Six Days, Six Stones – Part 4: Longnor, Staffordshire

This is the fourth of six blog posts written after a recent road trip during which my wife and I visited a number of ancestral burial places. You can read the earlier instalments here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

The Staffordshire Moorland town of Longnor was home to generations of my wife’s ancestors. Even today, it’s a small, relatively isolated community and it wasn’t until the early 18th century that the population of the parish climbed above a few hundred.

Historically, Longnor was part of the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Alstonefield but there was a church – a Chapel of Ease to be exact – at Longnor as early as 1223. As Alstonefield’s parish church lies some distance away, the inhabitants of Longnor would have been grateful not to have to make the seven mile journey there and back for their weekly worship, to get married or to have their children baptised. Most importantly, they were able to bury their loved ones close to their homes in their own community.

St Bartholomew, Longnor, Staffordshire

The earliest surviving parish register dates from 1691 – an earlier register is believed to have been lost – and in 1737, St Bartholomew’s, Longnor became a separate ecclesiastical parish.

Over the centuries, hundreds of my wife’s ancestors must have been buried at St Bartholomew’s. There are a few Hulme gravestones but, as far as we’re aware, no stones survive to mark the last resting places of any of her direct Hulme ancestors. However, large parts of the churchyard are very overgrown (or at least they were when we visited in April 2022) so it’s not impossible that somewhere in the darkest reaches of the burial ground there may be one one or two.

Diving deep into the most overgrown part of the graveyard last week, I found a stone commemorating the family of Isaac and Martha Coates, my wife’s 6x great grandparents. Considering its age and its current position in the middle of what basically amounts to a small forest, the stone is in remarkably good condition. I wasn’t able to take the classic ‘full face’ gravestone photo due to the presence of a fairly substantial tree just a few feet away, but I was still able to get enough shots to enable me to read all the crucial information.

The inscription reads:

In Memory
of Isaac Coates
late of Bank-top
who departed this
life August the
25th 1788 Aged 45
Also Sarah the
Daughter of Isaac
and Martha Coates
who departed this
life August the 8th
1811 Aged 43 Years

Martha the Wife of
Isaac Coates who
departed this life
January the 14th
1817 Aged 75 Years
ALSO Elizh. wife of
Christr. Coates who died
Decr. 7th 1841
Aged 53 Years
ALSO of the above
Christopher Coates
who died August 11th
1850 Aged 71 Years

Gravestone of Isaac & Martha Coates, St Bartholomew, Longnor, Staffordshire

One thing that this exercise has brought to the fore is that gravestone inscriptions are NOT primary sources. We need to be careful about taking the dates and other details on trust. The inscriptions were oten made many years after the event and in this case, the memory of whoever provided Isaac’s details was somewhat lacking: the Longnor parish register clearly records Isaac’s burial on 22 August 1787 making his stated death date of 25 August 1788 questionable to say the least.

Burial of Isaac Cotes, St Bartholomew, Longnor. Staffordshire Record Office ref: D921/1/pt2

Perhaps the graveyard will be properly restored one day but even as it is today, it would be a major (dare I say?) … undertaking! And as each year passes the task will only become more challenging. Perhaps I need to visit in the middle of winter when the undergrowth (not to mention the overgrowth) is at its most penetrable.

Coates family gravestones in the churchyard of St Bartholomew, Longnor, Staffordshire

Meanwhile, I’ve got about 100 photographs to go through to work out which of them relate to my wife’s direct family…

© David Annal, Lifelines Research, 5 May 2022

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3 Responses to Six Days, Six Stones – Part 4: Longnor, Staffordshire

  1. Phyllis Ericson says:

    I know how elated you must feel to have located this tombstone. It is a beauty. I too have many ancestors from Staffordshire.
    I felt the same way when I discovered my Revolutionary War patriot’s stone in an abandoned New York, U.S. cemetery. Fortunately, the stone fell “face-up” and I could read just enough to see he died AE 103 years. That was my ancestor!! My husband and I dug it out and lifted it, and propped it against a nearby tree. My photo, posted on FindaGrave, was shared with many distant cousins. It took a gal from the center of the U.S. (Nebraska) hundreds of miles away, to find it.
    My husband & I always take trimmers and lots of mosquito spray etc and at least clean our ancestor’s areas when we visit these long-forgotten places.
    What a great adventure. Your ancestors are just waiting to be found!.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Six Days, Six Stones – Part 6: Astbury | Lifelines Research

  3. Pingback: Six Days, Six Stones – Part 5: Macclesfield Cemetery | Lifelines Research

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