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Curious Epitaphs

Collected and Edited with Notes

By William Andrews


_Author of "Verdant Green," etc._,
W. A.


This work first appeared in 1883 and quickly passed out of print. Some
important additions are made in the present volume. It is hoped that in
its new form the book may find favour with the public and the press.


_May Day, 1899_.

















Epitaphs on Tradesmen.

Many interesting epitaphs have been placed to the memory of tradesmen.
Often they are not of an elevating character, nor highly poetical, but
they display the whims and oddities of men. We will first present a few
relating to the watch and clock-making trade. The first specimen is from
Lydford churchyard, on the borders of Dartmoor: -

Here lies, in horizontal position,
the outside case of
Whose abilities in that line were an honour
to his profession.
Integrity was the Mainspring, and prudence the
of all the actions of his life.
Humane, generous, and liberal,
his Hand never stopped
till he had relieved distress.
So nicely regulated were all his motions,
that he never went wrong,
except when set a-going
by people
who did not know his Key;
even then he was easily
set right again.
He had the art of disposing his time so well,
that his hours glided away
in one continual round
of pleasure and delight,
until an unlucky minute put a period to
his existence.
He departed this life
Nov. 14, 1802,
aged 57:
wound up,
in hopes of being taken in hand
by his Maker;
and of being thoroughly cleaned, repaired,
and set a-going
in the world to come.

In the churchyard of Uttoxeter, a monument is placed to the memory of
Joseph Slater, who died November 21st, 1822, aged 49 years: -

Here lies one who strove to equal time,
A task too hard, each power too sublime;
Time stopt his motion, o'erthrew his balance-wheel,
Wore off his pivots, tho' made of hardened steel;
Broke all his springs, the verge of life decayed,
And now he is as though he'd ne'er been made.
Such frail machine till time's no more shall rust,
And the archangel wakes our sleeping dust;
Then in assembled worlds in glory join,
And sing - "The hand that made us is divine."

Our next is from Berkeley, Gloucestershire: -

Here lyeth THOMAS PEIRCE, whom no man taught,
Yet he in iron, brass, and silver wrought;
He jacks, and clocks, and watches (with art) made
And mended, too, when others' work did fade.
Of Berkeley, five times Mayor this artist was,
And yet this Mayor, this artist, was but grass.
When his own watch was down on the last day,
He that made watches had not made a key
To wind it up; but useless it must lie,
Until he rise again no more to die.
Died February 25th, 1665, aged 77.

The following is from Bolsover churchyard, Derbyshire: -

lies, in a horizontal position, the outside
case of
Clock and Watch-maker,
Who departed this life, wound up in hope of
being taken in hand by his Maker, and being
thoroughly cleaned, repaired, and set a-going
in the world to come,
On the 15th of August, 1836,
In the 19th year of his age.

Respecting the next example, Mr. Edward Walford, M.A., wrote to the
_Times_ as follows: Close to the south-western corner of the parish
churchyard of Hampstead there has long stood a square tomb, with a
scarcely decipherable inscription, to the memory of a man of science of
the last century, whose name is connected with the history of practical
navigation. The tomb, having stood there for more than a century, had
become somewhat dilapidated, and has lately undergone a careful
restoration at the cost and under the supervision of the Company of
Clock-makers, and the fact is recorded in large characters on the upper
face. The tops of the upright iron railings which surround the tomb have
been gilt, and the restored inscription runs as follows: -

In memory of Mr. JOHN HARRISON, late of Red Lion-square, London,
inventor of the time-keeper for ascertaining the longitude at sea. He
was born at Foulby, in the county of York, and was the son of a
builder of that place, who brought him up to the same profession.
Before he attained the age of 21, he, without any instruction,
employed himself in cleaning and repairing clocks and watches, and
made a few of the former, chiefly of wood. At the age of 25 he
employed his whole time in chronometrical improvements. He was the
inventor of the gridiron pendulum, and the method of preventing the
effects of heat and cold upon time-keepers by two bars fixed together;
he introduced the secondary spring, to keep them going while winding
up, and was the inventor of most (or all) the improvements in clocks
and watches during his time. In the year 1735 his first time keeper
was sent to Lisbon, and in 1764 his then much improved fourth
time-keeper having been sent to Barbadoes, the Commissioners of
Longitude certified that he had determined the longitude within
one-third of half a degree of a great circle, having not erred more
than forty seconds in time. After sixty years' close application to
the above pursuits, he departed this life on the 24th day of March,
1776, aged 83.

