On Saturday 19th June 2021, as part of the church’s Open Day, Edenbridge Parish Church (St Peter and St Paul) launched their new graveyard trail. This was one of many events celebrating the church’s 900th anniversary that had to be abandoned in 2020, but research has steadily continued over lockdown, enabling a relaunch. The idea of the trail is to ‘unearth’ the stories of some of the people buried in the churchyard, and gather then together as a piece of local social history.
The history of 18 local individuals and families buried in the churchyard have been chronicled. They cover a period from the late 18th century (most graves before that are hard to read) until 1904, when the churchyard was full and burials moved to the adjacent cemetery.
They shed light on some of the local tradespeople: chemist, wheelwright, butchers, dairywoman, innkeeper; who once worked in the High Street shops and pubs we know today. Then there are shoemakers and glove makers, reflecting the centrality of the old tannery to the life of the town and many farmers and agricultural labourers.
There are tragedies: the young woodsman who fatally wounded himself when he had an epileptic fit whilst out coppicing, the many young children who were victims of high mortality rates. And there are arguments: the parishioners who rebelled against the vicar and petitioned the Archbishop of Canterbury to have him removed, the Irish immigrants whose home was stoned by a mob, angry that they were stealing local jobs, the liberal voters ousted by Conservatives following the Reform Bill. There are local people drawn into conflicts further afield: the First World War, the Crimean, the Boer War. And there are more peaceful pioneers including those who set up the town Baptist church and the Ebenezer chapel.
A booklet including all the stories plus a graveyard map is now available from the church and from the Eden Valley Museum or go online at edenbridgeparishchurch.org
A further booklet is also in the pipeline, telling the stories of some of the wealthier and older local families who have memorials inside the church.
Our research will be ongoing, so we would love to hear from anyone with stories of those buried in the churchyard. Contact Rachel Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01732 700006.