Aug 182017

Like many places, my one-place studies place has a range of memorials to the departed and it is interesting to see how these have changed over time. So, in a totally non-scientifically researched manner...

Probably the most frequent type of memorial is the gravestone. Sadly the graveyard of the nearby Sion Baptist church was relaid when the old chapel was converted into flats and many stones were moved or covered over. The surviving stones range from simple stones with a name and date to ornate pillars with railings and table-tombs but unfortunately the original relationships of the stones is lost so we cannot tell who was near whom. One which did survive in its original place was that of William Spence of Springhill Farm, farmer, who is buried in the north east corner of the graveyard, approximately 20 yards from his former farmhouse where he lived for much of his adult life.

Some prominent individuals are commemorated within the church itself rather that outside in the cold and rain. John Ashworth, coal merchant and builder of Springhill House, is commemorated in the parish church of St Nicholas by a rather fine marble erected by his ‘surviving daughters’, being predeceased by a son. In the same church Charles Patrick, the husband of one of Ashworth’s ‘surviving daughters’ has erected a memorial to his mother who died in Ontario, Canada, and may well have never visited East Lancashire where she is remembered.

Not everyone was buried in consecrated ground and across the road from Springhill lies the tomb of James Ormerod, Innkeeper amongst a development of warden-controlled bungalows. Ormerod was said to be a local innkeeper and member of the congregation of Sion Baptist which is interesting given the influence of the temperance movement in Sion in the 19th century. There are three other known graves in non-consecrated ground in the local area, these are all baptist ministers in the 17th and 18th century.

Picture courtesy of Chris Lord/RHDA

A 19th century development of memorial was the introduction of ‘In memoriam’ cards which were printed and distributed to friends and relatives after death. They vary from the simple to the ornate to the twee. Charles Patrick’s memoriam card was in the possession of his maternal grandfather's family without their knowing how he fitted into the family tree.

Image courtesy of Charlotte Broadbent

Recent years has seen the rise of alternative forms of memoriam. Memorial benches in beauty spots are becoming commonplace, although there are none in the Springhill area or commemorating Springhill residents to my knowledge. Locally there are a number of charity-run memorial forests and Springhill residents Tony and Eileen Taylor are commemorated by separate trees in one forest a few miles away. Others have erected personal memorials in public places, locally these include examples of stone art in remote, hill top locations.

Picture Julia Barrow, stone art by Sharon Doolin

Picture Alastair Barrie, Stone art by Jan Czugalinski

Not all these memorials are for people and high on the hill above Springhill (and close to the stone art above) lies the grave of Lovely, the quarryman’s dog buried in a remote spot. The inscription reads:

"On the twelvth of May We laid away One that was loved by many, She hunted rats and was kind to cats, and birds she sought out many." Lovely was 18 years old when she passed away in 1873.

Janet Barrie

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