The Devil's Grave, A Masonic Epitaph
The Devil’s Grave, A Masonic Epitaph
by Charles E. S. Fairey, 2015 (Revised 2022)
In the graveyard of Stoke Minster, once known as St Peter Ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains), where a church has stood since the Anglo-Saxon Period, and situated in the old centre of the City of Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, there is a grave which is referred to by locals and the churchwardens as ‘The Devil’s Grave.’
The grave was listed as a Grade II building on 19th April 1972, to protect it for future generations (http://www.thepotteries.org/listed/123a.html). The grave can visited and found within the churchyard, by using the following guide: https://media.acny.uk/media/news/post/2020/09/Guide_leaflets_-_the_Minster_Grounds.pdf.
The Devil's Grave, A Masonic Epitaph
This grave is in fact the resting place of an 18th Century Freemason. However it became known as ‘The Devil’s Grave’ due to its misunderstood carved images and the fact that the schoolchildren studying at the Church’s School, St Peter's, mistook the image of Death over a skeleton as the Devil.
The schoolchildren invented a folk tale, which says if you hit the figure of the Devil (Death) with a stone three times and then spin round three times, the Devil would appear!
A ‘Great Story’ and an Exquisite Gravestone full of Masonic Symbolism, and also including a Memento Mori Poem, only the second such one I’ve found up to now in this area, which I'll leave readers to ponder on, because that's what they're for, here it is:
"Time was I stood as thou dost now,
To view the Dead as thou dost me.
In time thou’l lie as low as I,
And others stand and look on thee,"
There may be another verse, as the poem’s 4th line ends with a comma, but may now lie beneath the ground as the gravestone has settled, however, another more likely interpretation, as the grave has a line underneath this last line, is that there is no second verse, and the comma is included on purpose, to invoke something within the reader, whether wholly known or unknown, to thee.
If we now look at the imagery of Death, at the top left of the stone, we see that it is in the form of ‘Father Time’ with angelic wings, and that he is pushing down the skeleton with his left foot upon his Masonic Apron protected groin, whilst the skeleton holds an arrow, curved and with feathers, to Death’s groin, with both skeletal hands, whilst Death is pictured with a belt of two arms and the belt’s two hands clenched over his groin. Death in his hands is holding an hour glass in the middle of the arrow, pushing down the arrow, to make it curved, with the hour glass above the skeleton’s chin and mouth, representing that the skeleton’s time is up. A scythe with a loop exists above the skeleton’s forehead, with the scythe facing upward and in the direction of Death, but behind the arrow. The Skeleton is wrestling with him, with all his might, knowledge and wisdom.
For Death’s right hand dropped his circular scythe
And like thy Metaphysical Master my brow was broke
And my soul escaped from the Ouroboros of life,
For I had wrestled from Father Death all of time
And my grip was sure and true, his secret mine,
For now with the power of Tubal Cain
Death’s supposed mystery is mine to gain.
At the top middle of the stone are the words which would make anyone ponder, for it says:
"Time and Death shall lie no more."
The image of a skeleton holding an arrow is an image associated with ‘The Ankou’, another character in the guise of ‘Death’, who is linked with Tubal Cain’s ancestor Cain, who was the Biblical character and first child of Adam and Eve, who was linked with agriculture and crops, as well as metal smiths, and who killed his brother, Abel, and thus was cursed to walk the darkness as a wandering ghoul searching for those about to die, by God, for the whole of time. Please see my article which is all about ‘The Ankou’ and its many associations @ https://www.mysticmasque.com/history-mystery/the-ankou-churchyard-guardians-black-dogs-and-memento-mori.
I was but dead but now I live
My rod and arrow sustained me like Abiff,
With Isis I became the Horus
For Osiris’s secret is the Ouroboros,
And born again in time everlasting
The Great Work and Kingdom Coming,
For in the eternal night with light I loom
Waiting on the breeze for her fragrant bloom.
For the Maiden of Death taught us true
For Life through Death is the Maiden’s ruse,
For the God Kings left their allegorical clues,
Symbol upon symbol in plain viewed sight
Yet in the darkness of the night I found the Light.
