Defying Gravity


Our final resting places are often a matter of circumstance, history, and almost arbitrary geography. So it was for my father, whose grave we visited yesterday, featuring it on my post. Having, apart from his war years in France, spent the majority of his life in and around Wimbledon where he was born, Dad retired to the village of Horndean in East Hampshire, expecting to spend his retirement there. It was not to be long before his death, leaving my mother to spend the next thirty years alone. She will be 95 in two days time.

Although she now lives in West End near my sister, Elizabeth, Mum has booked her place to join him when the time comes, as she first did in the early 1940s.

A short distance from my parents’ then home lies Catherington Cemetery which opened in 1966, in time to receive my father’s body 21 years later. It is managed by East Hampshire Council.

Tim Lambert, in gives us the following information: ‘During the Middle Ages Catherington was a small and isolated village. It stood in the Forest of Bere. That was a great forest that stretched from the border of Hampshire to Winchester. At that time Waterlooville and Cowplain did not exist. Catherington must have been a very quiet and secluded place [which developed slowly until] in 1901 its population was only a little over 1,300. Meanwhile Catherington Church of All Saints was rebuilt in 1883 by the architect Edmund Ferrey (1845-1900).’ Villagers now number around 4,000.

All Saints Churchyard

As I wrote yesterday this public cemetery stands next to that of All Saints Parish Church, which has its origins in Saxon and Norman times. Currently the church is undergoing repairs to the drains and the roof. The tombs of Admirals Sir Charles Napier and  Sir Christopher Cradock in company with that of the actor Edmund Kean are among the residents of this plot.

Gravestones 1Gravestones 2Gravestones 3

Whereas the graves of those in the modern cemetery are laid out in straight, upright, rows,  those in the churchyard are the more familiar lurching, lichen covered relics giving rise to the unfortunate description


tombstone teeth.

Gravestones and Please walk on the path

I do not wish to be disrespectful. These stones may well continue to defy gravity for many years to come.

All Saints Church 1All Saints Church 2

We explored the inside of the rather splendid little building,  the Norman nave of which has been encased by Ferrey’s additions;

Vicars of All Saints Catherington

but, apart from the extensive list of incumbents, have been unable to trace historical documentation supporting the claim that the original church dates from the twelfth century. Wooden information boards at the back of the church state that the wooden Saxon building was replaced in the 1180s.

Hordle Chinese Take Away provided our dinner this evening.




  1. I’m very pleased to hear they are repairing and caring for the church. How many places can say they have one from Saxon/Norman times!

  2. I actually like the state of the old tombstones; a good reminder that nothing is permanent. Thank you for providing the link on Edmund Kean. Quite a character.

  3. That is ancient resting place. Somehow the tilting tombstones leave me with the feeling that they wish to communicate something over and beyond the lichen.

  4. The old tombstones have defiantly withstood the ravages of time, and look becomingly rustic within the ancient Church’s grounds.

  5. Wow, beautiful images. I love old graveyards for some reason, I always like to think what the people’s lives were like. (Is that weird?) In Switzerland they remove most of them after 25 years, which is kind of sad. After 25 years all traces of your life are just wiped out.

  6. I notice that all the priests that served All Saints Catherington are called ‘Vicars’. There appears to be several names dating from before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, (1536-1541) being catholic, would they have been called vicars back then?
    I always think of Vicar as being a decidedly English thing, even though the Pope is called the Vicarius Christi; Vicar of Christ The local RC priests always seem to be called ‘father’; as in our father etc.

  7. My goodness, this was packed with history and family details, Derrick. 🙂
    I enjoyed the individual photographs of your Mom and Dad as a young, attractive couple in lovely condition.
    My Dad passed away in 2001, so it has been awhile for Mom to be on her own, although not 30 years.
    The Nave was beautiful in the very old cemetery. The stones really do show their age. 1180’s is certainly an ancient time, but it appears timeless inside. Smiles, Robin 💐

  8. A very happy birthday to your mother! All Saints, Catherington is a very lovely-looking church – well-loved and cared for. The gravestones in our churchyard were straightened a few years ago but within a year they were tilting again. Too much rain and then drought and visits from moles and other burrowing creatures makes for uneven ground and leaning gravestones!

  9. Wishing your mother a happy birthday, Derrick!

    I have never heard the expression tombstone teeth. I wonder how deeply they are planted to defy gravity that way?

  10. I was perplexed as to why the ancient cemetery looked so familiar when I realized that my crabby, sugar addicted neighbor has teeth just like the tombstones. 😀

  11. One thing that worries me about losing teeth is whether I can get yellow, crooked false teeth or will I have to have straight white ones and look like a Hollywood matinee idol.

    Lovely historic shots again.

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