Churchyard memorials can be remarkable sources of social and historical interest and represent a type of interface between a church itself and the surrounding community it serves. They contain a plethora of information not only about the people who are buried there, but also about the society that buried them. These stones offer much more than names and dates which are bread and butter for the genealogist and family historian. Most are simple headstones, but sizes and shapes vary over time: some are formed as elaborate stone chests; some have kerbing, or others horizontal ledgers. Status of the individual can be reflected not only by magnificence of monument, but also by position in the graveyard.
Many exhibit simple names and dates, some indicate professions and trades. There can be biblical quotations, poems, complex designs of drapery, cherubs and scrolls, and different types of calligraphy according to date. Some of the inscriptions and craftsmanship may be executed in relief, others incised, sometimes with painted lettering. Hiding in an obscure position near the base may be the name of the monumental mason involved. All these reflect shifts in culture, vogue and religious trends in our churchyard since the 17th century. Even today the memorials are supplemented by ephemera – jars of flowers or other mementos which reflect the way we remember our dead.
Many of our memorials are made of local Horton ironstone or sandstone but trade, fashion and wealth has also introduced other materials over the years – Portland stone, Italian marble, limestone and granite. These are the subject of a dedicated study elsewhere on this website (A Geology Trail of Tysoe Gravestones) as is the presence of different lichens which have made their home in this unique environment (Guide to Churchyard Lichens).
One of the problems we have is that many of these memorials, especially those fashioned from ironstone and sandstone, have become badly weathered to the extent that the inscriptions will soon become partially or completely eroded. Some are already illegible. In response to this, and to maximise the historical information that the memorials contain, THRG took the decision to make a detailed record of each one – some 750 memorials located around the church, in the church itself and in the secondary graveyard in Sandpits Lane.
Initially, a plan of both graveyards was made using rectified photographs taken from a drone. The plans can be seen on the following link, which also includes the church interior (Memorial Plans). Each grave was then recorded by volunteers using bespoke recording forms which detailed dimensions, geology, condition, inscriptions, decoration and even the contemporary ephemera. Sketches were made of each one, and each was photographed to provide an additional record. Often the inscriptions were so badly eroded that oblique lighting had to be used to pick out the individual letters. The results are tabulated on links which allow the locating of individual names to a specific numbered memorial (Memorial Index); the memorial number can then be used to gain further detail about the person buried and the character of the memorial (Memorials).