An arrow of iron made her blush
But we seldom share, hush for hush,
For the Rosy Cross my heart doth adore
And to Her, Death, at my End I doth allure,
For Her Shrouded Embrace is eternal life
For She’s the Queen of our fraternal hive,
Yet our Magdalene is square and true
If only the Grail you seek you truly knew,
For once he was but now he’s left
But Magdalene rose and art we blessed,
For Death has rosy cheeks and a fragrant kiss
Oh what wonder to be in the Master’s bliss.
On the top right of the stone are carved three angels, these most likely represent Hope, Faith and Charity, watching over the grave’s occupant. Sadly, their faces have been damaged, so we cannot see their expressions. The number three is known as the perfect number, representing the beginning, the middle and the end, and therefore is often symbolic of a deity.
The Devil's Grave, A Masonic Epitaph - Detail
To the centre of the gravestone is a Freemason’s Arms Banner, with the words “FREE MASON’S ARMS”, depicting the Sun with thirteen rays in number, to the left, which most likely represents the thirteen apostles, i.e. the twelve apostles and the thirteenth, the Magdalene, with the Sun representing Christ. The moon and seven stars to the right, most likely represent the Virgin Mary, surrounded by her Seven Stars, which are often depicted surrounding her halo. The square and compasses upon the Volume of the Sacred Law at the bottom, represent the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry, with Jacob’s Ladder hiding behind.
Of course we have to remember that this grave is there for the interest of both freemasons and the wider public, and serves for the observer, to think about what the symbols mean and what they in fact represent. There may be several interpretations of each symbol and its interaction with others, it all depends on the knowledge and experience of one’s life, Masonic or otherwise, and upon the will and love of one’s heart, to reveal what they mean to each individual.
To the centre of the Heraldic Shield is most likely a Past Master’s Jewel, which is made up of a compass, a rule, and the letter ‘G’ (which represents ‘The Grand Geometrician of the Universe’), along with two stonemason’s tools eitherside of the compass, but still within the circle, which all represent the grave’s occupant’s rank, and part of the myth of our Metaphysical Master. These are then surrounded by a circle with a beehive at its top and six bees buzzing around the circle.
The Beehive is used as a metaphor since bees labour industriously within the hive, and it is an appropriate symbol to Freemasons because if they labour intensively upon interior work, to know thyself, then their industry shall be rewarded.
The bees travelling from the hive, and going out around the circle, i.e. all encompassing, into the wider world, and then returning to the hive, is symbolic of the brethren of Freemasonry and the wider world. For the bees / brethren, after exploring the wider world, return to the hive / lodge with the honey / wisdom, to share and impart their efforts / works, to the wider audience of the hive / lodge, for the better advancement of the whole of the hive / lodge (Freemasonry).
The six bees and the hive itself, may represent a seven pointed star, and denote that the Master represented by the hive, and his six other officers, equates to the Masonic saying: “Three rule a lodge, five hold a lodge, and seven or more make it perfect.” Seven being such a sacred number, with much knowledge abounding from this number, can represent many many things, but seven included here may also symbolise the seven liberal arts and sciences, which a freemason is expected to research with zeal.
At the top of the Heraldic Shield, is an Urn, surmounted upon what looks like a Corinthian type pedestal, this Urn most likely represents that which we are all looking for, the Holy Grail. To the left of the coat of arms is a Junior Warden’s Badge of Office and to the right a Senior Warden’s Badge of Office, a Plumb Rule (used by stonemason’s to make sure an upright element is perpendicular / vertical), and a Level (used by stonemason’s to make sure a horizontal element is level / horizontal), respectively.
The Junior Warden’s Badge of Office to the left, includes the Square, representing the Master, the Level, representing the Senior Warden, and the Plumb Rule, representing the Junior Warden, this may mean that this is a Past Master’s Jewel representing that the occupant was possibly of Grand Rank, and had attained all three Principal Provincial Offices, and the inclusion of that on the right, the Senior Grand Warden, may represent his Grand Rank. If we link these Jewels with the centre, the symbols depict the three principals of a Provincial or Grand Lodge. That is, the Grand Master, the Senior and Junior Grand Wardens, and possibly represents not just his rank, but also his fellow senior officers within the Provincial or Grand Lodge.
