Betley Monumental Inscriptions
Philip Coops was a founder member both of the Betley Local History Society and the South Cheshire Family History Society who worked along with Mike Grose (see below), his main collaborator in the Memorial Inscription project. The aims of these two individuals along with other members of the societies was to compile lists and indexes of all the Memorial Inscriptions in and around the area of South Cheshire and North Staffordshire. Betley Monumental Inscriptions were published in 1998. Members of the transcription team are often asked why they take all the time and trouble to record these Monumental Inscriptions. The answer is very simple, if you look upon a gravestone as a single page in the historical record of events, this is all there may be to record someone's life and death. Before 1st July 1837, when Civil Registration came into effect, that is the issue of Birth, Marriage, and Death certificates, the only record of any one of these events was the parish registers. The Mandate issued by Thomas Cromwell in 1538 stated that every Parish was to purchase a "sure coffer" or parish chest, one key to be held by the minister the other by the church warden, in this chest was to be kept a book into which the minister was to record every christening, marriage and burial at which he officiated, these entries were to be completed after the service on Sunday, the Church warden to witness the same, therefore a complete record of all events would exist. In fact many registers were not filled in on the Sunday, the person responsible for filling in the register just forgot to do it, therefore we have ended up with the dilemma of incomplete registers, so in some graveyards there are memorials on graves to some one who has died, but there is no entry in the parish register to show that the person was ever buried at that Church, so the only record is the Memorial Inscription. Although every care has been taken in the transcribing of the memorial, and the typing up of the same, some errors may occur. We have tried to record the inscription fully and exactly as it appears on the Memorials, care has been taken not to abbreviate anything, likewise not to expand abbreviations that are inscribed, nor to correct any apparent mistake or misspellings, anything that is unclear in the inscription appears here in square brackets [ ]. If there are any mistakes I apologise. We have recorded all the inscriptions fully, and not done as some of the Victorian recorders did, that is to record the Lord and Lady of the manor or the gentry only, and then say that there were other memorials in the churchyard, but none were worthy of note. Although some of the stones are eroded or worn, and some the front faces broken away completely, leaving only traces of what was once there, the recorders have taken as much care as possible in compiling this information.
Also recorded in this publication are the stones and bricks around the Methodist Chapel that commemorate an event. The layout of the record of Memorials in the DVD has been made as simple as possible, but perhaps the following information may help the reader.
1/ Each grave has been given a unique number to identify it to the reader as no burial plan exists for the old graveyard. these numbers apply only to this publication and should not be used with any other book, plan or drawing.
2/ The inscription is recorded as it appears on the gravestone this includes any mistakes that the stone contains, (some of the stones are now practically unreadable but if any errors are found we will try to correct these for future editions).
It must be accepted however that in order to present these inscriptions here in a standard format, upper and lower case lettering may not always conform to the actual inscription, equally punctuation may not always appear as in the inscription and the following applies to all the inscriptions.
Names of persons appear in UPPER CASE and BOLD.
Place names appear in UPPER CASE.
On these minor points we beg your indulgence
3/ In transcribing of the inscription we use the following symbol / this is to show the end of a line of writing on the gravestone, and is shown so as to give the correct lining on the stone, the square bracket [ ] shows where something is unclear or cannot be read, these are standard symbol used by family history societies, as an example the following transcription which in this book reads:-
In Memory of / URSULA JENNINGS who / departed this life the / 6th day of September 1760 / [ aged 83]
where the actual Inscription on the Gravestone would look like:-
In Memory of
Ursula JENNINGS who
departed this life the
6th day of September 1760
BETLEY is a parish in the North Western part of Staffordshire and is on the border of Cheshire, and is only a few miles from the Shropshire border, it is in the diocese of Lichfield, archdeaconry of Stoke on Trent and the rural deanery Newcastle-under-Lyme.
The village consists of one wide road and contains three small cul-de-sac housing estates. Also there are neighbouring hamlets adjoining the village of Betley and these have a history in their own right, these are Ravenshall, Bowsey Wood, and the village of Wrinehill. The latter of the three being a scattered village about 1.5 miles south of Betley and is partly in the parish of Betley, and partly in the parish of Wybunbury. The fact that Wrinehill is in two parishes makes for added interest when researching it's history.
