The top photograph is of the semi-ruined church of St.Mary in Arden in Market Harborough. Built originally in the 12th century as a chapel of the neighbouring Great Bowden, this building is what remains of a late 17th century rebuild. Until 1878 this was the market town's burial ground, a forest of 1,400 gravestones that were all swept away in 1970 to make the mowing easier. One suspects. They say some of the 'finest' were retained, as evidenced by a double row at the west end. What criteria did they apply I wonder? Probably the survivors are those for which it appeared at a cursory glance would still have surviving relatives to kick up a fuss. And who would've thought in 1970 that there would be a host of new appreciators, those that Iain Sinclair calls 'drive-by genealogists'? So at a single Blairite stroke a record of a town's history is wiped out. Thank God, literally, for the church of St. Peter & St. Paul in Great Bowden itself. Here, my second picture, the churchyard is still what it should be. Rows of Swithland slate gravestones appear to be jostling for position, to establish a good view of Judgement Day perhaps, pushing each other out of the way and leaning companionably on each other. But for how much longer? I hear disturbing rumours that a Member of The Cloth wants to chuck out all the Victorian pews and doubtless replace them with stacking plastic. Let's hope they have both more thought for their churchyard and, essentially, a good quality strimmer.
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