Saturday, July 23, 2016

Beware, the cautionary tale of the village baker

Headstones are not the indestructible objects previous generations might have thought they would be. Lettering comes off and even inscriptions set in stone weather and degrade, in some cases the whole front of a headstone shears off in one sheet.

We've all seen small church cemeteries where the gravestones have been moved and set around the churchyard wall or used as paving around the church.

In 'The Story of Purton: a collection of notes and hearsay' published in 1919, Ethel Richardson recalls an old song still remembered in the neighbourhood around the turn of the century, but probably much older in origin, and an explanation for the disappearance of at least one village gravestone.

The Village Baker

Job Jenkins was a baker and
A very honest elf,
By selling crust and crumbs he made
A tidy crust himself,
But Job he lived in better days
When bills were freely paid,
And bakers were thought honest then
So bread was never weighed.

While walking through the old Churchyard
He saw some old tombstones,
That long had marked the resting-place
Of some poor neighbour's bones,
"These bodies long have gone to dust,
These stones no use," he said,
"They'll mend my oven and improve,
My very next batch of bread."

Tom Snooks, the parish mason,
A very sporting blade,
Who in racehorses and the dead
Had done a tidy trade,
To him Job gave the order,
Regardless of amount,
And charged it to the Parish
In his next half-year's account.

The job was done the bread was baked
Job, in his highest glee
Sat up to draw the batch that he
Might great improvement see,
But soon as drawn he "slope the pill"
With horror in his looks,
And rushed out like a madman
And knocked down Tommy Snooks!

"Get up, you wretch, and come and see
The blunder you have made,
Your tombstone bottom sure will prove
A deathblow to my trade,
I know that when you're in the whim
At trifles you don't stick,
And by your trick you've spoilt my batch
My cottage, square and brick."

He took him to the bakehouse,
Where a curious sight was seen,
The words on every loaf were marked
That had on tombstone been,
One quartern had "in memory of"
Another "here to pine,"
The third "departed from this life
At the age of ninety nine."

A batch of rolls when they were done
Had on the bottom plain,
The trusting words distinctly marked
"In hopes to rise again,"
A batch of penny loaves came next
Which said "our time is past,
Thus day by day, we've pined away,
And come to this at last."

Tom Snooks now turned his head away
His laughter to conceal, he said "he thought
It a nobby way in making a bread seal."
Says Job, "This seal has sealed my fate
How can I sell my bread?
To feed the living, when it bears,
The motto of the dead?"

Holy Rood Church, Lawn

Headstone vanished from Radnor Street Cemetery

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