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Tombstone project finished at Bungay

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 January 2010 | UPDATED: 09:09 01 August 2010

A DETAILED log of more than 800 tombstones in St Mary's Churchyard has just been completed.

And the written record should prove of great value to people researching their family history, with thought being given to where the log, painstakingly compiled by Trevor French, can be made available to researchers.

A DETAILED log of more than 800 tombstones in St Mary's Churchyard has just been completed.

And the written record should prove of great value to people researching their family history, with thought being given to where the log, painstakingly compiled by Trevor French, can be made available to researchers.

Betty Warnes of the Friends of St May's Church, which cares for the day-to-day running of the redundant church, said Mr French was among that hard-working team, and praised his efforts.

“He is particularly dedicated to the tombstones in the churchyard and he has over the past 18 months mapped, cleaned, read (where possible) and recorded all details for posterity,” she said.

“This work was done earlier last century by Dr Cane, a great historian of Bungay, and Trevor has built upon his records to produce a nearly complete record of the burials in St Mary's churchyard since 1693. There are 815 memorials representing 1,220 deaths, the details of which should be of great worth to the many visitors who arrive seeking knowledge of their forbears.

“We are not certain where the completed archive will be available (possibly the library, council office or on the internet) since to leave it in the unattended church may perhaps leave it vulnerable, but we are sure that this record is quite timely as atmospheric pollution is decaying the stones at a great rate.”

Mr French said the work has had its funny moments - was it a coincidence, for example, that the Holley family are all buried under a very large holly tree?

There were road accidents before the motor car, as there is a recorded fall from a pony-chaise, and another Bungayan met his end by falling off a windmill.

“One wonders what family dramas and tragedies lie hidden beneath these ancient stones for often the tantalisingly limited information given, generates more questions than answers,” Mrs Warnes said.

“One of the most poignant is that of Maria Antoinette Sunderland, who died suddenly in 1880. The missionary wife of a Wesleyan minister, she was born in St Vincent in the West Indies. The stone records that she was 'faithful, self-denying, heroic, tender, generous and amiable'… a stranger and sojourner who died 4,000 miles from her native isle. What a wonderful epitaph to be given.”

St Mary's, in the centre of town, was declared redundant more than 30 years ago and taken over by the Churches Conservation Trust, which maintains it from afar, but the Friends of St Mary's are a dedicated band of Bungay people who do their best to keep it clean, flowered, open to the public and available generally to the town.

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