Ghosts in the Old Church.
A Youtube Video.
And the History of lost information about the Tombstone Inscriptions.
Old All Saints Church at Skelton is heavy with the presence of the past and the voices of the dead.
Chris Holmes, who has contributed the material for the last 3 pages tells me that his mother -
"was convinced she had seen a ghost inside the church, sometime in the 1980's I believe.
She said that she looked through one of the windows and saw staring out at her a face with a bonnet, an elderly lady I believe.
Now, I used to joke with my mother about this, but whatever explanations I came up with for her experience she would counter most vehemently. She was adamant that what she saw was real and '18th century'."
The Church has stood empty since the new one in the High Street was opened in 1884.
But prior to that local people had performed the rituals of life and death here since the earliest days of Christianity in Britain;
maybe even prior to that.
Experts tell us that the pear-shape of the Churchyard is a sure indication of this and a piece of the sun dial from the first stone Church survives.
This Anglo-Saxon Church was replaced in 1325 and part of this was incorporated in the next re-building of 1785.
Encapsulated in this small plot are hundreds of years of the upheavals that are England's religious History, the pomp and decline of the residents of the nearby Castle, the toils and frequent privations of the ordinary folk,
countless happy baptisms and marriages, innumerable funerals, often of little ones, who never made it through infancy.
It is an unimaginative soul who can come here and not share some of the feelings that inspired Sir Thomas Grey to compose his memorable Elegy in his own village Churchyard.
My great-great-great grandparents and some of their children are buried here. From the US, thanks for posting this.
An article and photograph in the "Cleveland Gazette" for 30th April 1970 shows that the old tombstones have always intrigued locals.
Even though these eroded stones commemorate only comparatively recent times in view of the long history of ancient burials and an extremely small percentage of the bodies that lie here.
From the mid 1600s to later 1800s the few local families who could afford or wanted an epitaph.
HISTORY AT THEIR FINGERTIPS.
"History is being uncovered in the old churchyard at Skelton, thanks to the painstaking work of a retired couple, Mr Jack Barker and his wife Mary [nee Morgan], of 17 South Terrace, Skelton.
With the help of Mr W J Bulmer, pictured with them here, agent to the Skelton and Gilling Estates, they are compiling a record of every headstone and vault in the churchyard."
"We have now done almost 300, with many more still to do and they are all going to be checked with the Parish Registers.
The couple both belong to very old local families and Mr Bulmer had one reward for his work, the discovery that he was a direct descendant of Joseph Bulmer, who died in June 1769.
A survey was done in 1886 by Mr Hamilton and what I have done is to re-plot the stones, check the list and add on the few stones erected since then, Mr Bulmer said.
The oldest one found so far is that of John Slater, who died in September 1632.
John Hatton, who was buried in 1765 had a skull and cross bones on his headstone.
We must work by the morning light in order to see the headstones on the west side of the churchyard.
There are strange inscriptions. One memorial to two sons of the Fishwick family says that John, captain of a West Indian ship "was supposed to be a castaway"
A Cleveland mariner, Captain Roger Shepherd, has an epitaph on his heastone, reproduced in the photograph above, befitting an old salt."
It seems that the work done by Jack and Mary Barker was not preserved.
Mary Barker left her house to Mr Lennie Douglass, a Conservative Councillor in the 1970s/80s and very little to the families of her cousins. What happened to her other possessions is not presently known.
Dorothy "Dot" Harris, who transcribed the later Skelton Parish Registers [see page 57] takes up the story:-
"Way back in 1984, after completing the Memorial inscriptions for Hinderwell, I was doing some private research for the Andrews family and discovered the Archives did not have a record of the Memorial Inscriptions ever having been
done for the Old Churchyard at Skelton.
I volunteered to do them and they organised for me to be able to do this.
I decided to start by the Church and work backwards and forwards working away from the church and drew a plan accordingly. [See this below].
I then spent many days with notebook and pencil in hand (clearing the undergrowth as best I could) and recording the inscriptions.
With about half of the headstones recorded, the then Skelton Estate manager, a Mr J W Bulmer, arrived to see what I was doing.
He then produced:-
1. A copy of an index to the graves [names only] made by Major Edward B Hamilton dated 1st October 1886.[example of this index below].
[Major Hamilton figures frequently in the pages of this website. He lived at Rigwood and was the Agent for the Castle Estate, an Officer in the local Volunteers and Territorial Force, the local recruitment Officer in the First
World War and regular member of local Boards and later Council. He is commemorated in a window in the Skelton High Street Church.]
2. A list made 1st April 1970 with a plan drafted, as far as I remember, by Mr J W Bulmer.[See this plan below].
As an index to Names only had been done and not the memorial Inscriptions I continued for several more weeks working in the Churchyard copying up the inscriptions then typing them up.
As I had already linked about half the inscriptions to positions on my diagram/plan I continued with my plan and then indexed the inscriptions accordingly.
All the Memorial Inscriptions deposited in the Teesside Archives/Library were painstakingly copied by myself over many weeks around 1984/1985.
I also typed up all my orginal notes and indexed them.
Some headstones were missed because there was too much undergrowth and I was unable to physically clear it.
Dot had never heard of the work done by the Barkers, but as she says it would have been useful to compare anything that they had recorded 14 years before her own work in 1984 as erosion and vandalism take their toll.
A recent PDF of the Tombstone inscriptions, copied from Dot's work, with an up-dated 2014 plan of the Churchyard can be seen on the Skelton History Group website:- at this link.
EXAMPLE OF EDWARD HAMILTON'S INDEX OF 1886.
INDEX OF NAMES 1970 FOR BULMER CHURCHYARD PLAN BELOW.
EXAMPLE OF DOROTHY HARRIS' RECORD OF INSCRIPTIONS.