Church of England Diocese of Exeter West Alvington

Churchyard - fascinating headstone

Churchyard: At the east end of the graveyard is a headstone with the following unusual inscription:

"Here lyeth the Body of David Jeffery the son of Michael Jeffery and Joan his wife. He was buried ye 2 day of Sept 1746 in the 18th yeere of his age. This youth when in sickness lay did for the minister send that he would come and with him pray but he would not attend. But when this young man buried was the minister did him admit. He should be carried into church that he might money geet. By this you see what man will dwo to geet money if he can. Who did refuse to come and pray by the foresaid yourng man"

This verse alludes to the custom of paying a fee to the minister when a corpse was carried into the church. In fact the youth died of virulent smallpox so suddenly that there was no time to give notice of his illness. In spite of the scandalous lie, the minister did not allow the epitaph to be removed as he did not wish to destroy such a specimen of village poetry. The headstone is one of a row of six which have been placed under a preservation order because of their inscriptions.