The Church of St Margaret is a building of stone in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, north and south porches, a western tower containing a clock and six bells: The chancel was rebuilt in 1610 and the tower in 1713, but the nave and aisles are ancient and are separated by four plain pointed arches of wood on each side, resting on pillars formed out of single trunks of trees, no stone whatever being used in the interior of the nave.
On the walls of the nave and chancel are numerous monuments and plaques and charity boards, all of which are recorded in this volume. The last recorded burial in the crypt of the church was in the early 1800's, although a number of drawings and early photographs exist of the church going back to the first half of the 1800's none of these show clearly the crypt entrance, so the exact date that it was sealed is unsure. The drawings and photographs have been studied in detail from the point from which they were taken, and we are certain that all the grave stones that they show, have been found and recorded, this is not to say that every stone that was ever in the churchyard has been found, although every attempt has been made to find, and record, all of them that is possible, some of the stones have eroded away and some we fear have totally disappeared for other reasons.
A number of the Memorials have over the years fallen down, and are now several inches under the ground, these have been uncovered and recorded, they then were recovered, no attempt has been made to re-stand these memorials, as this in most cases would have been too dangerous as the bases where unsafe, also the memorial stones under the carpets inside the church have been recorded, one of these is very badly worn but most of the inscription was readable. The first entry in the Parish Registers is on November 24th 1538 the Baptism of ELIZABETH the Daughter of RICHARD WALWYN. It was on December 7th 1538 that the first burial entry was given, this was for MARGARET the daughter of JOHN CORDEN.
We hope that this volume will help fellow family historians with their research, and also prove of interest to people who have no interest in their family history, but who go to, or have, a love of Betley Church and the Churchyard.
Mike Grose has long been involved in the recording of Monumental Inscriptions in many churchyards around North Staffs & South Cheshire, as well as transcribing Mike is the main map or plan creator. His skill and talent in this field is second to none, he spends hundreds of hours making the graveyard plan as accurate and as near perfect that is possible. This, as many of you will know, is extremely difficult to achieve in those unused and uncared for churchyards that have to be recorded.
Some years ago Mike wrote this short poem, which I feel needs to be seen and appreciated by more of the people who have also carried out the tiring work of recording these churchyards and church monuments. I think that they may understand the sentiments within the text.
"One Lifetime Isn't Enough" - A Poem by Mike Grose
"Go Home", says the old man, who talks to his wife - though they've been parted these past thirty years, "the daylight is beginning to fade."
Just one more grave, sighs the man,
And then I'll go,
Just one more grave,
Just to finish this row,
One lifetime isn't enough.
"Come back next week" calls the youth with a laugh, "the weeds and the grass'll be lower, I'm back here again on Monday afternoon - along wiv a dirty great mower! - and the daylight’s beginning to fade."
Just one more grave, smiles the man,
And then I'll be off,
For there's washing and ironing,
And something to scoff,
And one lifetime isn't enough.
"Hello", says the child, handing him a daisy-chain, "what are you doing?" "Writing the names, in case we forget" he explains. "That's my Granny" she says, all big-eyed and solemn and proud. 'GRANNY' he writes slowly and turns the paper towards her. She frowns and her tongue wriggles around as she forms the letters in her head. She nods slowly, satisfied. "Come on, Chicken" calls her Mum who's been tidying the flowers on a newly-dug grave, disturbed by the over-night rain, "time to go home". "Bye" waves the child as they walk, hand in hand, to the gate. She turns to give one last wave, her hair like a halo in the dying sun, - and the daylights beginning to fade.
Just one more grave, sighs the man, Just to finish this line,
Just one more grave,
And then it's time,
And one lifetime isn't enough.
"Go home", says the old dear, "It's starting to get cold", she adds, more to herself. She seems bewildered and lost, and can't understand why the rock in her life has left her alone. She walks sadly out of the yard and the daylights beginning to fade.
Just one more grave, says the man,
And then I'll be done,
For I've so much to do,
I'd best be off home,
And one lifetime isn't enough.
"Come Home" said the Lord, "for your time's fast running out and your daylight is beginning to fade."
Just one more grave, says the man (calling his bluff), carrying on, just the same,
Turns to start a new page,
And when he writes his own name,
Cries "Lord, one lifetime ISN'T enough".