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St Giles, Matlock, Derbyshire

20/02/2015: The churchyard at St Giles is well stocked with interesting headstones. The bulk of the church was rebuilt in 1871, only the tower is 15th century. During that rebuild (there were other major 'restorations' earlier) the facade of the old porch, dated 1636, was resited against the south wall of the tower, leaving it looking a little lost and pointless. That corner of the churchyard also has a range of odds and ends of architectural offcuts and uprooted stones, some old and worth preserving. One beautiful small discarded stone is for Francis T Bradwall who died in 1706. The stone has raised lettering and a lovely raised rope border.

James Pearson died in 1838, two and a half years before his wife, so he didn't get to see the way their joint headstone was bungled after she died. Her name was, I believe, Ann. The name is carved there on the headstone, but it was previously inscribed with the name Mary - in the same spot. After the error was discovered it looks as though the letters of Mary were filled with a mortar of some kind and then Ann carved over the top. The mortar is now mostly gone so we can see both sets of cuts. This kind of error isn't as rare as you might think, I describe a few more examples here.

Edward Rowson, who died in 1747, may have been a cutler. His headstone features carvings of two knives below the text.

Joseph Dakin buried his two young wives just five years apart. After burying his second wife in 1854, only two months later he buried his daughter by his first wife. The exact date is not known as the day of the month has been crudely effaced. From what is left it looks like the original text was August 1ST, but the 1 and most of the S has gone.

In the late 19th century George and Ann Farnsworth decided on a side-by-side design for their slate headstone. The upper part is divided in two with an arched design leaving space for his and her details. Ann died first in 1878 and her details were nicely carved in the right hand window. The lower part of the stone gives details of two of their children; Hannah Elizabeth died in 1855 aged 5 years 5 months and 15 days, Thomas died in 1873 aged 28. The execution of the lettering for Ann is not as skilled as that of their children, but so far there is nothing exceptional about this headstone.

However, when George died in 1892 and his details were added to the left hand window at the top of the headstone, it all went horribly wrong. The lines of letters are reasonably spaced, more or less centered and about the right size, but it looks as though they were carved by someone who had never done the job before. And they might have done it in the dark. This is clearly the work of someone who has never seen letters being carved. I do tend to pick out the bad, the ugly and the faulty on headstones, so just as an antidote, after looking at the excruciatingly bad lettering by which we remember George Farnsworth, take a look at the achingly beautiful stone for Elizabeth and Ann Tunnicliff at Mappleton.

Matlock has several memorials which feature copper plaques set into the surface of a stone. One table-tomb, in the form of a pedestal, has seven individual plaques, one of which is a beautiful example of the hand engraver's art.

A copper plaque on another headstone records the death of John Ballington who drowned in 1777. The plaque says, "Oh Cruel death; with me why so Severe, to snatch me from a Wife & Children dear, Nor suffer me a last Farewell to take, But plung'd me deep into a Mirey lake".

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