Headstone back in place in church graveyard

Ian Spencer and John Sturdy are standing with the stone, Mark Bolton and Tom Burston are above.
Ian Spencer and John Sturdy are standing with the stone, Mark Bolton and Tom Burston are above.

A gravestone is back in its rightful place after lying in a gutter for the last 40 years.

The headstone, which commemorates Christopher Wealleans, who died in 1867, and Jane Reed, who died in 1893, was on its side in a drainage channel, deisgned to keep St Michael and All Angels Church in Alwinton dry.

The gravestone

The gravestone

No one knows how long it has been in situ, but it is believed to have been there for the last 40 or more years.

Weighing half-a-ton and due to its position, the movement of the headstone was a tricky job.

But Northumberland National Park ranger, Mark Bolton, and a group of volunteers managed to move it.

The blockage was causing water to seep into the fabric of the church and the Rector, Reverend Michael Boag, is delighted and relieved to have it removed and to take its rightful place back in the graveyard.

Volunteers working at Alwinton Church

Volunteers working at Alwinton Church

He said: “It was amazing. This very large, very heavy Victorian gravestone had slipped down into the drainage ditch just next to the church – St Michael’s, Alwinton – some forty or fifty years ago.

“In itself not really a problem, except that it prevented us from digging out the drain and we have had recurring difficulties with dry rot inside the church.

“So clearing the drain was really important.

“Mark Bolton and his team of volunteers from the Northumberland National Park offered to help and worked out how to meet the challenge.

“I said to them, ‘Think Stonehenge – how did those great stones get moved?’

“So the team came on the Friday morning before the Alwinton Show, lowered the stone onto rollers, nudged it along the ditch, somehow turned the corner of the church wall and once it was in clear sight of a sturdy tree, attached a winch and out it came.

“Problem solved!”