St Nicholas, Churchyard, Cramlington, Northumberland

St Nicholas Church, Cramlington, Northumberland

Last week we decided to visit some friends down in the north-east of England, now that we’re allowed to travel outside our immediate area again. Cramlington Village was one of the places we wanted to visit down there as Jack has a very old book with his great-grandfather’s name written in it – in copperplate – Armstrong Besford, Cramlington. Sadly he didn’t write his whole address. Anyway, we made for Cramlington which seems to have expanded a lot in recent years, but we reached the old village, parked the car and had a walk around the St Nicholas Church graveyard, in the hope that we might find a family gravestone there, and Jack found it! The church dates from 1868 but many of the gravestones were older than that, obviously the original older church had been built onto in Victorian times, as often happened.

Besford Grave, Cramlington, Northumberland Village,
I must admit I thought it might be a bit unlikely as Armstrong moved to Scotland, I thought maybe the whole family had.

Anyway, the gravestone tells the story of what happened to John Besford. He was run over by a train on Stannington viaduct!! The mind boggles. You can imagine how devastating that must have been for the family though, and his wee daughter followed him just a year later. Annie was obviously a bad luck name for that family as the Annie in the following generation also died very young, that was Jack’s granny’s older sister.

St Nicholas Church, Cramlington, Northumberland

It drives me mad that gravestones in England only have a woman’s married surname on it. In Scotland we traditionally put the woman’s maiden name on the inscription. An old English friend of mine had assumed that none of the women were actually married to the ‘husbands’ in the inscriptions. As if – in Presbyterian Scotland! Having the woman’s maiden name there makes it so much more interesting and easier for people tracing family trees.

St Nicholas Churchyard, Cramlington, Northumberland
Anyway, it was interesting to know a bit more about family history, it’s a shame we couldn’t get into the church though.

St Nicholas Church, Cramlington, Northumberland

7 thoughts on “St Nicholas, Churchyard, Cramlington, Northumberland

  1. When my mother-in-law died we also added her maiden name to the gravestone as it was a Yorkshire one and she was very proud of her origins. But as you say, it’s not common in England.

    • Janet,
      That’s great, I’m sure she would have wanted that. Sadly I’ve noticed recently that in Scotland relatives seem to be forgetting to revert women to their original surname, it’s particularly strange when so many might have had a few marriages over the years!

  2. Having just been to visit my grandmother’s and father’s grave this afternoon, I can tell you it does not seem to be common in Irish Catholic cemeteries to include the maiden name. My grandmother is interred with her birth family as her husband was a Protestant, so it is easy to tell what her name was. I agree that it is a shame not to include them.

    My family is famous for not passing up the opportunity to visit a church of any denomination. It is great that you found the relevant tombstone.

    However, getting in the car to drive somewhere must have been the best part! My sister is coming for a few days in two weeks with her 16 year old. I am trying to think of something fun to do that is open and not too crowded; maybe a whale watch.

    • Constance,
      That’s very interesting about the Irish Catholic cemeteries. I grew up in the west of Scotland in a town with lots of Irish Catholics in it but I have no idea if they put the maiden name on their stones. I’m not at all religious but I am drawn to old churches and graveyards, the old ones are always on sites that would have been pagan originally, on high land in Scotland anyway.
      A whale watch sounds good, normally we can only dolphin watch here although sometimes whales swim up the Forth, but they really shouldn’t.

  3. How awesome that your husband has a book of his great grandfather’s! And really neat you found a family grave in the town. Run over by a train! Kind of mindboggling.

    • Stefanie,

      We have a few of his books, they have teeny print, they are local history books of north east England and books on books, what to read to better yourself educationally – reading courses. But it’s his handwriting on the inside that I love most. I tried to find mention of the accident in the local newspaper but they haven’t digitised the old ones. Next time we’ll make sure the library is open when we go, hoping they have bound copies of all the old local papers, as they have in Scottish libraries.

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