It was a
chilly evening when I looked at the gathering of local
folk ready for our talk led by Peter Dawson,
on St Mary’s Gravestone stories.
an in-depth view of the graveyard and the earliest
church registers dating back to1558, which is the year
Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne. There
are no headstones dating back this far. Some 1,133
people are listed in the registers, buried in
about 550 graves. Some are family graves and some are
sarcophagi with several people laid to rest in
some unusual deaths. George Richard Turner (b
1866) fell into the pond opposite the King’s Arms
during the blackout and drowned on 2nd Jan uary1943.
He was married to Alice Ward who had died the year
before. Frederick Grimmer (right) (b 1874) was
accidentally killed on 2nd Jan 1947 whilst leading a
tumbril and two horses across the railway at Cattle
Creek, Martham, aged 72.
nee Lines, drowned whilst crossing the river (which
one we do not know) according to her gravestone
(right). She was only 27 when it happened in 1872.
Very sadly her husband, George Amis, also died the
following year leaving two small daughters
orphaned. Phillip Francis of the
well-known Francis family died when a sand hole at
Hemsby beach buried him in 1929. He was only 17 years
shown how many local families are interlinked which
was interesting. Some were 'gentlemen farmers'
but most were agricultural labourers working
through the hardships of the seasons; others were shop
owners. Over the centuries St Mary’s has been the
centre of births, marriages and burials. The
people lived and worked creating the stories which in
turn has made our village a special place. We learned
of the spike in burials in 1873, especially infants,
and the fact that there was a smallpox epidemic which
had swept through Europe and somehow reached Martham.
different types of graves, the larger the headstone
the more likely it is that there was greater wealth in
the family. A pauper's grave would probably
not be marked. Iron railings were often sited
around a grave. During the first decades of the 1800s
this was seen as protection from body snatchers.
The oldest person buried here is Judith Goose,
nee Dove, aged 104 in 1954, and the oldest burials are
nearest to the church.
illustrated his talk with detailed photographs of
graves and names and said he wanted to use
the graves as a starting point for seeing if
he could use the base information, along with
some genealogy, to see if and how the families of
Martham are inter-related. It quickly became obvious
that many are inter-related especially those dating to
the 19th and 20th century. Peter illustrated two of
these in detail. It was a fascinating insight
into the lives of families over three hundred years.
the Rising (wealthy landowners) and the
Watson family (farm labourers) as examples, Peter
explained the numerous links to other families of the
village. He introduced to us one descendant - a
special visitor, Terry, who is related to over 2,000
residents past and present in Martham.
became significant land and property owners in
Martham. As gentlemen famers various family members
also lived at Martham
House, Sutfield House, and Moregrove
Manor. Peter started
with Robert Rising and Ann Manship. They
were from West Somerton and Robert had inherited the
family estate from his father and grandfather but from
the point of view of inter-related Martham families
they provided the Rising foundations by having 14
children. Not all of them married of course
but they give a glimpse of how their marriages
spread the Rising wings to others in and around the
village in those days.
Rising was their 8th child, born in 1775 at West
Somerton. He married twice. Sarah Sowells in 1804 and
then Mary Clementina Garnham in 1827. The Garnhams
were another large landowning family from Itteringham
near Aylsham and again the marriage joined two farming
dynasties. There are 10 Garnhams buried at
St Mary’s. Later in their life it is believed
that Benjamin and Mary lived at Moregrove Manor. His
grave with his two wives is at St Mary's.
Rising, the 2nd child of Robert and Ann was
married twice. The first time in 1792 to Mary Ann Page
of which very little is known and then much, much
later in 1841 to Elizabeth Howes. She was his house
keeper at Somerton Hall. By then he had had six
children with Elizabeth before they actually married.
Their children were therefore all
illegitimate: some were given the surname of
Howes but acknowledged to be William’s with the
addition of the middle name Rising. All the children
were born at Somerton but later in life William
and Elizabeth lived at Martham House where he
died in 1846.
generation down from William and Elizabeth we
find that some of their six children also married
prominent locals of the time. For
Harriet married William Harrison Wells in 1832 who
operated the mill at Hemsby Road. Eliza Rising
Howes married James Bane late in life in 1870. James
was another farmer and his father had been a corn
merchant and the owner of the mill at Hemsby Road when
it was operated by William Wells.
are the only family that can be found in all the
census returns from 1841 to 1911. There are 34 Watsons
buried in the graveyard from different branches of the
family. They mostly lived in the Cess area and were
agricultural labourers and railway workers. The
Watson family is so large it would be impossible to
mention them all. They originated from Repps in
the mid 1700’s. William Watson and Mary Ann
Mason moved to Mustard Hyrn, Cess, and their son
John married Judith Holt at St Mary’s in 1805 when he
was a labourer. One of their sons was William Watson
(b1820) who married Margaret Woolston and although he
started out as an agricultural labourer by 1885 he has
taken advantage of new work the railway brought with
it and became a plate layer. They also moved to Rose
Cottage Farm at Cess which was to become synonymous
with the Watson family.
of St Mary’s stands proud in this corner of
Norfolk. Over the centuries it has experienced
the emotions of happiness and sadness. Between
the graves people have stepped, and
stopped praying for those departed.
The continuation of births and marriages and the
joining of families in the celebration of life