From the Thorley Archives

The Pennington Files - Part Five

A Unique Discovery?

Whilst trying to locate drain covers in the churchyard, Churchwarden John Clark and Colin Sampford recently made an unusual discovery near our monkey puzzle tree. Turning over a medium size slab of flat stone they discovered an ancient gravestone.

On the reverse side of this weathered stone are two very sharp inscriptions. At the top it reads 'Mary Sarah, Daughter of the Rev'd Thos. and Mary Sarah Pennington, Died Feby 20 1802.' A bottom inscription reads 'Mary Sarah Pennington died Feby. 20 1802'. The limestone gravestone measures 15" by 24" and is shaped at both ends.

Parish records indicate that Mary Sarah Pennington died at birth. Her death is also recorded on a memorial on the inside south wall of the church. She was the third daughter of Revd. Thomas Pennington, Rector of St. James the Great, Thorley, 1798 - 1852, and Mary Sarah Pennington who died in Amiens, France in 1847.

The weathered side
The inscribed side

There are several unusual features about this gravestone. The stone was found orientated north - south instead of the conventional east - west. This is obviously not the original direction as Rev'd Thomas Pennington would have made certain of the correct placement. The double inscription is written to be read 'upright' from either end. This presumably means that the gravestone was always intended to be placed flat as opposed to the usual upright position? Does the fact that the inscriptions are so crisp and well preserved indicate that the stone was placed face down on purpose in 1802? Flat gravestones are not unusual. We have several in this north east area of the churchyard detailing the interments of past Rectors of St James the Great and their families. Eight members of the Horsley and five members of the Procter families are commemorated in this corner of the churchyard.

John Pearson, the authority on monumental inscriptions for the Herts Family History Society, has been consulted but is he unable to shed any further light upon this unusual find.

Bill Hardy
October 2008

The Pennington Files, Part Six

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