“Merry Meet, Merry Part, and Merry Meet Again.”
If we draw a triangle from the Urn to the Plumb Rule and then to the Level, and then square-off the triangle, we notice that this triangle passes straight through the Square and Compasses sitting on the Volume of the Sacred Law, usually represented by a Bible, and close to the Sun and Moon symbols. However we may also notice that if this is drawn correctly, then the letter ‘G’, representing ‘The Grand Geometrician of the Universe’, is in the centre and the circle which surrounds it, then becomes a hidden ‘Eye’, watching those who are looking at the Stone, which most onlookers would not coherently see.
The All Seeing Eye is always depicted in the middle, often high up in Masonic Symbolism, and the Sun should normally, but not always, be depicted on the left whereas the moon on the right, and usually both are on the outside of the twin pillars, which some of you may be familiar with.
* * * * * * *
Even today many view this grave with interest and wonder, for many do not know what to make of this beautifully carved edifice, and only guess what it means. The gravestone is there to make one wonder and think, not just the whole world, but also a freemason, and in the spirit of Freemasonry, it acts as a ‘tracing board’ for those who wish to try and learn, and understand, what the occupant is trying to impart. But as mentioned above, it is up to the individual, their knowledge, understanding, experience and wisdom, and the will and love of their hearts, to interpret the many symbolic meanings of this splendid epitaph, and take what they will from this monument, as well if they wish, my interpretations above.
For those in darkness shall not understand
Whilst those in the Light, will raise my hand
And like thy Metaphysical Master offer me their grip
And upon necromancy the five points of fellowship,
For Death’s secrets the Master has attained
Merry Meet and Merry Part and Merry Meet Again.
The Glebe Hotel, opposite Stoke Minster on Glebe Street
For some, who have come to see this grave, and have mastered the arts of the freemason, and unlike the schoolchildren, they know that to knock three times without a harmonic rhythm shall only allow the dead to slumber and watch, but if with the attainment of the skill taught to us of the resurrection of our Metaphysical Master, even the dead can be raised from the Deep.
But remember once they have risen, they must be watered and fed, for outside an evening moonlit lodge, a place of refreshment must be found, and what better place than the ‘The Glebe Hotel’ opposite this ancient place of rest, and over a pint or two, the living freemason might learn from a brother who has been both a Master in Life as well as Death.
Once called from rest to be refreshed, the secrets I found must be shared,
In Faith, he resurrected me,
In Hope, he raised me up,
In Charity, a Brother showed he cared,
And all of Death and Time I bared,
For a fellow Master had griped my hand, and my hourglass he topped with sand,
But he knew that my time was short, but a drink for me he with coin had bought,
So I lingered for awhile, and spoke of my time upon the tile,
Of what I once was, and what I now know,
Oh the Glory to be amongst a Master and a Fellow.
Seldom known are the secrets of Death, but this gravestone interests not just those who have no knowledge of Freemasonry, but also interests those within the fraternity too, and so I have shared this gravestone so that others might visit and ponder for awhile, but I have also researched who this Freemason was, and from whence he came.
* * * * * * *
The stone records that this is the grave of Herbert Stansfield, and it reads:
“To the Memory of / HERBERT STANSFIELD Late of Middlewich /
who died January 17 : 1799 Aged 64 Years.”
A little research tells us that Herbert Stansfield was indeed from Middlewich in Cheshire, because he is recorded as living there on the Land Tax Returns, and specifically on Wheelock Street according to the 1783 to 1798 entries, as follows:
1783: Owner: James Jackson; Occupier: Herbert Stanfield; paying 2s. 6d.
1784: Owner: James Jackson; Occupier: Herbert Stamfield; paying 2s. 5¼d.
1785: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stamfield; paying 2s. 5¼d.
1786: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stamfield; paying 2s. 5¼d.
1787: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stanfield; paying 2s. 5¼d.
1789: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stanfield; paying 1s. 9.
