There are two graveyards in Chitterne that have been in use since medieval times. Neither is situated near the present church, which is on a site not suitable for burials, but both are some distance away where the two old churches of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary once stood.
Twenty years ago there were no plans of either of these graveyards. The lack of plans became a problem when the second partner of a couple died wishing to be buried in the same grave as the first partner and no-one could remember where the unmarked grave was. I think that grave plot was finally identified by referring to family photographs of the original burial. The photos included nearby grave markers that allowed the grave to be identified, but nevertheless the embarrassing episode nudged the churchwardens into action.
It was a two person job to survey the sites and to create the plans. I gathered and recorded the information and my husband Dave drew the plans, using software. We started with St Marys graveyard.
St Mary’s, pictured above, surrounds the remaining part of old St Mary’s Church (undergoing roof restoration at the moment), and is well kept and in constant use.
We used various old maps and internet maps to plan the shape and orientation of the site. Then plotted and numbered the graves. Numbers 1 -15 gravestones had been moved from their original positions and re-sited in a line alongside the path leading to The Manor, so we gave those a different shape on our plan. There are three burials within the chancel, these we gave dotted lines, and three memorials on the outside walls of the chancel, these just have numbers. Lists were made of the numbered graves and where possible annotated with the names of the occupiers and their dates. Illegible inscriptions were noted too. The latest version of the map of St Mary’s is pictured above.
St Mary’s proved to be a bit of a doddle when it came to mapping All Saints graveyard.
All Saints is not mowed but grazed by sheep. Even this is an improvement from 60 years ago, when it was overgrown with brambles and scrub before Alan Sprack cleared it, so at least we could move around the graveyard for our survey. Alan was the last person to be buried here; the graveyard is not as popular for burials as St Mary’s.
Our main problem with All Saints was the higgledy-piggledy layout of the graves, which apart from all facing the same direction, seemed to have no pattern. We resorted to GPS in the end, but this in itself was difficult as every time we stopped and started again we got a different reading from the satellites. Once we had our basic layout we followed the same procedure as St Mary’s. One grave of a suicide at All Saints is outside the boundary. Number 20 marks the underground vault containing the eleven coffins of the Michell-Onslow family. Number 48 (top centre) that of the Hitchcock family.
Eventually, after two years, in 2004, we finished All Saints graveyard map. This map is updated less frequently than St Mary’s, the latest version is pictured above.
All the information was passed to the churchwardens and the vicar, added to a Graveyard Search page on the village website and turned into an alphabetical Burial Guide placed in the current church for visitors. The map and lists are updated every year or so. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to update the search page on the website.
2 thoughts on “Mapping the Graveyards 20 years on”
Hello, I’ve recently been researching my family history with ancestry.com, today I came across a few family members from in and around 1627, that lived and died in the town of Chitterne, I did a quick google search and that led me to you. I see that you have written a book about this town a long with others. Where can I purchase it? I’m in the USA. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Hello April I am sending you an email re my book