John E. Vigar MA, FSA Scot., FRSA

Ledgerstones

LEDGERSTONES are a familiar sight in our churches but are frequently dismissed as boring or less important than other features. However I want to tell you why I feel they are so exciting and what clues they give us.

In these days of church reordering ledgerstones are frequently lost under carpet or find themselves inside toilets and kitchens and it is important that we should record them before they are lost forever.

For several years I was Secretary of the LSEW and we estimated that there are 250,00 surviving examples.
Whilst there are engraved grave markers going back to about 1200, ledgerstones as we recognise them today really start appearing in the early 17th century, when black Marble started to be imported from the continent.

They each cover an individual burial vault and may be likened to the lid of a rectangular biscuit tin.
The vault itself may be up to 12 feet deep, enough for 6 coffins, and brick lined. The ledgerstone sits on top of the brick walls and lies flush with the church floor. More often that not the slab is then engraved with an inscription to the deceased. At a later date if more family burials are to be made into the vault the lid is prised open and relaid, often with a further inscription added on the slab.

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