What are they?
Ledgerstones are the flat stones placed over a grave inside a church, usually incised with the name and dates of the deceased. Over 250,000 survive, mainly in parish churches, and most date from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries. The stones used are often from a local or regional source and the carving of the letters and any decoration is of high quality and a readily visible demonstration of the letter cutter’s art. A family group of ledgerstones may well be their only visible memorial, if their house has disappeared.
Where are they?
In Harston’s church we have a number of ledgerstones on which the legibility of inscriptions varies. They are located in the chancel, the north aisle, the eastern end of the south aisle and possibly forming the steps to the chancel. The locations are shown on the plan above.
These stones are useful as they not only tell us the dates of death and sometimes age but frequently give parents or family relationships. At the eastern end of the north aisle we have three fully legible stones described below:
1. Ann Hurrell
The inscription reads ‘Here lieth the body of Ann the daughter of Allen Hurrill and Margaret his wife who died Decem. ye 24th 1727’
Ann’s brother Gregory is buried in grave 3 below and her parents and brother Allen junior in grave 4
The stone lies west to east and measures 61 cms by 91 cms
2. Anne Wale
The inscription reads ‘Anne ye daughter of Gregory Wale Gent 1702’.
Ann was the sister of Margaret Hurrell nee Wale who is mentioned on several of the ledgerstones
The stone lies east to west and measures 53 cms by 79 cms
3. Gregory Hurrell
The inscription reads ‘Gregory the son of Allen Hurrell and Margaret his wife died March ye 21 1721
Gregory is the brother of Ann in grave 1 and Allen Junior in grave 4
The stone lies east to west and measures 81 cms by 54 cms.
Within the chancel (which is the area of the church which underwent major restoration in the 1850s) is a very large stone which records the deaths of several Hurrell family members. This is not a ledgerstone in the true sense of the word. It is highly unlikely that such a large, heavy stone would be ordered for the earliest burial and be lifted for at least 6 subsequent burials. Also the size, font and colour of the lettering on the stone is remarkably consistent given that there are at least 50 years between the first and last inscription. I conclude that this stone is a later day memorial to the Hurrells rather than a ledgerstone.
This conclusion is supported by two recently discovered documents. Rev William Cole (1714–82), a Cambs academic, historian and cleric visited Harston on 11 April 1743. He recorded the stones of the two Anns in the same location as today but other Hurrell stones which cannot be found today. However the inscriptions he recorded are more or less the same as those on what I am calling a memorial stone above.
The second document is in the archives of Jesus College. A letter from James Rattee dated 28 Sept 1853 refers to moving slabs at Harston church a great many of which ‘came to pieces’ when being moved, some of these pieces were built into the walls to strengthen them. The letter goes on to state that Mr Long the Churchwarden proposed that a slab be placed in the chancel and cut with all the inscriptions which Mr Rattee had copied. This could explain why the inscriptions are not exactly as Rev Cole had recorded.
This stone is described below:
4. Allen x 4, Anne and Margaret Hurrell
This stone has been damaged – the top line is missing and part of the lower section completely removed and infilled. Consequently not all of the inscription is visible. Fortunately the inscription has been recorded and would read :
‘Anne the wife of Allen Senr Gent who was buried Jan 28 1712 Aged 56 years.
Allen Hurrell Senr Gent who was buried November 10 1740 Aged 80 years.
Allen Hurrell Gent son of Allen Hurrell Gent and Anne his wife who died March 21 1745 Aged 56 years
Allen Hurrell Jun son of Allen Hurrell Gent and Margaret his wife who died July 19th 1746 Aged 18 years.
Margaret wife of Allen Hurrell and daughter of Gregory Wale Esqre who died 20 May 1762
Allen Hurrell Esqre who died Sept 17 176- Aged 41 years
The stone lies west to east and measures 169 cms by 95 cms
There are three other ledgerstones which have little or no lettering. These are described below:
The only legible inscription reads ‘the body’
The stone lies east to west at the entrance to the vestry and measures 105 cms by 48 cms
Only two chisel markings are visible on this stone but a report produced in the early 20th century ststed that’ on a large slab half covered by benches is an inscription similar to that on a tablet ot the wall to Hitch’ At the time, the seating in the church faced west and benches would have stood on this stone,
The stone lies south to north at the eastern end of the south aisle and measures 180 cms by 97 cms
A ledgerstone was uncovered in 2021 when a new floor was being laid in the church and it has now been recovered. Only a few letters were visible and, so far, it has proved impossible to determine whose gave this was.
The stone is in the north aisle and lies east to west