Discovering St Leonards

One of my favourite places to take a local walk is in the burial ground of St Leonard’s in Ludlow. The grounds are now a naturalised area for people to enjoy nature and wildlife, an attractive environment that residents and visitors alike can enjoy. There are many trees including Yew trees which were grown to make bows, but as the berries are poisonous to animals (and humans), the trees had to be grown in places like churchyards where animals were excluded.

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There are also some ageing Lawson’s Cypresses and self-sown Sycamores and Horse-Chestnuts. A large number of birds, butterflies and a colony of rabbits live in the grounds and there are many benches on which to sit and rest and enjoy the birdsong and the countryside views, as well as a few picnic tables and benches situated in a grass clearing.

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I love to wander around the monuments and select interesting carvings, words, shapes to photograph. Often hidden by clumps of stinging nettles and moss or lichens each time I visit I see something different.

Perhaps some of you may find it creepy to enjoy a walk amongst graves, but I always find burial grounds so peaceful and relaxing and interesting. I like to imagine the lives of people who have gone before me.

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St Leonard’s was first opened in August 1824 when it was clear that the old medieval cemetery was completely full. Space finally ran out during WWI and today the site contains 1400 gravestones, which have been recorded and now provides an important historical document. The site includes five listed war graves, all of which are now accessible to view.  These are recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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The monuments have remained in place despite repeated threats to clear the land over the years and the recording process not only recovered the texts of the inscriptions, but also demonstrated the order in which the graves were laid out showing how local social hierarchy and the ability to pay determined where the graves were placed.

The site has a long history. In 1349 the area was part of six medieval burgage plots held by Laurence de Ludlow, lord of nearby Stokesay Castle. Laurence founded a convent of Carmelite friars which continued on the site until its suppression by Henry VIII in 1538. The buildings were sold and demolished.

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The Victorian building, (above) was formerly the chapel of rest and designed by George Gilbert Scott, an English Gothic revival architect, and opened in February 1871.

If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.

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Heyjude

I now live in the UK, but spent several years travelling and then living in South Africa. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

60 thoughts on “Discovering St Leonards”

  1. Some lovely shots, Jude. Nothing like an old cemetery or church graveyard to provide some interesting things to read about, and designs to admire.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. I have many photos of this churchyard, but a lot were taken in poor light. On a sunny day, as this was, it is even more of a delight. And I find something different every visit.

  2. I thought the last photo was an invader from here – the big Bodalla church is gothic revival. Clever colour coordination of lichen and bird; mourningly suitable grey and white flower; lovely sculptural details. And botanical information too, goes without saying! Do you know the symbolism of the hat on the cross? (Is it a hat?)

    1. Oooh, nothing gets past you Meg, you have wonderfully sharp eyes 🙂 I did deliberately place the robin next to the lichen, uncanny how well they matched; the white flower is a blackberry; the hat on the cross is actually a banner wrapped around the cross, not sure what the symbolism is, but I see what you mean. And I even added a horse chestnut flower to the mix especially for you.

  3. I love wandering round old graveyards too – not creepy at all, though I find looking at some of the memorials very sad. So many children and young people, often from the same family. Lovely pictures as usual.

    1. Churchyards tell their own social history stories don’t they? The one at Haworth (Bronte country) has a lot of graves of very young children as a result of measles, smallpox and other epidemics, apparently 40% died before the age of six in the mid 19th Century. And one on St Mary’s, Scilly Isles has graves of shipwreck victims.

      1. Agreed. A tomb I visit regularly (I’m a tour guide on women’s history walks) is for the 12 year old daughter of a wealthy 19C merchant who lived to a good age himself but lost 5 children before they were 20. So infant mortality was no respecter of class. We live, most of us, in much safer times – very thankful!

  4. Well done, Jude. I think historic cemeteries are some of the most interesting artifacts the human population has given us. I can’t imagine why there would be attempts to clear this land which is sacred to many families and carries such historic importance! Hub and I have walked cemeteries often – civilian and military. We don’t have ones that go back as far as your walk, but the varying monuments, cultural clues and family histories are all quite revealing. I love this post and am saving it to savor again!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Sammy, I mentioned the social history aspect of graveyards in my reply to Anabel. I must admit I don’t find modern ones very interesting, but perhaps I should pay more attention to them.

