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16NADFAS REVIEWSUPPLEMENT/ SUMMER 2010www.nadfas.org.ukCHURCH RECORDERSNADFASARTS EDUCATION AND HERITAGECONSERVATIONLedgerstones have been describedas the ugly ducklings of churchmemorials and the trampledtreasures of our churches, but what arethese slabs with faded inscriptions orcut out spaces for long-gone brasses?And how important are they in thehistory of our families and villages?Until 1852, when burials withinchurches ceased, the incised slab abovethe grave gave the name, date at deathand often occupation of the personburied beneath. The quality of thecarving and presence of heraldicachievements also indicated thedeceased's social standing. The earliestledgerstones were simple carved coffinlids but they later became moreelaborate and in the 18th century wereoften associated with a wall monument.Sometimes they would indicate theentrance to a family vault.After the 1852 Burial Act memorialslabs continued to be placed in thefloors of churches, where the actualgrave would be elsewhere, and in there-ordering of the churches in the 19thcentury many were moved or evenbroken up to provide flooring.Inevitably, over time these stones havebecome eroded or covered by kitchenand toilets. The persons theycommemorate have long gone but theydeserve our respect.The idea of creating a database of theledgerstones came about as an initiativeof the Church Monuments Society,which introduced the project as aMillennium exercise. NADFAS isrepresented on the steering committeeof the Ledgerstone Survey of Englandand Wales (LSEW). In 2008 anapplication for a 'Your Heritage' grant fora pilot study of ledgerstones from 50churches was made in preparation for amajor Lottery Fund grant.In 2009 it was suggested that we(King's Lynn Church Recorders) shouldcarry out a pre-pilot survey of the formto be used. For the initial application thesurvey was to be carried out onchurches under the care of theAbove: A late-17th-centuryinscriptionidentified by a'wobbly w'Right: Flour isused to infillletteringAlison Wakes-Miller, leader of King's Lynn ChurchRecorders, describes anexciting new initiative aimedat unearthing and archivingwhat are sometimes referredto as the 'trampledtreasures' of our churchesNo stone unturned

CHURCH RECORDERSNADFASARTS EDUCATION AND HERITAGECONSERVATIONChurches Conservation Trust (CCT) andwe chose the church of St Mary theVirgin, at Wigginhall in Norfolk.The aim was to test a Recording form,using the 1-10 format we use inNADFAS Church Recording; this wouldmake it easy to transfer information fromour Records to the survey.The church of St Mary the Virginstands in a tranquil setting in openfields. The building dates from about1400, a fine example of thePerpendicular style, with carvedbenches, a Jacobean carved font andpulpit and 31 ledgerstones. Eight of usmade three trips to the church. Asleader I made two extra trips to drawthe plan and number the stones.The completed survey of each churchconsists of a cover page, with details ofthe church, and the Recorders; a plan ofthe church, with the position of eachledgerstone inserted and numbered; anindex, with the number of the stone andthe names recorded; an individualrecord sheet for each ledgerstone and aphotograph of each stone. It is alsouseful to include an external viewof the church and internal views(east to west and west to east).When complete these are sent tothe LSEW on a disc and will beavailable on the website, with apaper copy available in the church.In our survey at Wigginhall we identified 10 members of the Berners family, eight members of the Harwicke family and John Cary (three times Mayor of King's Lynn). Also a rare 'heart' brass of Sir Robert Kerville who died abroad and requested his heart should be buried in his home church. Two further stones had matrices that once held the brasses of two figures and a shield. We noted at least two similar carved late-17th-century inscriptions (identified by a'wobbly' [archaic]'w') and found a mensa (altar table with inscribed cross). Eight ledgerstones had heraldic achievements. All Saints Church in South Lynn,which the King's Lynn Group isrecording, has 96 memorials, of which alarge number are ledgerstones or partsof stones that have been used forflooring. St Nicholas's Chapel in King'sLynn has 247 ledgerstones, amongthem a memorial to one RobinsonCrusoe! (Daniel Defoe visited King's Lynnwhile researching his Tour through theWhole Island of Great Britain.) NADFAS REVIEW SUPPLEMENT/ SUMMER 201017The aim is to survey at least 50churches under the care of the CCT.NADFAS has undertaken to carry outthese surveys, though in the future it ishoped that groups of volunteers may beable to do them. Also, it will be possibleto transfer the information from oldNADFAS Records onto the survey.Having carried out one Record, thepilot survey has now been launched.The forms to complete are on theLedgerstone Survey website:www.lsew.org.uk under 'Recording'. Eachhas explanatory notes; a RecordersHandbook can also be downloaded.The Church Monuments Societyestimates that there are about 210,000ledgerstones left in England. If we canrecord just some of them it will provideimportant information for futuregenerations of scholars, local and familyhistorians, admirers of lettering andstudents of sepulchral and burial fashions,not to mention church members. Alison Wakes-Miller is CR AreaRepresentative for NorfolkLeft: Using atorch to helpread letteringBelow left: A rare'heart' brassBottom: A surveyat Wigginhallunearthed eightledgerstoneswith heraldicachievements