a beautiful picture.

A little bit of history about the Parish Church at Soroby……The only visible surface-remains comprise a number of architectural fragments which survive in re-use as burial-markers and are distributed mainly in the N half of the cemetery and some may be from the 13th century. The church served the parish of the west half of Tiree until the union of Coll and Tiree parishes in 1618. The church is recorded in the 13th century, and it seems to have remained in use until at least the late 17th century.
It has been suggested that the site could possibly be identified as that of the Columban monastery of Campus Lunge, and the existence of the Early Christian carved stones here do suggest that this was an early and important ecclesiastical site. This may have had some connection with the probable Early Christian monastic site at St Patrick’s Chapel, 5km away……..we didn’t have time to look for St Patrick’s, but maybe next time we visit.dsc_0079



The MacLean’s Cross


Another wonderful beach, Soroby Bay.

Kirkapol Chapels, Isle of Tiree, Scotland


One of the main reasons that we made a four hour long ferry trip to the Isle of  Tiree, in May 2016, off the west coast of Scotland, was apart from the love of visiting islands, to find ancient religious sites.  I was on the hunt for ancient grave slabs, and at the chapels of Kirkapol, I found two.  There is just something amazing about finding a grave slabs that have been in the same position for hundreds of years.



The above photos show a 15th century sculptured grave slab, which shows, what maybe, the earliest representing of claymore (a Scottish great sword) in Scotland.  Unfortunately I didn’t find the other slab with the birds, it might have become too overgrown.  I did find one more, that shows just a plain claymore, the next photo under the information board.  What you do wonder, while exploring this wonderful site, part from the stunning location……who is buried under the grave slabs as they are no ordinary slabs, and where did they live.



Having researched a small amount about these chapels, it would seem the smaller of the two buildings is a chapel, and the larger was the old parish church.

Some history ……….Both church and chapel are of similar architectural character, and are probably closely contemporary. It is difficult to ascribe a precise date to the surviving remains; the buildings can more probably be ascribed to the later Middle Ages, possibly the latter half of the 14th century.

The parish church of Kirkapoll first comes on record in 1375; it was dedicated to St Columba. It is not known when this site was abandoned as a place of worship, but the church may have continued in use into the 18th century.



May 2016

John Whittome The Millwright & Miller

I thought I would reblog this post from 2014 to go with my recent one on windmill headstones.

Echoes of the Past


This headstone in Hilgay Churchyard, Norfolk, jumped straight out at me when I walk around the corner of the church, I have never seen one like it before.  I was quite fascinated by it and wondered if John Whittome had been a miller.  So I did a bit of researching to day and found out quite a lot of John Whittome, who was a Millwright and also became a Miller.

In loving memory of John Whittome died May 10th 1891 aged 74 years also of Elizabeth his wife died March 31st 1894 aged 76 years God is love

John Whittome died in 1891 and was buried in Hilgay churchyard, to the south of the church. The distinctive headstone has the carving of a large tower windmill with a stage, possibly Denver Mill, and was inscribed:Wheel & Millwright, Joiner & General Smith.  

The Whittome family ran The Hilgay Post Mill (which…

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Frederick & The Post Mill


On Boxing Day 2016 while visiting St Michael’s Church in South Elmham, Suffolk, I found my second windmill headstone.  I nearly missed it, as I only saw it when walking away from the church, it was close to the footpath.  I would have liked to have cleared the weeds,  but I make it a habit not to touch anything in the church or churchyard, I’m not sure why, but thats how I feel.

In Loving Memory of Frederick Arthur Aldridge

called to rest 19th July 1960

Aged 73 Years

Miller Of This Parish For 59 Years

Frederick was married to Florence May.


The mill on the headstone is a post mill, and would have milled corn, the earliest date I can find that mentions the mill is 1836. Frederick is mentioned as the miller in 1916 and 1925, this could be from one of the yearly directories, the mill ceased operations in 1929 or in 1938 ? the sails came off in 1946.  A note in the Peterborough column of ‘The Daily Telegraph’ about how the former miller, Mr Frederick Aldridge, watched as his unsafe old mill was demolished on 10th September 1955.

This is the mill, you can see how like the headstone it is, with the stone roundhouse at the bottom, which was partially demolished in 1977.

Fredrick in 1920.