Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Not fade away

click photo to enlarge
Shortly after May 10th 1793, John Ladd was laid to rest in Quadring churchyard, Lincolnshire. He was 49 years old, and had died 21 years short of his "three score years and ten". I imagine he would have wished for longer. The gravestone poignantly notes that "Also 4 children lie near him".

Those who chose the memorial for John Ladd followed the fashions of the day. The monumental mason selected a heavy, rectangular slab of Lincolnshire limestone and gave the top a rounded arch. Below it he carved a winged cherub in the form of a classical putto, to represent a soul rising to heaven, and this he flanked with flowers. A raised panel with a curved top and straight sides, echoing the shape of the gravestone, received the simple inscription carved in elegant Roman lettering. It is similar to several nearby, and probably represents the work of someone based in the locality. What purpose did it serve? Like all such stones, it was a memorial and tribute to the man, and a place where family members would come to remember him. But is it anything else? It certainly claimed his place in the churchyard, and on the "best" and sunny south side of the attractive medieval church. More than that, it reminded the world that this man existed. A gravestone is a relatively inexpensive way of claiming some sort of immortality. But for how much longer? The rain, wind and frost of 215 winters have softened the edges of the mason's carving, and lichen has ravaged the stone. In another 100 years it will be difficult to read the inscription, and in twice that the putto and flowers will be indecipherable lumps. And, with their passing, you might imagine that the memory of John Ladd will have completely faded away.

That, however, is to reckon without the power of the internet and the tenacity of family history enthusiasts! A quick Google reveals the following information. Apparently John Ladd was married to Jane Bradcher in Quadring church in 1777, and over a period of 12 years they had 7 children baptised there. Jane died a widow, aged 50. The next earthly apocalypse permitting, it seems that the memory of many of us may outlast our gravestones!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 15mm (30mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On