Sunday, May 01, 2016

Ropsley's slate gravestones

click photo to enlarge
Quite a few types of stone are used in the gravestones of Lincolnshire churchyards. The twentieth century shows the greatest variety. From that period I regularly see limestones, sandstone, granite and other common stones. There is also a myriad of coloured, imported (and native) marble. The nineteenth century has most of these stones too, but in the early years, roughly equating to the late Georgian/Regency period, oolitic limestone is very common. This local stone is also widely found in gravestones of the eighteenth century. However, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the first twenty or thirty years of the nineteenth century, slate became very popular.

This slate that is dark grey, or with a purple tinge, or (most attractively in my view) a greenish hue, was often sourced from quarries in nearby Leicestershire, particularly in the vicinity of Swithland. It is a material that takes detailed, engraved carving very well, and monumental masons and sculptors delighted in embellishing the stone with putti, swags, swirls, cartouches and florid script. It is also a material that is strong in thinner slabs, and consequently was cheaper to transport. As I've observed elsewhere in the blog, the carving on many slate gravestones is as sharp today as it was when it was cut over two hundred years ago.

The other day I was photographing Ropsley church. This building, of Romanesque and medieval date, stands on a rise among a small forest of slate gravestones. As I took my images I reflected on the tidiness of the churchyard; the neatly mown grass, the absence of weeds, the fact that unlike many churchyards the grass was cut up to the base of each grave and weedkiller was nowhere in evidence. Was it the case, I wondered, that the precision and neatness of the slate gravestones encouraged the overall neatness of the graveyard itself?

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Ropsley Church, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm - 35mm equiv.) crop
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On