Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 18:18 UK
Sin-eater grave restored at Ratlinghope Church
The restored grave of Richard Munslow
Rev Norman Morris, Nigel Sustins and Jean Couper celebrated the restoration

The grave of a man believed to be England's last sin-eater has been restored at Ratlinghope Church.

The grave is one of many items submitted to the BBC's A History Of The World website.

The project uses objects from national and local museums, alongside those sent in by members of the public, to reveal a history of the world.

Richard Munslow's grave was uploaded by the Diocese of Hereford, which covers south Shropshire.

Richard Munslow, who died in 1906, carried out the "very strange custom" of sin-eating, according to the vicar of Ratlinghope Church.

Reverend Norman Morris said sin-eaters would eat bread and ale over the deceased to take away their sins.

Revd Morris said he had never seen anything like the "unusual" memorial before, and believed it could act as a catalyst to encourage interest in the area.

Bread and ale

A spokeswoman for the Hereford Diocese said Richard Munslow is believed to be the last known sin-eater in England.

According to Mr Morris, the custom of sin-eating must have survived from the Middle Ages in the Welsh borders and North Wales in particular, and in Shropshire.

Thirty or 40 years ago there would have been people who would have recalled this going on
Revd Norman Morris

If someone died suddenly without confessing their sins, Mr Morris said the sin-eater would come to the funeral and eat bread and ale or water to take away the sins.

He said the Shropshire writer, Mary Webb, referred to sin-eating in her novels: "It's one of these practices we think was fairly widespread.

"Thirty or 40 years ago there would have been people who would have recalled this going on."

Car trails

Some people believe sin-eaters were unpopular and poor, but this was not the case with Richard Munslow, who was a well-established farmer in the area.

Revd Morris said his churches have to be self-supporting, so finding distinctive features was part of the process of promoting them.

He plans to publish a leaflet of car trails around the Clun Forest Deanery including churches in Clungunford, Bucknell, Bishop's Castle, Ratlinghope and Wentnor.


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