1791: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stanfield; paying 2s. 6d.
1792: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stanfield; paying 2s. 6d.
1793: Owner: Joseph Wilkinson; Occupier: Herbert Stanfield; paying 2s. 6d.
1798: Owner: John Norton; Occupier: Herb Stanfield; paying 8s. 4d.
The 1783 and 1784 Land Tax Records include Herbert Stan[s]field as the occupier of a property, owned by a James Jackson, paying 2 shillings and 6 pence or 2 shillings and 5 ¼ pence in tax, respectively.
We also find when looking at the Marriage Licences and Bonds for Cheshire, that he applied for a licence to marry a Mary Jackson, also of Middlewich on the 4th of May 1791, and both of them were Widowers. The record also tells us that they were to be married in the Parish Church of Middlewich, St Michael’s & All Angels, recording both their ages as ‘fifty’, and not surprisingly, that he could read and write, because he had signed his own name.
The Marriage Certificate for Herbert’s marriage to Mary Jackson, is dated 5th May 1791, and he is listed as of the parish of Middlewich, and a Stone Mason. Mary is also of the same parish. Both were married at Middlewich Church by licence, by the Rev. Joshua Powell, Vicar. Herbert could sign his own name, whereas his wife made her mark. The marriage was witnessed by Elijah Mayer and Cr Egerton.
Interestingly, the Marriage Licence and Certificate also lists his occupation as a ‘Mason’ and ‘Stone Mason’ respectively, which means that he was not only a Freemason, but rather than being a speculative freemason, he was also an operative stonemason. This means that with all likelihood he designed and carved his own gravestone, so when we view his grave and touch this stone, our hands are also touching that same surface which he had lovingly carved with his own hand, using the same tools which all freemasons are familiar with, albeit in the majority as allegorical symbols, rather than being actual stonemasons by profession as well. However the date of his death and his age must have been added by someone else, after his demise.
I wonder if those same schoolchildren or even interested folk really realised that the person in slumber below had also carved his own deathly epitaph.
Herbert Stansfield is both a less common first name and surname, so therefore it is quite easy to track him down in historical records. Looking further afield in the West Riding’s of Yorkshire, we find him again, this time he marries on the 26th of April 1761 at St John’s Church in Halifax. His first wife was named Mary Wilson, which means the lady he married in Middlewich; Mary Jackson was his second wife.
If we now look for his birth, we find that he was baptised in Halifax on the 25th July 1736, and that his father was also called Herbert Stansfield, and that his father was also a (Stone) Mason.
If we look at his age on the gravestone, recorded as 64, and look at the baptism of 25th July 1736 and his death date on the stone of 17th of January 1799, his actual age at death would have been 63 years old. Whoever carved the date of his death and age must have made a slight error.
If we now look for his father’s marriage, we find that his father married an Ann Bradley at St John’s Church in Halifax on the 19th of October 1730.
If we look at burial records, we find that his father was buried in Halifax on the 24th of November 1773, and was baptised, also in Halifax, on the 27th of September 1709, with his father being recorded as Henry Stansfield, the grandfather of the grave’s occupant.
We also find a reference to Herbert Stansfield in Chapter 6: Building the Canal, in ‘The Thames & Severn Canal, Humphrey Household, 2009’, where we are told that he was a gang leader of a one of many teams building the canal, along with fellow (stone) masons: “John Nock, Edward Edge, Thomas Cook, John Holland, and James Jackson.”
Again we find James Jackson working with Herbert as another stone mason, but was he also a freemason, and friend of Herbert’s, as well as being his landlord in Middlewich, and a relation of his second wife?
A Website dedicated to the Cotswold Canals (https://www.wottonheritage.com/cotswold-canals-griffin-mill-lock-a10), details that “The Red Lion lock in Chalford further up the valley bears the date 4 December 1784, and the name of the mason, Herbert Stansfield”. This means that Herbert Stansfield must have been in charge of the building of this lock, and had carved his name with his skilled hand to record his hard work for posterity.
