Walster family gravestone re-discovered.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Walster family gravestone re-discovered.' page

Photographed by George Harper

Intriguing story behind gravestone in Farndon

By George Harper

The following is extracted (with permission) from the December 2013 edition of 'Farndon Focus' - the local newsletter for the village of Farndon near Newark:-

In the last issue I left readers with a problem I wanted to solve. A gravestone had suddenly appeared in St. Peter’s Church graveyard which bore no relation to any headstones we had record of.

It bore the inscription “Sacred to the memory of Francis Walster. Died June 15 1859 aged 88 years”.

The obvious questions were: where had the stone come from and who was Francis Walster?

The first question was soon answered. The stone had apparently been embedded face down in the pathway leading to the south porch of the church, presumably at some point in the past to provide a more secure footing for visitors to the church. When the gravel path was resurfaced recently with tarmac the stone was lifted and placed in the graveyard, face uppermost.

The matter of Francis Walster’s identity was more complicated. There are no other Walsters buried in the churchyard, but there are some WALSTOWS.

Thanks to a number of friends who took an interest in the matter, facts began to come to light. The death of a Francis Walster had been registered by a lady named Mary Fisher and some of the details provided by her for the Register differed from those on the stone because she gave the date of death as JUNE 13 and his age as 87. His status was given as “Cottager” and cause of death “Decay of nature”.

However, a different document mentions a Francis WALSTOW, year of burial 1859 and year of birth 1772.

Census records mention WALSTERS in different parts of the county, but not in Farndon, but the 1851 census records Francis WALSTOW a cottager aged 79 living in Farndon.

So what can we conclude from all this? The balance of evidence seems to indicate the gravestone was of a Francis WALSTOW. We don’t know what the connection was between Mary Fisher and Francis - friend? neighbour? or how well she knew him when she reported his death, but we can deduce she was functionally illiterate because she signs an official document with a cross, so you can picture her going to the Registrar’s office with no written evidence three weeks after his death and relying on memory and giving information which does not tally with that on the gravestone. And the name WALSTER? Was it Mary’s broad Nottinghamshire speech which made WALSTOW sound like WALSTER?

This shows how careful you have to be when taking history as fact.

George Harper


 The above text first appeared as a 'Letter to the Editor' in the December 2013 edition of Farndon Focus (the village newsletter) and it reproduced here by permission of the author and editor www.farndonfocus.co.uk


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