|A range of materials are present|
© Godric Godricson
In general, rural communities in
did not have stone grave monuments before the 17th Century with some rare exceptions. Norfolk
Monuments that did exist would be made from wood and may have taken the form of a cross with a name inscribed simply on the monument. Such a transitory monument would decay naturally over time and would be buried with the next inhumation or burial on the same site. In the use of wood for monuments we have a philosophical acceptance of the transitory nature of life with a rapid return to the soil from which we came. The use of bio degradable materials for monuments witnesses the idea of a burial site in the Cemetery being rented from the Church rather than being purchased in perpetuity like a house or a field. The wooden cross indicate both poverty and also the idea of communal burial where we share in death what we also shared in life. A wooden monument was arguably an acceptance of a communal fate that was shared by all in a non permanent and transient environment. Putting it simply, humanity had little hope of permanence in a world that was poorly understood and where death was an ever present reality.
The individualised monument is a sign and symbol of the growing confidence of humanity who increasingly asserts itself in the landscape. Rather than being mere animals who are born and then disappear with only a simple wooden marker, the monument is part of an increasing claim towards immortality. Humanity is saying that it exists, it has a right to eternity and that a record of our existence is essential. The cemetery becomes a place of grief-pilgrimage, a loci for an increasing ancestor worship and a place for the development of a rather ‘mawkish’ view of death and decomposition.
With the passing of time and the increase in affluence we find that in
, the most common type of stone used for monuments became sandstone. This soft sedimentary stone is often reddish in colour and is often confused with the harder and more expensive Limestone monument although the two are quite different. The emergence of sandstone for monuments can be seen in the 17th Century and the spread of this form of stone is widespread across the geographical region which has little (if any) quality stone quarried locally. East Anglia
|18th Century Putti in King's Lynn|
© Godric Godricson
The sandstone memorial is often in the form of ‘momenti Mori’ or ‘skull and crossbones’ motif before that frightening design gradually gives way to a more ‘Enlightenment’ style that comprised ‘Putti’ or smiling angels who are often portrayed as children. A widespread acceptance of the ‘Enlightenment’ and rationality reflected in monuments is often not captured in the history books and is not captured in sculpture commissioned by the Authorities in the period. Sandstone ‘putti’ smile at us from the monuments in a serene manner very far removed from the skull and crossbones.
The sandstone monument is everywhere in East Anglia. It pops up in the 17th century with a new affluence and a growing confidence on the part of humanity. No-longer does humanity in the region perceive itself as a mere ‘beast of the field’ who merely rents a corner of the Churchyard. Instead, humanity becomes assertive and sure of its place in creation. We see local dynasties emerge in the way that a family would plant monuments in a row or in a prominent place within the cemetery. Whilst the landed family would have their marble tombs and elegant barley sugar columns within the
, a growing bourgeoisie would have the sandstone monument in the cemetery. Under these monument, all in a row or in a block, the increasingly affluent population proclaimed their new wealth and power. It is as if the monuments proclaim “We are here and we have arrived!” parish Church