* * * * * * *
The Devil's Grave's Twin, A Masonic Epitaph
Norton in the Moors, Stoke on Trent
In the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Church in Norton in the Moors, now known as Brown Edge, on the outskirts of the city of Stoke on Trent, is John Stansfield’s Gravestone.
He was the son of Herbert Stansfield, and his gravestone is very similar to his father’s, which is known as ‘The Devil’s Grave’, situated in the churchyard of Stoke Minister.
It is very likely that John Stansfield created a similar gravestone to his father, using the same Masonic symbolism, because he was also a stone mason as well as a freemason.
He may have created the stone as his apprentice piece, before he became a ‘Master Mason’, learning from his father.
It is slightly different to his father’s and the carving hand is different, so it is likely his work, rather than his father’s.
Sadly part of the surface of the stone along with some carved words has fallen off, known as delamination.
Again like his father Herbert’s tomb, at Stoke Minister, here at Norton in the Moors, we see the Winged Death with scythe, pushing down the skeletal occupant of the tomb with his hourglass, who in turn is fighting him off with an arrow, which has been broken in half by the hourglass.
To the left of the figure of Death are the words:
be no more."
On the top right of the stone, like his father’s, are carved three angels, these most likely represent Hope, Faith and Charity, watching over the grave’s occupant.
To the centre right of the gravestone is a Freemason’s Arms Banner, with the words “Free Masons Arms”, depicting the Sun with eight rays in number, to the left, representing infinity. The moon and seven stars to the right, most likely represent the Virgin Mary, surrounded by her Seven Stars, which are often depicted surrounding her halo. The square and compasses upon the Volume of the Sacred Law at the bottom, represent the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry, with Jacob’s Ladder hiding behind.
To the centre of the Free Masons Arms Shield is most likely a Past Master’s Jewel, which is made up of a compass, a rule, and the letter ‘G’ (which represents ‘The Grand Geometrician of the Universe’), along with two stonemason’s tools eitherside of the compass, but still within the circle, which all represent the grave’s occupant’s rank, and part of the myth of our Metaphysical Master. These are then surrounded by a circle with a beehive at its top and five bees buzzing around the circle. These also appear on his father’s tombstone.
As his father’s grave, the Beehive is used as a metaphor since bees labour industriously within the hive, and it is an appropriate symbol to Freemasons because if they labour intensively upon interior work, to know thyself, then their industry shall be rewarded.
To the bottom left of the coat of arms is a Junior Warden’s Badge of Office and to the bottom right a Senior Warden’s Badge of Office, a Plumb Rule (used by stonemason’s to make sure an upright element is perpendicular / vertical), and a Level (used by stonemason’s to make sure a horizontal element is level / horizontal), respectively.
Like his father’s monumental stone, the Junior Warden’s Badge of Office is carved to the left, and includes the Square, representing the Master, the Level, representing the Senior Warden, and the Plumb Rule, representing the Junior Warden, this may mean that this is a Past Master’s Jewel representing that the occupant was possibly of Grand Rank, and had attained all three Principal Provincial Offices, and the inclusion of that on the right, the Senior Grand Warden, may represent his Grand Rank. If we link these Jewels with the centre, the symbols depict the three principals of a Provincial or Grand Lodge. That is, the Grand Master, the Senior and Junior Grand Wardens, and possibly represents not just his rank, but also his fellow senior officers within the Provincial or Grand Lodge.
To the left of the Free Masons Arms Shield we find:
“To the memory
of John Stansfield late
of Balledge in this
parish who died 1 of
August 1816 aged 44
The age was inscribed originally as 35, but has been changed by superimposing over it the carved numbers 44, for his actual age at death in 1816.
At the bottom of the grave is a Memento Mori Poem, very similar to what appeared on his father’s grave:
"Time was I stood as thou dost now to view the dead as
Thou dost me in time thou’l lie as low as I and others
Stand and look on thee"
John’s father Herbert, died without making a Will so a Letter of Admon or Administration was drawn up, so that his estate could pass onto his son.
