Confessions of a gravestone ‘jumper’ (and the story of a Maidstone headstone)

Headstone for Nicholas Seaton image Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)Why is it that I always get caught out when I’m doing something slightly unusual?  Other people get away with doing all sorts of things but I don’t, I get caught. One very large primary school party has found me lying on the floor of a local church, my arms seemingly stretched towards heaven, as I tried to take a photograph of the ceiling and now I’ve been seen hopping around the graveyard of All Saints Church in Maidstone.

In my defence, my ungainly jumping routine is down to the fact that I don’t like to tread on the dead but even I have to admit it looks quite batty.  On this occasion though, my embarrassment was worth it as I came across this headstone for Nicholas Hall Seaton, a young man of 19, who died on 3rd December 1852.  Sadly, death at a young age during the 19th century was not uncommon but I get the feeling his circumstances may have been a little different due to his inscription:

Inscription for Nicholas Seaton Image Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)
Inscription for Nicholas Seaton Image Rachael Hale (The History Magpie)

‘In perfect health he went from home, not thinking that his glass was run.

All flowers grow but fade away, more sudden death does life decay.’

Was it an accident or even something more sinister that caused his death that day? I’ll probably never know but I feel there’s a story there waiting to be told.

The added inscriptions for Fanny Seaton, William Misson and Jane Misson, aged 40, 25 and 2 ½ show that this poor family was no stranger to loss and I’m deeply touched by their tale. But, more than that, I have also been given a reminder that, for far too many, life is too short. So, even if I have to endure many more embarrassing moments, I’m not going to stop doing something I love.

How about you? Have you ever been caught doing something strange in the name of research?

11 Comments

  1. Caroline

    I don’t often “jump” between gravestones but, for some bizarre reason, I routinely apologise to the occupants of graves if I have to walk over them. I very much doubt they can hear me but for some reason I still do it. I also have a lingering fear of stepping on a grave and sinking into it, or twisting my ankle, as well – not an entirely irrational fear as graveyards have such uneven surfaces.

      1. Caroline

        I’m not, actually! Part of me is a tiny bit worried about accidentally exposing bones or something, but I think mostly it’s a fear of falling & breaking my ankle!

      2. Caroline

        Thank you! I have always been far more likely to injure myself when walking along a normal street, not paying enough attention, than I am when picking my way around a graveyard so hopefully I should be ok!

  2. Kevin Reynolds

    Often walk through All Saint church yard and read the inscriptions but missed that one, our village churchyard in Wateringbury has some intersting interns from the past

    1. Rachael Hale aka 'The History Magpie'

      Hi Kevin, thanks for the tip about Wateringbury’s churchyard – I’ll have to think up an excuse to get over there now. As for this headstone, it pretty easy to find if you follow the path leading from from the Archbishops Palace and head towards the car park in front of the College of All Saints. When the path splits, just before the very tall, circular based memorial,you will need to take the right hand path that leads alongside the church wall. Hopefully, if I have remembered correctly, Nicholas’ headstone will be on your left, on the edge of the pathway, just before you come to the tree. I now have everything crossed in the hope that I have remembered that correctly and you’re able to find it!

  3. blosslyn

    Oh I have the same fear as Caroline, sinking into one… or more like sinking into a mole hole. We seem to have more than we normally do and they are making quite a mess of the churchyards at the moment. I use to worry about the graves, but after visiting hundreds of them, and most are a few hundred years old, I guess I am not the first person to walk across them……I do always say thank you, like I do when I leave a church….not sure why 🙂

    1. Rachael Hale aka 'The History Magpie'

      Hi Lynn, moles are a menace aren’t they! I haven’t worried about sinking before but you and Caroline have put me on my guard. And I guess you’re right, we won’t be the first to stand on the graves but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in talking to them though.

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