Two gravestones to his memory

I would say, without hesitation, that Roger Worthington, who departed this life on 9th July 1709, is the only Baptist Minister to have two gravestones to his memory. But the circumstances for his being so remembered in this way, are indeed, most unusual and fascinating.

Not much is really known about him, except that he preached in the isolated moorland area of Hawkshaw and Edgworth from around 1680 to the early years of the 18th century. He died as mentioned on 9th July 1709, and having loved the moorlands throughout his lifetime, expressed a wish to be buried on them. He was laid to rest in the corner of a small field, and ‘SOMEBODY’ was given £1 per annum to look after his grave, and to keep it neat and tidy.

All was well for several years, with the grave being well maintained but there now comes on the scene, a farmer ploughing the field, and his horse stumbling over the grave and falling heavily onto it, and cracking the stone in several places. From that day, the grave deteriorated rapidly, decay set in, and the ‘SOMEBODY’ who had been given the ‘yearly £1’ ceased to care for it any longer.

The story, however, was to have a happy ending, for many years later, ‘Old Roger’ was remembered, and a walled surround was built for the grave, and a new stone was placed by the side of the old cracked one.

There was a renovation in July 1935, and the new stone records that the plot of land containing the two stones had been given by Godfrey Ramsbotham of Levin in New Zealand surely a far cry from these lonely moors of ours.

The new stone is inscribed:-

‘This stone commemorates the death and burial of Roger Worthington, a Baptist Preacher who ministered in the neighbourhood for many years. The old tombstone originally placed here in 1709 was renovated in July 1935’

Though decaying with age and weatherworn, the original stone still displays its ‘horse cracks’, and is inscribed in that old delightful English lettering:-

‘Here lies the body of Roger Worthington who departed this life the 9th day of July 1709, about the 30th year of his age ‘They that serve Christ in faith and love, shall ever reign with him above’

To find ‘Old Roger’s Grave’, take the turning to the moorlands at Hawkshaw Village Lane Ends, and the lane will take you there. A small step stile requests the visitor to honour this sacred spot.

What became of the ‘Somebody’ who was given the annual £1 for the upkeep of Roger’s original grave I do not know, but an age-old rhyme sums it all up:-

‘There just below the Broadstone Delf
In an unbounded cemetery to himself
Lies Roger Worthington an old divine
Whose gravestone bears the date of seventeen‑nine
A Baptist Minister, he who bought the ground
And left to somebody a yearly pound
To keep his lovely tombstone nice and neat
But that ‘Somebody’ has proved a cheat
For now in moss‑grown fragments, sad to see,
Old Roger’s tablet lies upon the lea’.

By Albert Winstanley