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Monday, 17 September 2012 (3030583)
Rebel knight's burial place in churchyard?
by David Simister

A LOCAL historian believes he may have uncovered two ancient graves at a church in Halsall - one which may be the resting place of Sir Francis Anderton, a Jacobite rebel who lived at Lydiate Hall until he died in 1762.

Stephen Henders found the graves in the grounds of St Cuthbert’s Church.

Their historical significance was recognised after he pointed out two unusually marked slabs at the church to Danielle Soper, a student at the University of York, who photographed them for her dissertation and showed them to her tutor, Dr Alexandra McLain.

Mr Henders, from nearby Barton village, said one grave dating back to the 14th century could have been used hundreds of years later to bury Sir Francis who was condemned as a rebel and later pardoned. The other grave, dating back to the 15th century was thought to be the grave of a carpenter

Mr Henders said: “As a knight we might have expected a tomb inscribed with the gentleman's name and details of his birth and death. However Sir Francis Anderton had become impoverished due to recusant fines for being a Roman Catholic. Halsall was by then an Anglican church.

”It is probable that this carved 14th century stone was considered for the grave of Sir Francis because it was elaborate but anonymous and being very definitely a Catholic stone would have fitted the purpose for an eminent personage such as Sir Francis.“

Mr Henders said there were no words on the other stone slab but back in the 14th century few people could read. The symbols of the tools of his trade were sufficient to mark his resting place.

He added: ”If this is so, the gravestone may have remained undisturbed for several hundred years. The man may well have been a victim of the Black Death of 1349 and recognised for his valuable contribution in building the beautiful church and laid to rest alongside his masterpiece.“

The grave is marked with a calvary cross with cusping on the terminals of the cross arms. It also contains a carpenter's set square in an L-shape and a tri square, which are markings of the man's profession which would have been unusual at the time.

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