In an epitaph in High Wycombe churchyard, life is compared to the working
of a clock. It runs thus: -

Of no distemper,
Of no blast he died,
But fell,
Like Autumn's fruit,
That mellows long,
Even wondered at
Because he dropt not sooner.
Providence seemed to wind him up
For fourscore years,
Yet ran he nine winters more;
Till, like a clock,
Worn out with repeating time,
The wheels of weary life
At last stood still.
In Memory of JOHN ABDIDGE, Alderman.
Died 1785.

We have some curious specimens of engineers' epitaphs. A good example is
copied from the churchyard of Bridgeford-on-the-Hill, Notts: -

Sacred to the memory of JOHN WALKER, the only son of Benjamin and Ann
Walker, Engineer and Pallisade Maker, died September 22nd, 1832, aged
36 years.

Farewell, my wife and father dear;
My glass is run, my work is done,
And now my head lies quiet here.
That many an engine I've set up,
And got great praise from men,
I made them work on British ground,
And on the roaring seas;
My engine's stopp'd, my valves are bad,
And lie so deep within;
No engineer could there be found
To put me new ones in.
But Jesus Christ converted me
And took me up above,
I hope once more to meet once more,
And sing redeeming love.

Our next is on a railway engine-driver, who died in 1840, and was buried
in Bromsgrove churchyard: -

My engine now is cold and still,
No water does my boiler fill;
My coke affords its flame no more;
My days of usefulness are o'er;
My wheels deny their noted speed,
No more my guiding hand they need;
My whistle, too, has lost its tone,
Its shrill and thrilling sounds are gone;
My valves are now thrown open wide;
My flanges all refuse to guide,
My clacks also, though once so strong,
Refuse to aid the busy throng:
No more I feel each urging breath;
My steam is now condensed in death.
Life's railway o'er, each station's passed,
In death I'm stopped, and rest at last.
Farewell, dear friends, and cease to weep:
In Christ I'm safe; in Him I sleep.

In the Ludlow churchyard is a headstone to the memory of John Abingdon
"who for forty years drove the Ludlow stage to London, a trusty servant, a
careful driver, and an honest man." He died in 1817, and his epitaph is as
follows: -

His labor done, no more to town,
His onward course he bends;
His team's unshut, his whip's laid up,
And here his journey ends.
Death locked his wheels and gave him rest,
And never more to move,
Till Christ shall call him with the blest
To heavenly realms above.

The epitaph we next give is on the driver of the coach that ran between
Aylesbury and London, by the Rev. H. Bullen, Vicar of Dunton, Bucks, in
whose churchyard the man was buried: -

PARKER, farewell! thy journey now is ended,
Death has the whip-hand, and with dust is blended;
Thy way-bill is examined, and I trust
Thy last account may prove exact and just.
When he who drives the chariot of the day,
Where life is light, whose Word's the living way,
Where travellers, like yourself, of every age,
And every clime, have taken their last stage,
The God of mercy, and the God of love,
Show you the road to Paradise above!

Lord Byron wrote on John Adams, carrier, of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, an
epitaph as follows: -

JOHN ADAMS lies here, of the parish of Southwell,
A carrier who carried his can to his mouth well;
He carried so much, and he carried so fast,
He could carry no more - so was carried at last;
For the liquor he drank, being too much for one,
He could not carry off - so he's now carri-on.