Herbert Stansfield’s Letter of Admon includes that he was late of Middlewich in Cheshire, and was a Stone Mason. He leaves his estate to his son, John Stansfield, his natural and lawful son and next of kin, who is also included as being of the Township of Norton in the Moors, in Staffordshire, and also a Stone Mason. The document is witnessed by Thomas Naylor of Middlewich, Gentleman, and Samuel Beckett of Middlewich, Gentleman. It is dated 4th February 1799. The reverse of the Admon includes the date and oath of John Stansfield, and that the value of his father’s effects was above £40 but under £100.
John married Martha Mair at, by Banns, on 8th May 1787 at St Edward’s Church in Leek. They were married by J Rogers, Minister. John could sign his own name, but Martha made her mark on the Marriage Certificate. The marriage was witnessed by Rich[ard] Myoll and W[illia]m Steel.
John died on 1st August 1816, and was buried on 4th August 1816 at St Bartholomew’s Church in Norton in the Moors, Staffordshire.
John Stansfield left a Will, as follows:
“Lich[field] 11th Nov[emb]er / 1816 / Johis Stansfield / Norton in ye Moor
This is the Last Will and Testament of me / John Stansfield of Ball Edge in the Parish of Norton in / the Moors in the County of Stafford, Stone Mason / made the fifteenth day of June One Thousand Eight Hundred / and Sixteen as follows – I give and bequeath all my real / Copyhold and Personal Estate of what nature or kind / soever situate standing and being in the Counties of Stafford / and Cheshire or elsewhere unto my friends William Steel / Senior of Ball Edge aforesaid and John Trubshaw of / Stockton Brook in the Parish of Stoke upon Trent in the / County of Stafford Upon the Trusts following that is to say / Upon Trust in the first place to allow the Rents Interest / and profits of all my real Copyhold and Personal Estate / and to have the enjoyment of all my household Furniture / unto my Wife Martha Stansfield for and during the term / of her natural Life and from and immediately after her / Decease Upon the Trusts following that is to say Upon Trust / to sell by Auction or Private Contract All my said Real / Copyhold and Personal Estate and other Effects I save and / except my Copyhold Messuage or Tenement and Garden situate / at Ball Edge aforesaid and now in my occupation which / I do hereby give and bequeath unto my Son James Stansfield / his Heirs and assigns for Ever Also save and except my / household Furniture which I do hereby give and bequeath unto / each of my Children in equal share and share alike to / the best of the judgement of my said Trusts) and the / Monies arising from the sale of my said Real Copyhold / and Personal Estate (save and except the Messuage Garden and / Premises before bequeathed to my Son James as also my / [PAGE 2] household Furniture before bequeathed to each of my / Children in equal share and share alike) after payment / of my just Debts and Funeral expences and the expences / of proving this my Will to divide the same Monies / arising from the Sale of my said real Copyhold and Personal / Estate to and amongst my Children following that is to / say to my Daughter Mary Wife of John Bourne of / Ball Edge aforesaid Labourer, Charlotte Wife of Joseph Taker / of Endon in the County of Stafford Cotton Weaver, Sarah / Stansfield, Spinster, Herbert Stansfield and John Stansfield / share and share alike – And Lastly I do hereby appoint / my said Wife Martha Stansfield Sole Executrix of this / my last Will and Testament hereby revoking all former / Wills by one made – In Witness whereof I have hereunto / subscribed and Set my hand and seal on the Day and in / the year first before written.
[SIGNED] John Stansfield
Signed Sealed Published / and declared by the said / John Stansfield the Testator / as and for his last Will / and Testament as well in / his presence as in the / presence of each other.
[SIGNED] Jonathan Dawson William Steel Junior Thomas Dawson”
The Will was proved at Cheadle on 31st October 1816.
* * * * * * *
Herbert Stansfield's Family Tree
A genealogical website (http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~calderdalecompanion/mms39.html) with some additions, gives us Herbert and John’s family tree, the details of which are as follows:
1. Henry Stansfeld (1612-1683) of Greetland, then Halifax. (son of Elizabeth Johnson of Bingley)
Wife: Grace Learoyd (1611-1685) (M. 21/11/1636) from Halifax.
