Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 18:50 UK
Grave of sin-eater to be restored for tourism
Revd Norman Morris at Ratlinghope churchyard
Revd Norman Morris said the sin-eater ate bread and ale at funerals

The gravestone of a man believed to be England's last sin-eater is being restored to attract visitors to a small Shropshire church.

Richard Munslow, who died in 1906, carried out the "very strange custom" in Ratlinghope, according to its vicar.

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

The "unusual" memorial, which currently has a broken tower, will be mended and included on a new tourism map.

Revd Morris said he had never seen anything like the 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.

Revd Morris said the memorial at Ratlinghope church will be restored by the end of the summer.


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