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Rickinghall records grave details for family history
Rickinghall churchyard
Jean Sheehan with Joe Stacey, Rev Chris Norburn and Richard Green

Hundreds of graves have been logged properly to help people researching family history.

Volunteers at Rickinghall churchyard in Suffolk started the project in 2009.

The oldest grave is believed to date back to 1691 and another reason the survey was carried out was to establish how much burial space was left.

"I feel I've got to know the people that are buried in Rickinghall," said Jean Sheehan, St Mary's assistant church warden.

A team of six has catalogued the graves which are scattered in odd directions rather than being in neat rows.

Charles Greenhough had the idea for carrying out the new survey which has expanded and updated work carried out by the village's Women's Institute in 1982.

Many of the inscriptions on the gravestones have deteriorated since then, so their work has proved vital for the new survey.

Ms Sheehan said: "People look up their family history and find they've been buried in Rickinghall and come back to look at their graves.

"When we need to put new graves in, we have to make sure we're not burying on top of anyone else and we get people who want to be buried near to their relatives.

"The survey is as complete as we can get it."

Gravestone inscriptions

Rickinghall churchyard
The churchyard covers around two acres containing hundreds of graves

Inscriptions range in style over the centuries.

Ann Manning's gravestone from 1842 reads: "Afflictions sore long time I bore. Physician whom in vain. Till Christ was pleased to give me ease and freed me from my pain."

A more modern memorial to Doris and Robert Sage refers to their chip shop in Botesdale: "Our fish was crisp and our chips were brown, they were the best for miles around."

Another memorial records how John and Eliza Foulger lost four children in February 1774. Two of them died on the same day.

The project has also recorded memorials inside the church. One of the windows in the chancel is for vicar's daughter Sophie Markes who died while climbing Mont Blanc in 1870 while she was on honeymoon.

Funeral funding

The survey has cost around £400 and donations came from Suffolk County Council, Dr Andrew Yager and local chain Rosedale Funeral Home.

Rosedale's funeral director Richard Green said: "TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? have inspired lots of people to trace their family history, a journey that often involves a visit to a church.

"Trying to find the grave of a long-gone family member can be an exhausting and time-consuming task and projects such as this make a huge difference."

Jean Sheehan is also the local history recorder for neighbouring Redgrave and she said she has got to know Rickinghall a lot better.

"I don't feel that they're dead, but they're part of village life. I do enjoy speaking to the relatives."

The survey has been printed on acid-free paper and catalogued in folders, but the project is not online. If you are interested in finding out about the graves, email Jean Sheehan .

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