2. William (1637-1639)
2. Dorothy (Bapt. 1640)
2. Mary (1642-1689)
2. Richard Stansfield (1646-1698)
Wife: Maria Wilson (M. 13/04/1669) (Bur. 27/12/1701) from Halifax.
3. Henry Stansfield (1671-1734) Tailor
Wife: Elizabeth Hanson (1675-1753) (M. 19/06/1692) from Halifax.
4. Isabell (1693-1694)
4. Frances (1698-1699)
4. John (Bapt. 1700)
4. Herbert Stansfield (1708-1773) Stone Mason
Wife: Anne Bradley (M. 19/10/1730) (Bur. 1747)
5. Ann / Nancy (1731-1774)
5. Elizabeth / Betty (1733-1736)
5. HERBERT STANSFIELD (1736-1799) Stone Mason
(Bur. 20/01/1799, Stoke Minister)
Wife: Mary Wilson (M. 26/04/1761 Halifax) (Bur. 1766) lived at Ovenden.
Wife: Mary Jackson (M. 04/05/1791) lived at Middlewich.
6. JOHN STANSFIELD (1762-1816) Stone Mason
(Bur. 04.08.1816, age 54, Norton in the Moors)
Wife: Martha Mair (M. 08/05/1787, Leek)
lived at Ball Edge, Norton in the Moors
7. Herbert Stansfield (Bapt. 27/10/1799) Stone Mason
7. John Stansfield
7. James Stansfield
Wife: Ann Hulme
8. John Stansfield (Bapt. 28/09/1819)
7. Mary Stansfield
Husband: John Bourne, Labourer,
lived at Ball Edge
7. Charlotte Stansfield
Husband: Joseph Taker, Cotton Weaver,
lived at Endon
7. Sarah Stansfield
5. Sara (1739-1750)
5. Elizabeth (1741-1744)
5. James (1743-1746)
5. John (1745-1747)
4. Ely Stansfield (1712-1790s) Cordwainer. Of Halifax and Hipperholme.
Wife: Mary Parkinson (1717-1798) (M. 08/06/1747)
5. Rachel (1748-1797)
4. James (Bapt. 1717)
3. Grace (Bapt. 1673)
3. Richard (1676-1677)
3. Samuel (Bapt. 1678)
3. An Infant (Bur. 23/02/1685)
2. Henry (1649-1651)
2. Sarah (Bapt. 1654)
* * * * * * *
So now we know a little more about the stonemason and freemason, and the gravestone and its epitaph of Herbert Stansfield, as well as the twin gravestone of his son John Stansfield, and I think the only way to end this article is with a verse:
This Epitaph I carved with mine own hand
So that Time and Death’s grip proved a slip,
And like the Master I could be raised
For history teaches that no one is really erased,
For up above the Golden Eye doth blaze
Yet seldom few escape the living’s maze
For this being called “The Devil’s Grave”
Only from whence, the Master may rise,
Like Christ from Death walked from Cave
And True Sight given to lift all the veil’s lies,
Amongst the stars now in obsidian sky
Up Above in Immortal Mansions Most High,
Yet below I hear the cries and sighs
Of those incoherent of the scythes and wise.
The substituted secret and its word
Is just that once the truth is heard,
For in truth we surrender our inherited veil
And All the compass surveys, is revealed without fail
But only if the eye doth not turn away
And the ears don’t ignore what we secretly say.
* * * * * * *
To see with the mind and not just the eye, is Second Sight
But no longer can we then ignore, the secrets of the Light.
We may only reap, what we inherently sow.
A life not lived, is no life at all.
No matter how small the ripple, it is better than no ripple at all.
The Devil’s Grave, A Masonic Epitaph, Stoke Minister:
A Commissioned Descendant Stone at Audley
The Devil’s Grave, A Masonic Epitaph, Stoke Minister: A Commissioned Descendant Stone at Audley
In the churchyard of St James’ Church in Audley, on the outskirts of the city of Stoke on Trent, is the gravestone of Thomas Mellor and his six sons.
It is located on the north side of the Church.
