Monday, July 30, 2012
The Littledean cherubs
The other day I stopped off at Littledean churchyard on the way back from somewhere else. My reason for stopping was quite simply that I was stuck behind a double-decker bus trundling along at 20 miles an hour and it was driving me bonkers, and as the church looked old and curious I thought it was worth pausing there rather than grinding my gearbox any further.
Littledean is an interesting place on many levels. It's an ancient crossing-over point where many old tracks meet. It sits on the cusp of the Forest of Dean but it overlooks the lush valley where the River Severn does a lurching loop in the shape (so some say) of a Celtic torc. Among its many curiosities are an 18th century prison housing, amongst other things, the world's largest collection of Quadrophenia memorabilia, and which was also the site of Gloucestershire's last witchcraft trial (as recently as 1906). The beautiful old house Littledean Hall traces its roots into Saxon and Celtic times and has enough hauntings to bliss out the most demanding paranormal investigator, and, of particular interest to my Sulis Manoeuvrings, it has in its grounds the remains of a Romano-Celtic temple sited over a spring and thought to have been dedicated to Sabrina, the goddess of the River Severn. So a return visit is in order, but in the mean time I want to focus on Littledean churchyard and its chubby-cheeked cherubs.
Littledean church is a funny looking thing, so you can see why it appealed to me. It originally had a spire but it fell down in a gale in 1894 and has been replaced by a little squat wooden structure on top of the tower. The church is essentially 14th century (parts of it are older) but has had a few alterations, and is dedicated to the Saxon saint St Ethelbert (that would most likely be the canonised King Æthelberht II of East Anglia, who was around in the 8th century AD).
As a lifelong lover of old gravestones, however, it was the abundance of quirky cherub-topped monuments which caught my attention here. The best ones mostly date from the 18th century and some may be the work of one local stonemason or a small group of different masons with similar tastes. They belong to a distinctive style of Forest of Dean headstone but I can only really let them speak for themselves.
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How beautiful! Loved the photos :-)ReplyDelete
Fascinating stuff! What treasures there are in Gloucestershire if you only have the eyes to see them.ReplyDelete
Faces on that first stone startlingly like the British men's gymnastic team that took silver the other day in the Olympics. Third from the left is the redhead!ReplyDelete
Great shots. Graveyards would be even more interesting than they already are if they all had such a fantastic stock of stones! With all those fantastic tombstones is it any wonder that Littledean has such a fine ghost story tradition. You mentioned Littledean Hall - it is indeed quite a strange place to say the least. Haven't managed to catch a glimpse of the mysterious "Lady in Yellow" ghost yet though!ReplyDelete
Thanks Rebsie for taking your time photographing these beautiful relics. I was looking at your article on supporting tall peas and saw this link. I'm glad I stop to enjoy and read it. I'm appreciating family history and loved to see these reminders of people long ago.ReplyDelete