On Hobson, the famous University carrier, the following lines were
written: -

Here lies old HOBSON: death has broke his girt,
And here! alas, has laid him in the dirt;
Or else the ways being foul, twenty to one
He's here stuck in a slough and overthrown:
'Twas such a shifter, that, if truth were known,
Death was half glad when he had got him down;
For he had any time these ten years full,
Dodged with him betwixt Cambridge and the Bull;
And surely Death could never have prevailed,
Had not his weekly course of carriage failed.
But lately finding him so long at home,
And thinking now his journey's end was come,
And that he had ta'en up his latest inn,
In the kind office of a chamberlain
Showed him the room where he must lodge that night,
Pulled off his boots and took away the light.
If any ask for him it shall be said,
Hobson has supt and's newly gone to bed.

In Trinity churchyard, Sheffield, formerly might be seen an epitaph on a
bookseller, as follows: -

In Memory of
April 6th, 1757, aged 52.

At thirteen years I went to sea;
To try my fortune there,
But lost my friend, which put an end
To all my interest there.
To land I came as 'twere by chance,
At twenty then I taught to dance,
And yet unsettled in my mind,
To something else I was inclined;
At twenty-five laid dancing down,
To be a bookseller in this town,
Where I continued without strife,
Till death deprived me of my life.
Vain world, to thee I bid farewell,
To rest within this silent cell,
Till the great God shall summon all
To answer His majestic call,
Then, Lord, have mercy on us all.

The following epitaph was written on James Lackington, a celebrated
bookseller, and eccentric character: -

Good passenger, one moment stay,
And contemplate this heap of clay;
'Tis LACKINGTON that claims a pause,
Who strove with death, but lost his cause:
A stranger genius ne'er need be
Than many a merry year was he.
Some faults he had, some virtues too
(the devil himself should have his due);
And as dame fortune's wheel turn'd round,
Whether at top or bottom found,
He never once forgot his station,
Nor e'er disown'd a poor relation;
In poverty he found content,
Riches ne'er made him insolent.
When poor, he'd rather read than eat,
When rich books form'd his highest treat,
His first great wish to act, with care,
The sev'ral parts assigned him here;
And, as his heart to truth inclin'd,
He studied hard the truth to find.
Much pride he had, - 'twas love of fame,
And slighted gold, to get a name;
But fame herself prov'd greatest gain,
For riches follow'd in her train.
Much had he read, and much had thought,
And yet, you see, he's come to nought;
Or out of print, as he would say,
To be revised some future day:
Free from errata, with addition,
A new and a complete edition.

At Rugby, on Joseph Cave, Dr. Hawksworth wrote: -

Near this place lies the body of
Late of this parish;
Who departed this life Nov. 18, 1747,
Aged 79 years.

He was placed by Providence in a humble station; but industry
abundantly supplied the wants of nature, and temperance blest him with
content and wealth. As he was an affectionate father, he was made
happy in the decline of life by the deserved eminence of his eldest


who, without interest, fortune, or connection, by the native force of
his own genius, assisted only by a classical education, which he
received at the Grammar School of this town, planned, executed, and
established a literary work called

_The Gentleman's Magazine_,

whereby he acquired an ample fortune, the whole of which devolved to
his family.

Here also lies
The body of WILLIAM CAVE,

second son of the said JOSEPH CAVE, who died May 2, 1757, aged 62
years, and who, having survived his elder brother,


inherited from him a competent estate; and, in gratitude to his
benefactor, ordered this monument to perpetuate his memory.

He lived a patriarch in his numerous race,
And shew'd in charity a Christian's grace:
Whate'er a friend or parent feels he knew;
His hand was open, and his heart was true;
In what he gain'd and gave, he taught mankind
A grateful always is a generous mind.
Here rests his clay! his soul must ever rest,
Who bless'd when living, dying must be blest.

