St. Mary’s Churchyard and Richer Road Churchyard Extension Headstone and Tomb Research – 2022

No written grave records exist for the burials in either the Churchyard surrounding St. Mary’s Church or oldest part of The Churchyard Extension, dating from 1875, in Richer Road. Although lists of burials exist dating back to Elizabethan times, exactly where many of these people were buried has long been lost.   We assume that between about 3,000 – 3,500 villagers have been buried in the Churchyard since a church was built on this site but there are no records of where most of these people were buried.  The only evidence we have are the standing headstones.

On the formation of The Church of England in 1534 by Henry VIII, parishes were obliged to record burials.  However, this obligation was not always adhered to so, when Queen Elizabeth I became Queen of England, she decreed in 1597 that all burial records must be kept in bound parish registers.  Between 1559 to today, we know that there have been over 2,450 burials either in the Churchyard or the Richer Rd extension.  The latter part of the Richer Rd Churchyard Extension, which was opened in 1915 and is used today, is well documented.  However, the records for the lower part of the Richer Rd Churchyard Extension, adjacent to the road, which was opened in 1875 have been lost.

Research was carried out in the spring and summer of 2022 to try to ascertain who was buried in these graveyards and, more importantly, where their bodies lie using the only tangible evidence available, the headstones and tombs. Many families would have been too poor to have a headstone erected for their loved ones so, unfortunately, their whereabouts can never be established.   However, there are 79 standing headstones and tombs in St. Mary’s churchyard and 39 in Richer Road.   That is, of course, only a tiny percentage of all the burials but, there is no other way of establishing the precise location of the deceased other than these headstones and memorials.

The oldest headstone still standing in St. Mary’s Churchyard dates from 1660, some 360 years ago, the year when Charles II ascended to the throne after 11 years of Parliamentary rule. Unfortunately, over time, many of these memorials to the deceased have become severely weathered and cannot be read. It was therefore decided that it was becoming an urgent priority to record what exists now before many more become illegible.

The method to discover the text on the headstones where this was illegible was simple.  Shaving foam was sprayed on to each headstone where the names could not be read and then, using a flat plastic or cardboard scraper so as not to damage the headstone, majority of the foam was removed which left the inscribed names clearly visible.  The shaving foam does not damage the headstone and is washed off by the first rain shower.

Using this method, almost 100% of the standing headstones could be read and the results can be seen in the two schedules for St. Mary’s Churchyard and The Richer Road Churchyard Extension.

Badwell Ash History Society

November 2023

A - Z
St. Mary's Churchyard
Richer Road Churchyard


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