Every grave has a story to tell of the person buried there, and so what better way to appreciate the history of a town than to check out its graveyard?
Holy Ascension Church in Settle in the Yorkshire Dales was consecrated in 1838. Since then the baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in its annals have marked the passing of time. 180 years later in May 2018, Settle District U3A Family Historians decided it would be a good idea to record the inscriptions on all the gravestones to preserve them for future generations, starting with the oldest ones in the “Ancient Graveyard”.
But who were these people buried in these graves? What did they do? How did they make Settle what it is today? As far back as records go, Settle has been a small, isolated market town, and often a bit behind the times. So was it always a quiet little backwater?
Well no, not at all. There has been tragedy and scandal: bankrupts, bigamy and embezzlement, shootings, suicides and men running off with women a third of their age. There have been plenty of celebrities as well: England’s first female architect, orphans who became bank managers, an uncle of Lillie Langtry, and women appointed to serve Queen Victoria. The graveyard has millionaires and entrepreneurs, artists, wigmakers and eccentrics.... suffragettes, choristers, war heroes, an escapee from Versailles in the French Revolution... women who produced 14 children, travellers on the Lusitania and labourer on the railways. As you would expect, the exhibitions about these lives at the church and the local Museum have created plenty of local interest.
The research has been a full time job, helped by the descendants of those buried there and the local residents. This is genuine example of team work. The members of the U3A Family History group have been busy recording inscriptions, taking photographs of gravestones, typing up inscriptions and cross referencing with the previously incomplete burial records. As researcher Sarah Lister observed, “The project would never have happened without the U3A and the local community. With their generous help and support this project is really shaping-up to give a wonderful insight into life in Settle in the 19th Century”.
Whilst the research work continues, looking at more recent sections of the graveyard and those without gravestones, the fascinating histories of the people buried in the ancient graveyard have been published.
The Book 'Curious Tales from the Ancient Graveyard - celebrating the lives of Settle's ancestors'
This book has been funded and published by Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects in the Ingleborough area. The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Proceeds of the book will go to the North Craven Buildings Preservation Trust (at the Folly) and Settle District U3A, and to the Church (and to help with the continuation of the project's work on the Church Records).
The book is available from the church. £8 (including despatch by first class post)
Please contact the treasurer for further details and orders: [email protected]