Hello again readers – this blog will be another one of my research files where I will share some information discovered in my quest for knowledge about a period of history long past to provide essential background for my historical novel. Here then is Research File #2 ,subject Unmarked Graves. If anyone wishes to use any information here it is offered freely so go ahead.
The marking of graves with headstones seemed to start in England in the 17th Century but there are two kinds of unmarked graves. Some are unmarked simply because the family did not raise the finance to provide a memorial stone, it is as simple as that and it is not lack of respect nor are there any other connotations. However some graves contain burials that never were intended to be commemorated with any kind of monument nor were they paid for by the family. This is especially true if buried on the north side of a church. The north side was considered the “Devil’s side” as the sun could never shine there and it was always dark and dismal. It was used for the burials of excommunicants, suicides and the unbaptized including young infants and those lost in child-birth. It was also used for the burial of those whose lives were taken in tragic circumstances including murder and drowning. Executed criminals were traditionally buried in secret at a crossroads late at night. Later they would be buried inside the prison grounds if space permiited. At Dartmoor prison some criminals who died while serving their sentences were buried in a nearby churchyard but interestingly all are to be found on the north side. I have even found a reference to a witch being buried in a churchyard which sounds suprising – but then again the burial was face down and on the north side. The north side was not consecrated ground, there would be no redemption on the final day of judgement for those buried there and finally another little factoid. The north side of a churchyard is usually the smallest as it would be the least used.
So is there an unmarked grave or two in my novel ? Oh Yes! Are these in the north side? Yes again! All will be revealed in time!! And finally a question should you wish to answer it. For whom does the bell toll?