Barking grave restored 150 years after burials in tribute to monumental masons
PUBLISHED: 12:07 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:07 08 November 2019
A family historian has restored the final resting place of his great, great, great grandparents after stumbling upon their grave in a Barking churchyard.
Ian Wilson CBE discovered the grave of farm labourer William Joseph Tunbridge and Sarah Howell while walking along a path through St Margatet's Church earlier this year.
But after 150 years, the burial place was in a poor state, with broken coping and a large crack running down what had originally been the headstone but at some point was lain on top of the grave.
However, thanks to staff from Essex monumental masons, A.Elfes, established in 1894, William and Sarah's grave has been received some much needed TLC.
Ian, from New Cross, said: "It's completely brilliant. The guys have done a smashing job and exceeded my expectations."
The end result, weighing about 150kg, keeps the original stonework, with the restored coping now sitting on a level base and the main stone now cleaned up, even though the long crack remains.
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That's because for Ian, keeping the original craftsmanship was important given it was created by his ancestors, who were in the same trade as Elfes.
Ian's great, great grandmother, Martha - William and Sarah's daughter - married Benjamin Faux of Stepney in 1864.
Benjamin was a "letter cutter in stone" from a family of monumental masons first working in Stepney and later Forest Gate. It's this connection which probably explains why William and Sarah were buried at St Margaret's.
On what motivated him, Ian said: "I feel a link to these people. When I found this grave it seemed a terrible shame it was in such a derelict state, especially given it was in such a prominent position in this public path where people walked past it everyday.
"It looked to me then as if within a few years it would have had to be taken away. I thought we should honour the work of the monumental masons who made it.
"I'm very excited to see it finished and that a tripping hazard and eye sore has been turned back into a dignified gravestone," he added.
And Elfes employee, Alex Kirby, who worked on the project, said: "It's great to put a bit of history back together in Essex."
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