Gravestone to Henry Flint (died 4 July 1784, aged 65) and his wife, Zilphar (died 11 November 1771, aged 40).

Gravestone to Henry Flint (died 4 July 1784, aged 65) and his wife, Zilphar (died 11 November 1771, aged 40).


As to their character, it will of course occasion no surprise to mention that the vast bulk take the conventional form of headstones, relieved by a sprinkling of about 30 tombs. The most striking deviation from the Nottingham grounds is represented by the extreme sparsity of recumbent stones, of which I found no more than four, and part of a fifth, exclusive of a modern stone with a pitched surface, and three recumbent stones that appear to have been ejected from the interior of the church. These latter lie near each other in the immediate vicinity of the disused porch, on the grass between the church and the pathway. One of them, east of the porch, commemorating "Gilbert Millington of Felley, Esq.," who died in 1703, certainly cannot have been subjected to the action of the elements for anything approaching the length of time implied.

A large grey stone, about 8ft. by 3½ft., lies immediately in front of the disused porch. Bearing no present inscription, it carries the matrix of a small shield (6in. by 5½in.) in each of the upper angles, and across the centre the matrix of a strip of brass 4½ inches wide. There is also a less preserved matrix of a shield in one of the lower corners, while a remaining rivet in the opposite corner attests that once there was something there also. As the inscribed brass band and defaced shield now preserved in one of the chancel windows are of corresponding dimensions, they no doubt once belonged to this stone.

A few yards eastward is the third recumbent stone, bearing traces of cement on its surface, and retaining no legible inscription. I was told that until the south porch was disused, in 1896, a path thereto embraced the site of this stone, to which circumstance its effacement is probably due. All that can now be read is the formal opening line of the inscription, and a few letters of no material signification at the beginnings of several lower lines.

Two or three of the tombs are brick-built, and the remainder wholly of stone—one being hewn out of a single massive block, except the top slab. Only three are railed about. Another noteworthy feature is represented by the utilisation here of small inscribed plates of brass, let into the tops of eight tombs and one recumbent stone, the brass being missing from a ninth, tomb. One of the tombs has no less than four such plates, another has two, and a third had a second brass now missing. In a fourth case

I found an existing brass to be entirely detached. Whether surviving or misting, I took measurements in every case. Sometimes these brasses supplement incised inscriptions, while in others they form a substitute.

In further reference to types of memorials, it should be remembered that modern ones are by no means confined to the omitted portion of the churchyard, there being in the older part two crosses, five coped, and one low-railed grave. Among the curiosities may be counted two small cast-iron memorials and a small one of earthenware, having painted inscription—none of these of course being particularly old. Of greater interest is the quaint, oval, mirror-like, upright memorial, bearing a moss-grown inscription as old as 1712. The finest modern memorial in the old part of the ground is the granite one of the Gelsthorp family. Another curiosity is an early head stone of the Wood family, that has been broken in two and subsequently repaired with two clamps of iron and a supply of lead.

One other striking variation from the generality of the Nottingham grounds is marked by the utter absence of eighteenth century emblematically sculptured slates, the villagers relinquishing but tardily their exclusive use of the older material. As a matter of fact, though some of the older memorial are noteworthy for the quaintness of their lettering, and the execution of their inscriptions generally, few examples of embellishment occur, that on the tombs being doubtless the best. The Maltby tomb, with its fluted angles, is relatively elaborate. More interesting, however, is the seventeenth century Flint tomb, having somewhat ornate floral sculpture on both sides, forming a frame or border to the lettering. A Shaw tomb bears conventional skulls and cross-bones at one end. A large and realistic skull and bone also occupy the upper part of a Toul stone, the device being in this instance surrounded by foliage, possibly cypress branches, tied at their stems, below. (The latter, by the way, faces west instead of east, as likewise does a Read stone.) The only winged head, I think, is that on a Haslam stone. Though there are numerous Scripture quotations, its neighbour, commemorating the same family, carries the only motto in English, viz., "Life how short. Eternity how long"; though a Toplis tomb has "Fama semper viret.'' Beyond these I think there is only an Oates stone, having a hourglass carved at the head, flanked in the one angle by a heart—the opposite angle being broken away.

A Thompson stone exhibits what appears to be the record of practising on the part of the sculptor's pupil. A modern Shaw stone has its second or lower item inscribed on a "dished" surface, no doubt indicating that a pre-existing inscription was cut away to accommodate it.


In dealing with such a subject as the present, one of the first questions likely to arise is as to the date of the oldest existing memorial. On this point, however, there is some little uncertainty, consequent on the ravages of time. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to find three seventeenth century tombs, all at least roughly contemporary, while the very earliest year figuring on them, so far as can now be deciphered, is 1661. The rivalry for the honours of seniority is confined to these tombs.

The evidence of the lettering seems to suggest that the first to be erected was perhaps a tomb of the Flint family, standing a few paces south of the east end of the nave. (Between it and the church stands another early, but lower tomb, wherefrom the inscription has become entirely effaced, probably as a result, largely, of its convenience as a seat, and through being played on by children.) This Flint tomb as inscribed on top, both sides, and both ends. Here is the best I can now make of what was doubtless the primary inscription, on the top-slab, the uncertain portions being placed in brackets:—

"Here lieth the body of John Flint [of Brinsley who depart] ed this life the thirt-----day of Aprill -------- Dom-----aetat --------- [89]. Here----- th ------ Body of ---- the wif[e of John] Flint [of Brinsley who departed this] life the [17] day of [July] a [nno dom] 166-----aetati-----[5—]."

