During the drought last Summer four pale rectangular patches appeared in the grass at St Marys Chancel graveyard suggesting that something solid lay buried, most likely old tombs. Yesterday a working party revealed what lay beneath.
One of the patches covered two engraved stone slabs laying side by side, as if they had fallen towards each other from an upright position, as perhaps the side panels of a chest tomb might fall. The other patches covered stone slabs which had no engraving. Were they all part of the same tomb, or parts of other tombs? I have concentrated on the engraved slabs for this blog.
The engraving on the two slabs is very worn, almost indecipherable, but one member of the party was able to decipher ‘CHRISTOPHER’, not too common a name in Chitterne’s past. I could only think of Christopher Fripp, Christopher Iles and Christopher Fricker who might warrant such a tomb in St Marys. I discounted Fripp as too far back in the 1600s, and also blacksmith Iles, who has an iron grave marker quite nearby, leaving Fricker, who had leased The Manor in the early 1800s.
What do we know about Christopher Fricker? Not a lot as yet, I have come across three persons bearing that name in my researches. Christopher son of John and Mary died 1718, buried at Chitterne St Mary 30 Nov 1718; Christopher parents unknown, died 1815, buried 3 May 1815 at Chitterne St Mary and Christopher of Chitterne, freeholder of Imber 1818.
The Christopher who died in 1718 was a young child so can probably be discounted. I have no record of a burial in Chitterne for the freeholder Christopher, so that leaves Christopher who died aged 60 in 1815.
The preferred Christopher Fricker was born about 1755, exact year and place of birth unknown. He was a gentleman, and bondsman for several local marriages. He leased The Manor at Chitterne St Mary from 1802 or earlier, until his death. “The house of Mr Frickers if I recollect right was the best house in the village,” said his neighbour William E Sanders in his ‘Recollections’. Christopher’s name also appears in the Amesbury Turnpike documents, where he is noted as a trustee in 1782. All in all quite a man of means, such as we might expect to be buried in a chest tomb.
Besides the family members mentioned, I have come across other Frickers in Chitterne from as far back as 1604 and as recent as 1878. There are no Frickers in the village now but there are still some in the area so I am hopeful that someone with knowledge of the family history will throw more light on our new graveyard discovery.
I’ve had more info from J & R:
“I think he is probably the Christopher Fricker baptised on 7 November 1754 in Britford, that’s the only person of that name around that time. If it is him, then his parents were Thomas Fricker and Mary Fricker (nee Hiscock) noted on the baptism, and they appeared to marry in Colerne on 13 November 1748 – only marriage I could find between a Thomas and Mary.”
J & R sent extra information on the woman we suspect was Christopher’s wife:
Her name was Mary Biffen, who was also buried in the same graveyard as Christopher on 9 December 1818. They had married by licence on 11 February 1782 at Edington, Wiltshire. Mary was 15 years older than Christopher, so she may have been married previously, in which case Biffen would not have been her maiden name, which would be why J & R have been unable to find a baptism record in that name. On the marriage record Mary is described as ‘of Edington’, not ‘spinster of this parish’ as is usual. Christopher left her £400 in a bank account in his will. After his death all his stock was sold and Mary appears to have moved to Stapleford, Wiltshire as per the burial record. Mary also left a will in which she is is said to be a widow.
Very many thanks J&R