According to the inscription and the ‘Audley St James Memorial Inscriptions, 3rd Edition, 2013’, the grave’s text includes:-
“Sacred to the Memory / of Richard Charles Enoch Smith / Edward and Smith Six Sons of / THOMAS and ANN MELLOR of / TUNSTAL who all died Young / 1799. [date relates to memorial only. Children died 1784-1798] / Behold the uncertainty of time. / Sleep soft in dust wait the Almighty’s will / Then rise renew’d brighter angels still. / also Thomas Mellor father to the above died 8th February 1801.”
Interestingly, the scene to the top of the grave, which is so similar to Herbert and John Stansfield’s graves, which they carved with their own stonemason’s hands, proves that this grave must have been a commission of their skills.
It is also likely that Thomas Mellor being of Tunstall, not far from where Herbert is buried at Stoke Minster, and not far from John’s resting place at Norton in Hales, had been a friend and possibly also a fellow Freemason of Herbert Stansfield.
The carving is certainly similar to Herbert’s carving hand.
Also the form of the grave is revealing too. The whole scene at the top has been inserted into the gravestone, which is indicative of it being from another earlier grave, and inserted into this, a later grave. This may be because an original stone was commissioned from Herbert Stansfield, and then there were more deaths, and they wanted to keep the original fine carving from the earlier stone, so made a recess in the new stone, for it to be reclaimed and inserted.
Like we saw at Herbert Stansfield’s tomb, at Stoke Minister, and his son, John Stansfield’s at Norton in the Moors, we see the Winged Death pushing down the skeletal occupant of the tomb with his hourglass, who in turn is fighting him off with an arrow. Although in this version, Death’s scythe, has been dropped behind the skeleton’s head. The deathly scene is topped with the same verse as the two Stansfield’s graves:
"Time and Death shall be no more."
Either side of the scene are two carved angels or cherubs.
Again, like Herbert and John Stansfield’s graves, the carved scene is all about Resurrection, and the overcoming of Death.
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Thomas Mellor married Ann Mellor on the 30th November 1783 at Audley. He was recorded on his marriage licence as living in Audley, as well as Ann, who was a spinster. Thomas was recorded as a Maltster (a brewer of beer), as well as being a bachelor. Witnesses to their marriage were Daniel Mellor and Sally Mellor.
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Their children according to the grave and parish registers were:
Charles Mellor, buried 24th January 1788, St James’ Church, Audley.
Enoch Mellor, buried 19th January 1790, St James’ Church, Audley.
Smith Mellor, buried 25th September 1793, St James’ Church, Audley.
Edward Mellor, buried 2nd April 1794, St James’ Church, Audley.
Smith Mellor, buried 24th March 1798, St James’ Church, Audley.
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Thomas was buried on 11th February 1801, St James’ Church, Audley.
According to the Will of Thomas Mellor of Tunstall, Maltster, dated 4th February 1801, he gives:
His Messuage or Dwellinghouse, in Audley, lately in the holding of Henry Briscoe, to his wife Ann, and after her decease to his son, Thomas Mellor.
His Messuage or Dwellinghouse, in Tunstall, in his possession, to his wife, and after her decease to his daughter, Ann Mellor.
His Household Furniture and Books, to his wife, and after her decease to his children Thomas Mellor and Ann Mellor, equally divided between them.
His Messuage or dwellinghouse, with stable, in Burslem, in the possession of Thomas Bennett and Samuel Massey; and all his Stock in Trade (Book-debts, Farming stock, Cattle, Securities for Money and other personal Estate and Effects), to his Wife Ann, and his brothers John Mellor and William Mellor, to be sold and the money raised to be held in Trust, to pay his wife an annuity, and to bring up his children until they are 21 years of age, and then to be inherited by them. If they should die before they are 21 years old, his Wife shall be the beneficiary.
His real and personal estate is bequeathed to be shared equally by his several brothers and sisters: John Mellor, William Mellor, George Mellor, Sarah Clark, Frances Little, Ann Barry, Catherine Ryles, and Dorothy Mellor.
He appoints his wife Ann, and his brothers John and William Mellor, as his executors, and he signs his will with his own name and seal.
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According to his Will, Thomas Mellor’s two surviving children were: Thomas and Ann, both named after their father and mother, respectively.