The well-known blacksmith's epitaph, said to be written by the poet
Hayley, may be found in many churchyards in this country. It formed the
subject of a sermon delivered on Sunday, the 27th day of August, 1837, by
the then Vicar of Crich, Derbyshire, to a large assembly. We are told that
the vicar appeared much excited, and read the prayers in a hurried manner.
Without leaving the desk, he proceeded to address his flock for the last
time; and the following is the substance thereof: "To-morrow, my friends,
this living will be vacant, and if any one of you is desirous of becoming
my successor he has now an opportunity. Let him use his influence, and who
can tell but he may be honoured with the title of Vicar of Crich. As this
is my last address, I shall only say, had I been a blacksmith, or a son of
Vulcan, the following lines might not have been inappropriate: -

My sledge and hammer lie reclined,
My bellows, too, have lost their wind;
My fire's extinct, my forge decayed,
And in the dust my vice is laid.
My coal is spent, my iron's gone,
My nails are drove, my work is done;
My fire-dried corpse lies here at rest,
And, smoke-like, soars up to be bless'd.

If you expect anything more, you are deceived; for I shall only say,
Friends, farewell, farewell!" The effect of this address was too visible
to pass unnoticed. Some appeared as if awakened from a fearful dream,
and gazed at each other in silent astonishment; others for whom it was too
powerful for their risible nerves to resist, burst into boisterous
laughter, while one and all slowly retired from the scene, to exercise
their future cogitations on the farewell discourse of their late pastor.

From Silkstone churchyard we have the following on a potter and his
wife: -

In memory of JOHN TAYLOR, of Silkstone, potter, who departed this
life, July 14th, Anno Domini 1815, aged 72 years.

Also Hannah, his wife, who departed this life, August 13th. 1815, aged
68 years.

Out of the clay they got their daily bread,
Of clay were also made.
Returned to clay they now lie dead,
Where all that's left must shortly go.
To live without him his wife she tried,
Found the task hard, fell sick, and died.
And now in peace their bodies lay,
Until the dead be called away,
And moulded into spiritual clay.

On a poor woman who kept an earthenware shop at Chester, the following
epitaph was composed: -

Beneath this stone lies CATHERINE GRAY,
Changed to a lifeless lump of clay;
By earth and clay she got her pelf,
And now she's turned to earth herself.
Ye weeping friends, let me advise,
Abate your tears and dry your eyes;
For what avails a flood of tears?
Who knows but in a course of years,
In some tall pitcher or brown pan,
She in her shop may be again.

Our next is from the churchyard of Aliscombe, Devonshire: -

Here lies the remains of JAMES PADY, brickmaker, late of this parish,
in hope that his clay will be re-moulded in a workmanlike manner, far
superior to his former perishable materials.

Keep death and judgment always in your eye,
Or else the devil off with you will fly,
And in his kiln with brimstone ever fry:
If you neglect the narrow road to seek,
Christ will reject you, like a half-burnt brick!

In the old churchyard of Bullingham, on the gravestone of a builder, the
following lines appear: -

This humble stone is o'er a builder's bed,
Tho' raised on high by fame, low lies his head.
His rule and compass are now locked up in store.
Others may build, but he will build no more.
His house of clay so frail, could hold no longer -
May he in heaven be tenant of a stronger!

In Colton churchyard, Staffordshire, is a mason's tombstone decorated with
carving of square and compass, in relief, and bearing the following
characteristic inscription: -

Sacred to the memory of
Who died May 4th, 1804, in the 55th
year of his age.

The corner-stone I often times have dress'd;
In Christ, the corner-stone, I now find rest.
Though by the Builder he rejected were,
He is my God, my Rock, I build on here.

In the churchyard of Longnor, the following quaint epitaph is placed over
the remains of a carpenter: -

Memory of SAMUEL
BAGSHAW late of Har-
ding-Booth who depar-
ted this life June the
5th 1787 aged 71 years.

Beneath lie mouldering into Dust
A Carpenter's Remains.
A man laborious, honest, just: his Character sustains.
In seventy-one revolving Years
He sow'd no Seeds of Strife;
With Ax and Saw, Line, Rule and Square, employed his careful life.
But Death who view'd his peaceful Lot
His Tree of Life assail'd
His Grave was made upon this spot, and his last Branch he nail'd.

Here are some witty lines on a carpenter named John Spong, who died 1739,
and is buried in Ockham churchyard: -

Who many a sturdy oak has laid along,
Fell'd by Death's surer hatchet, here lies JOHN SPONG.
Post oft he made, yet ne'er a place could get
And lived by railing, tho' he was no wit.
Old saws he had, although no antiquarian;
And stiles corrected, yet was no grammarian.
Long lived he Ockham's favourite architect,
And lasting as his fame a tomb t' erect,
In vain we seek an artist such as he,
Whose pales and piles were for eternity.