      1. They aren’t as compelling aesthetically but I do understand the newer ones carry just as much emotion as older ones for the families. Of course we have NONE as old as yours !!

  5. I hope they never get to clear this land…like you, I enjoy walking around graveyards. One I want to get back to is Nunhead – very overgrown, back to nature in parts. But as the paths are uneven, I need to go with a friend now….one day, I’ll sort it!

    1. I was sorry to miss the one near the hotel in London last year, but I was too tired to go out again after a day in the city. I loved the Waverley cemetery in south Sydney for the elaborate statuary.

  6. Grockles? What sort of word is that??? I burst out laughing halfway though (no disrespect to the deceased) because I’d already thought ‘creepy’ before I got to your link. 🙂 Having said that, it is an interesting one and we can’t all go racing high and low, can we? I’m still holding out hope for Florence, by the way! 🙂
    I do sometimes loiter in churchyards and yes, I liked your juxtaposition of robin and lichen too 🙂 Many thanks for the link, Jude.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Jo! This place does in fact appear in a ghostly story by a local author Phil Rickman, so I probably wouldn’t want to walk through here at midnight!

  7. I don’t find it creepy at all Jude. Like you I love imagining the lives that came to rest in these old cemeteries. The lichen and moss give the stones such mystery. Lovely captures as usual.

    1. Thanks Sue. I am glad that people care enough about the place to keep it clear. I like to find details and elements on the headstones, they used to be very ornate, unlike modern ones.

  8. Very atmospheric! The overgrown part of the graveyard looks like something from an old Hammer Horror. It’s beautiful, but a bit creepy. I’ll bet it’s a scary place to walk at night.

    1. I wouldn’t know. See previous comment reply to Jo…

      I used to cut through a graveyard to get home from a disco when I was 17, I didn’t linger though.

      1. Oh, yes. I see. It’s interesting that it was used in ghost stories by a local author.

        I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m still not sure I would take a shortcut through a graveyard at night. It’s not the dead that bother me but the living.

        1. I’m not in to ghosts either, but I have become rather fond of this writer and his supernatural / historical novels, especially as they take place around the area I live in. There are some places I am a little nervous to visit now 😉

  9. I like cemeteries and this one is really interesting, I should have known you would too. I recently took photos of the tree trail in my local one, to blog when I get time.

  10. For a minute there, I thought you’d found your private jet and popped over to my neck of the woods. Wrong St Leonards.

    I love cemeteries. I find them fascinating places to wander. Absolutely adore the photos of the moss growing in the etched words. (Or is it lichen? How do you tell? Well, it’s pretty whatever it is.)

    1. Thank you. There are some toppled stones here and others where the surface has sheared off so the inscription can no longer be read, but all the graves have been recorded so that’s a good thing.

  11. Such an interesting place to wander around and some great photos you have taken I like the overgrown part with the beautiful back lighting and of course that cheeky little robin. You could link this to Ailsa’s mellow theme too.

    1. Aye, good old Henry has a lot to answer for. I bet this place is a bit eerie at night though. And there is one spot where several yew trees meet that I don’t much like even in daylight.

  12. Love your photo’s and graveyards have their own silent energy. I often browse grave stones.. Have you ever been to Whitby in North Yorkshire? and seen those old stone headstones weathered by the ocean storms.. I often wonder about what kind of lives they had lived.. And those with stone headstones were the ones who could afford such luxury .
    Loved the robin and the Lichen and how the moss grows within the engravings.
    Thank you for allowing me to discover St Leonards 🙂
    Sue x

    1. You’re welcome Sue. Glad you enjoyed the stroll around this little nature reserve. Whitby is a favourite of mine, but last time I was there it was too dangerous to look around St Mary’s up by the abbey (it had been snowing and was extremely windy).

      1. Yes it also had a cliff fall into the sea a couple of years ago and a couple of cottages near the end of the cliff were demolished.. I have not been for several years now.. But its a beautiful part of the UK. 🙂 and glad you have been 🙂

  13. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with cemeteries. I find them interesting to walk through and a lens on the world before us. At the same time, I find them very sad … a reminder of all those lives lived and now their stories forgotten. Sometimes just the dates tell stories in themselves.

    Very interesting pictures Jude … especially the benches placed where burial markers are falling down. It’s like a place the world has forgotten.

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