It will be observed that the year cannot be read in connection with the first item in the foregoing inscription, which precludes the hope of deriving assistance from the Parish Register during any but a lengthy search. With regard to the second item, however, especially in the absence of any competitive entry during the decade concerned, we may safely associate it with this entry in the Burial Register for 13 July, 1668:—"Ann ye wife of John Flint." However, this suggests that the husband was living at the latter date, a circumstance further favoured by the above tentative reading of his age at death. If such were actually the case, it follows that the later date figured first in the inscription (a not uncommon practice), and consequently that the tomb could not have been reared earlier than such unascertained later date. Each of the side inscriptions commemorates a son of John Flint of Brinsley, both of whom died in 1694. The two ends carry later inscriptions to members of the same family, who respectively died in 1767 and ------. A modern brass-plate affixed on the lower end of the top slab (thereby eclipsing some little of the original inscription) commemorates two Flints of Brinsley, who died in 1871 and 1874. Thus the inscriptions on this one memorial cover a period of more than two centuries, and embrace data extending backward some three centuries from the present time—an inconsiderable pedigree in itself.

The Watkinson tomb, situate near to the yew tree, is inscribed on its top-slab only, as follows:—"Here lieth the bodyes of James Watkinson, of Watnaell, who departed this lyfe September the [8] anno dom. 1661, and Martha his daughter departed this lyfe the 8 of Febrvary anno dom. [1676] aetatis suae [26]." Below this was the record of a further interment, whereof little more than the formal commencement can now be deciphered. However, it will be observed that, so far as copied, the inscription is fairly legible—a circumstance emphasised by the Burial Register, which at least confirms the reading of the dates. It is there recorded that James Watkinson was interred on 10 September, 1661, and Martha Watkinson on 10 February, 1676 (I am indebted to the courtesy of the Rev. C. C. Thornton, M.A., the present vicar, for free access to these valuable records). It may be mentioned that a James Watkinson and Elizabeth Twelles were married at Greasley in 1629. It is remarkable that the Watkinson family is located at Watnall on a quite modern memorial. However, it is scarcely necessary to point out that the circumstance of this tomb carrying the earliest legible date (1661) does not entitle it to rank as of corresponding age, for the wording of the inscription proves that it could not have been cut prior to the decease of the second-named party, which makes it precisely contemporary with the third tomb. This commemorates another Watnall family, and suggests that the erection of the one led to the erection of the other. Moreover, they are separated by a distance of only about one yard.

This third tomb, standing actually under the yew tree, belongs to the Swinden family, and is inscribed on top, both sides, and both ends. In this instance, contrary to rule, the inscription on the top-slab is of considerably later date than those on the sides and ends. Probably it was originally reserved for commemorating parents. However, either the slab was never so utilised or, if utilised, the inscription was removed in favour of the existing one. One end of the tomb bears the joint inscription: ''Here lyeth the bodys of 8 [sic] twoo brethren sous to John Swinden, of Watnaell. Young men remember to dye." The two sides of the memorial are respectively inscribed to the two mem referred to, to wit, Thomas Swinden, of ''Watnaell," who died in 1675, "his age about 25 years"; and "Edword" Swinden, who died in 1676, aged 30. The opposite end of the tomb is inscribed with a very quaint verse, apostrophising both the deceased, presumably through the mouth of a parent. It is cut in capitals, and made to fit the space available without regard to the length of the lines, as the following copy will show :—


The top-slab of the same tomb is inscribed to a member of the family, Edward Swinden, of Watnall, who died over a century later, 1781, to which particular are added:—"Joseph Greensmith scripsit Sis fidelis usq ad mortem & dabo tibi coronam vitae"; that is, "Joseph Greensmith wrote it. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give to thee a crown of life." It may safely be presumed that the latter was a relative of the former, and perhaps also his heir. John Swinden and Dorothy Greensmith, no doubt the parents of the young men, were married at Greasley in 1640. Furthermore, an Edward Swindell and Jane Greensmith, both of Watnall, were married at St. Nicholas's, Nottingham, in 1732.


It may be convenient here to refer to one further memorial that, though quite recently erected, nevertheless ranks in a sense with the seventeenth century monuments. While transcribing the inscriptions in 1907, my attention was attracted by what I subsequently described as evidence unexpected, because unusual in a rural district, of regard for forefathers, on a Renshaw memorial, 1876, viz.:—"Also near this place lieth inter'd an ancient ancestery In the hope of a joyful resurection to life eternal." On revisiting the churchyard in 1910, I found a subsequently erected headstone standing beside the foregoing, commemorating a member of the same family who had died as recently as 1909. The point of present interest, however, is that on the back of this new headstone appears an inscription designed "To commemorate the existence of" a chronological list of twelve bygone Renishaws, with dates of birth attached, and commencing in 1685.

An inscription on a somewhat later tomb is worthy of notice. It commemorates Joseph Bratt, "bacheller," son of Frances and Elizabeth Bratt, of Newthorpe, who died 1710, in his 39th year. Below are the following quaint rhymes:—

He lived desired and
Dyed lamentted and wee
Desire to be

In reference to the foregoing, it is noteworthy that a similar remark was made in 1653, on a. memorial formerly in St. Mary's Church, Nottingham, to "William Flamstead, gent., . . . who . . . lived much, desired and died no less lamented the 38th Year of his Age."