Our next is from Hessle, near Hull, and is said to have been inscribed on
a tombstone placed over the remains of George Prissick, plumber and
glazier: -

Adieu, my friend, my thread of life is spun;
The diamond will not cut, the solder will not run;
My body's turned to ashes, my grief and troubles past,
I've left no one to worldly care - and I shall rise at last.

On a dyer, from the church of St. Nicholas, Yarmouth, we have as
follows: -

Here lies a man who first did dye,
When he was twenty-four,
And yet he lived to reach the age,
Of hoary hairs, fourscore.
But now he's gone, and certain 'tis
He'll not dye any more.

In Sleaford churchyard, on Henry Fox, a weaver, the following lines are
inscribed: -

Of tender thread this mortal web is made,
The woof and warp and colours early fade;
When power divine awakes the sleeping dust,
He gives immortal garments to the just.

Our next epitaph, from Weston, is placed over the remains of a useful
member of society in his time: -

Here lies entomb'd within this vault so dark,
A tailor, cloth-drawer, soldier, and parish clerk;
Death snatch'd him hence, and also from him took
His needle, thimble, sword, and prayer-book.
He could not work, nor fight, - what then?
He left the world, and faintly cried, "Amen!"

On an Oxford bellows-maker, the following lines were written: -

Here lyeth JOHN CRUKER, a maker of bellowes,
His craftes-master and King of good fellowes;
Yet when he came to the hour of his death,
He that made bellowes, could not make breath.

The next epitaph, on Joseph Blakett, poet and shoemaker of Seaham, is said
to be from Byron's pen: -

Stranger! behold interr'd together
The souls of learning and of leather.
Poor Joe is gone, but left his awl -
You'll find his relics in a stall.
His work was neat, and often found
Well-stitched and with morocco bound.
Tread lightly - where the bard is laid
We cannot mend the shoe he made;
Yet he is happy in his hole,
With verse immortal as his sole.
But still to business he held fast,
And stuck to Phoebus to the last.
Then who shall say so good a fellow
Was only leather and prunella?
For character - he did not lack it,
And if he did - 'twere shame to Black it!

The following lines are on a cobbler: -

Death at a cobbler's door oft made a stand,
But always found him on the mending hand;
At length Death came, in very dirty weather,
And ripp'd the soul from off the upper leather:
The cobbler lost his awl, - Death gave his last,
And buried in oblivion all the past.

Respecting Robert Gray, a correspondent writes: He was a native of
Taunton, and at an early age he lost his parents, and went to London to
seek his fortune. Here, as an errand boy, he behaved so well, that his
master took him apprentice, and afterwards set him up in business, by
which he made a large fortune. In his old age he retired from trade and
returned to Taunton, where he founded a hospital. On his monument is the
following inscription: -

Taunton bore him; London bred him;
Piety train'd him; Virtue led him;
Earth enrich'd him; Heaven possess'd him;
Taunton bless'd him; London bless'd him:
This thankful town, that mindful city,
Share his piety and pity,
What he gave, and how he gave it,
Ask the poor, and you shall have it.
Gentle reader, may Heaven strike
Thy tender heart to do the like;
And now thy eyes have read his story,
Give him the praise, and God the glory.

He died at the age of 65 years, in 1635.

In Rotherham churchyard the following is inscribed on a miller: -

In memory of
who departed this life, June 16, 1781.

Here lies a man which Farmers lov'd
Who always to them constant proved;
Dealt with freedom, Just and Fair -
An honest miller all declare.

On a Bristol baker we have the following: -

Here lie THO. TURAR, and MARY, his wife. He was twice Master of the
Company of Bakers, and twice Churchwarden of this parish. He died
March 6, 1654. She died May 8th, 1643.

Like to the baker's oven is the grave,
Wherein the bodyes of the faithful have

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