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Old Graves Uncovered at the Church

Recently permission was granted for the unused choir stalls in the chancel in the church to be removed and sold off, to make more flexible space in the church for worship and other functions. Much of the chancel floor was originally raised by about a foot by the Victorians, using stone rubble and covered with cement and tiles. However, the choir stalls were mounted on floorboards supported on wooden joists and stone pillars standing on the original flagstone floor. It was discovered when these floorboards were removed that some of the original gravestones of people interred in the church vault were revealed. One of these had a very impressive decorative coat of arms engraved in a very substantial slate slab. The inscription on the stone was unfortunately hidden, still buried under the rest of the chancel floor, so some serious detective work had to be done and a short course in heraldry undertaken to determine who the grave belonged to.

Fortunately for us, a man called Ralph Bigland surveyed the church around 1778. Bigland was actually a famous cheese maker from Middlesex but his family were from the north of England. He was also an amateur historian who took an interest in the churches of Gloucestershire after he married his wife Ann, who came from Frocester. He recorded all the inscriptions of the gravestones inside the church and also the tombs in the churchyard of that time (much as we are doing today). From this we were able to establish that the grave was that of the Reverend Lancelot Bromwich and Priscilla his wife. Lancelot was never a vicar in Longhope but his son Yate Bromwich was. Priscilla was the second daughter of Nourse Yate (hence the name of their son). Nourse Yate was a man of wealth in the late 1600s. He was Lord of the Manor and owner of the largest furnace in the area – located behind the church at Court Farm. He had five daughters, but only Priscilla married.

Photographs were taken of this gravestone before it was covered over and the whole chancel re-tiled. It has to be said that the stone was in an immaculate condition, just as when it had been laid in the 1750s, and it is sad that such a wonderful piece of workmanship has once more to be covered over. It raises the question of how and where the very good quality piece of slate came from, as it isn't a local stone. To bring a very heavy and large slab of slate from say North Wales or Cumbria – where the best slate exists – in the mid 1700s by pony and trap say, must have taken some doing!

It is hoped to put a photo permanently on display in the church in the very near future, but here is a sneak preview in the photograph on the left.

The Bromwich 
grave

For more information and photos of this grave and the others that were uncovered, the history, and the restoration of the chancel, please click here.

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