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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 5 Spring 2008

A stones throw from history

Merchants had them, Gentlemen had them and so did a Woodbridge butcher. Ladies also feature and, sadly so does a baby boy. For those who havent guessed already, these are all people commemorated by the Ledger Stones in St Marys Church.

These stone slabs were set in the floor of churches, inscribed, and covered the tombs of people who were considered important enough to be buried in the vaults below. The Town Butcher is John Wanwright Jr. His ledger stone, at the back of the church near the entrance to the tower, bears the Butchers Arms (pictured below), together with the inscription, Here Lyeth the Body of Iohn Wanwright Iunr Late of This Town Butcher Who died Iune the 26th 1724 Aged 50 Years.

butchers arms

The memorials carry inscriptions detailing name(s), age(s), date of death and sometimes status in society. They have often been moved from their original sites and used as paving stones in the churchs nave and aisles. Consequently the inscriptions on them are gradually being worn away by traffic! Those in St Marys Church would originally have been located where the pews currently stand, but are now to be found along the nave, from the altar to the west door, and from the north door to the south door. They were presumably moved to make way for the pews.

There are about thirty ledger stones in St Marys, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Many have already become almost, or completely, illegible. Others are incomplete, having been cut up to fit in with others when re-laid. (They are not to be confused with the memorials on the church walls, which are from a later period). The dates of the stones range from 1616 to 1833 and the ages of those commemorated range from a young baby boy who died around 1640 to a gentleman aged 88 who died in 1784. This same gentlemans wife, who died in 1791, lived to the age of 82 and appears to be the oldest lady whose death is recorded on the stones.

Something of a curiosity is the ledger stone of one John Graygoose (Gent). This stone also records the death of Mrs Abigail Parker (widow), but it does not state what relationship, if any, Mrs Parker was to John Graygoose. Perhaps the most poignant ledger stone is the memorial to a lovely babe, Henry Grome, who died in the 1640s. The exact year is not known, as the last digit of the date has become illegible. His stone is now located on the north side of the nave near the low altar.