What are they?
Ledgerstones are the flat stones placed over a grave inside a church, usually incised with the name and dates of the deceased. They are often decorated with heraldry and many include interesting inscriptions about the person, their family and their life in the local community. Over 250,000 survive, mainly in parish churches, and most date from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries. The stones used are often from a local or regional source and the carving of the letters and any decoration is of high quality and a readily visible demonstration of the letter cutter’s art. A family group of ledgerstones may well be their only visible memorial, if their house has disappeared.
Why record them?
Being part of a floor, these stones are vulnerable to wear, not just from foot traffic but also by having furniture placed on them, as well as damage from subsidence and breaks. More recently, they have been obscured by permanent alterations, like the installation of lavatories or meeting rooms, by raised floors for level access and by being covered by carpets or more permanent new materials. Such changes enable the greater use of historic churches and so sustain their value to the community, but at the expense of obscuring (if not damaging) these interesting artefacts.
It is therefore vital to get the important cultural and genealogical information on ledgerstones recorded before it is lost. Their beauty and craftsmanship also need to be seen and appreciated, as these stones are as much part of the local heritage as the better known wall monuments to which they often relate. By collecting all the examples of a neighbourhood, it should be possible to learn more about the trade and personalities of these craftsmen.