Sunday, September 13, 2015

Two North Devon Gravestones

Rowland Denis's gravestone at Monkleigh, Devon
Most gravestones in North Devon date from the 19th and 20th centuries. In the churchyard there will often be a handful of 18th century gravestones, but if you are searching for memorials from the 17th century, then you usually need to head inside the church to look at ledger stones and mural monuments. I was therefore pleased to encounter at Monkleigh this late 17th century slate slab which commemorates Rowland Denis (1625-1685) and his son Michaell (1670-1691). The gravestone is Grade II listed.

Rowland Denis, the son of Richard Denis (1601- ?) and Helene NOTT, was baptised at Monkleigh on 1 Sep 1625, and was buried there on 29 Apr 1685. He married Agnes DEANE (1635- ?) at Monkleigh on 4 Feb 1661. Their son Michaell was baptised at Monkleigh on 27 Mar 1670, as was Michaell's brother Richard. Michael was buried at Monkleigh on 5 Apr 1691.

Rowden gravestone at Chumleigh, Devon
While this stone at Chumleigh is considerably newer, it is remarkable in that it commemorates the eleven children of Richard Rowden and Mary, all of whom died before their parents. Richard Rowden was a blacksmith who was born in Devon about 1773. In 1797, he married Mary Vicary at St Petrock's in Exeter. Their first child, Elizabeth was baptised the following year at St Kerrian's in Exeter. By the birth of their fourth child, Ann, in 1808, the family was living in the market town of Chulmleigh.

The first death occurred in 1808 when three-year-old Ann died. Five years later, in 1813,  eleven-year-old Mary passed away, and year later, nine-month-old William. These deaths were undoubtedly sad for the family, but not unusual, given the high child mortality rates in the early 19th century. What is unusual is that in the four year period beginning in September 1818, seven more children died, ranging in age from seven months to twenty-two years. The deaths are spread out, which suggests a variety of causes, rather than a epidemic. Unfortunately, the parish register for Chulmleigh only records the burial dates.

When 22-year-old Richard died in 1822, the only surviving child was 27-year-old John. John died in 1836.

Mary died in 1846 at the age of 69 in 1846. By 1851, Richard had retired from blacksmithing, had become the parish clerk, and had married the widow Elizabeth Davey, nee Parsons. Richard died in 1864 at the age of 91.