…. and in the Churchyard

The tomb of Thomas Thurlow our local builder and talented stonemason who produced memorials for St John’s and other local churches in the Victorian era is to be found alongside the driveway leading to the church.

The parking area by the church hall was expanded in 2009 to create space for disabled and infirm visitors. 4 tombs were reinforced and the slabs buried while other gravestones relocated to the N side of the church. A list of these can be found in the graveyard register located inside the church.  This work was the inspiration of Ron Howarth who was Churchwarden, and who also led a fundraising team while battling against the reactionary forces then embedded in the District Council.

The final gem in the crown that is St John’s can be found in the churchyard on the tombstone of John Noller (1725), which can be found south west of the church steps and in eight yards.  The east and west faces of the tombstone are small, inclined oblong recesses which form a simple and imaginative sundial. Every sundial needs a pointer or gnomon projecting in front of the dial to cast a shadow on to a marked scale. Any such projection low down on a tombstone would certainly, sooner or later, be damaged. To prevent this happening, the designer of John Noller’s headstone hit upon the ingenious idea of making the edge of the headstone’s surface the gnomon and obtained the relative projection by recessing the dial. As the stone faces east and west, he carved a morning dial on one side (east face) and an evening one on the other (west face). If you look in the recesses on both faces you will see the hour markings 1,2,3,4,5 on the west recess and 7,8,9,10,11 on the east recess. 12o’clock is not marked because at the moment of noon each dial is completely in shadow.

You will also notice that the dials are not upright on the stone but at a slant. The upper edge which acts as the gnomon is so slanted as to point exactly to the north star, or in other words, be parallel with the earth’s axis.

And why was it done? Well, we are not sure, but just as some clocks are marked with the inscription “Tempus fugit” or time flies, so this gravestone with its sundial marking the passing of time also reminds us, the living, that our time soon passes. Or perhaps it was picking up on another thought about time from the Bible:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)Thank you for visiting our church. May God grant you a safe journey home and may he bless you with his presence as you journey through life.

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