Availing of the government’s provision that I could drive in order to meet another person outdoors, and also that I could go for a walk. I drove to High Ham to have lunch in the garden with my sister and then to Huish Episcopi to visit family graves.
Huish Episcopi churchyard is where generations of my family have been laid to rest. It is a place with a meaning far more profound than anything that might be found in the traditions of the church. Records of family members run back four centuries, the family presence undoubtedly extends centuries further back.
Walking among the graves at the west end of the church, I came across the grave of the Revd Joseph Stubbs. British History Online says that Stubbs was vicar from 1892 until 1923. His name was familiar because he preached at the funeral of my great-great-great grandmother, Harriet Crossman. This was a report of the funeral:
A REMARKABLE FAMILY The interment of the late Mrs. Harriett Crossman, relict of Mr. Thomas Crossman, of Ham Down, Huish Episcopi, took place on Saturday afternoon last, at the Huish Churchyard. The Vicar, the Rev. J. Stubbs, officiated. A large number of relatives and friends of deceased were present. On Sunday morning the Rev. J. Stubbs preached to a large congregation, founding his discourse on Ecclesiastes xii, 7, “The dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit- to God who gave it”. Special reference was made by the Vicar to the life and character of the deceased. With regard to the late Mrs. Crossman, he said that as far as he could accurately ascertain – and he had taken a good deal of trouble to do so – her family and descendants consisted of 12 children, 96 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, 56 great-great-grandchildren, and seven great-great-great-grandchildren, making in all a total of 259. The Vicar said that this was a proof of the remarkable vitality of the family, which he thought was possibly without a parallel. During the whole of her life the deceased had set a noble example of piety and earnest religious conviction to her numerous descendants, and to all who knew her. Mrs. Crossman’s age was 97 years, and she had seen as many as eight generations. With the exception of failing eyesight, deceased retained all her faculties until the day of her death.
Died NOVEMBER 16th 1897 Aged 97 years
Interred in St Mary’s Churchyard,
Huish Episcopi, November 20th, 1897.
The seven great-great-great grandchildren mentioned would have included some of my grand aunts and uncles, though not my grandfather, who was born in 1913 and was some fourteen years younger than his next sibling.
Standing at Huish, there is a wonderful sense of continuity, mortality and place.