Elizabeth Johns and her children’s tomb 1702
Many of you will be aware of the very overgrown chest tomb that is near to door of the church. What you probably don’t know is that it is a listed monument in its own right, and is therefore recognised as being important. It is the oldest surviving gravestone in the churchyard and commemorates Elizabeth Johns, a member of a locally prominent family, and her three children. The monument of John Johns inside the church is, I now believe, a commemoration of her father in law John Johns (senior) rather than her husband John, but this only serves to confirm that the family were of some importance.
Elizabeth was the second child of Thomas and Pascha Col(l)e (nee Colwell) who were married in Thornbury on 24 Oct 1661. She had an older sister Deborah (1665), a younger brother John (1672) and a sister Pascha 1670 – 1671). It is likely that her father died in August 1699 and was buried in Thornbury on 16 Aug.
According to the surviving Church records John Johns of Brendon married Elizabeth Cole on May 30th 1693 in Thornbury. They had four children, Elizabeth (Ba. Mar 31 1694, Bu. May 12 1694), John (Ba 09 Apr 1695), Thomas (Ba. Apr 28 1697, Bu. Aug 20 1702) and Patience (Ba. Nov 1 1699, Bu. Sep 3 1702). Elizabeth herself was buried Jun 27th 1702 suggesting that something contagious probably killed her and the two older children in quick succession, leaving just John Johns with his father.
John Johns 1674-1734
Elizabeth’s husband John’s parents were John and Patience Johns and there is no sign of any siblings. John Johns senior was probably buried 10 Aug 1713 again in Thornbury.
After Elizabeth died he seems to have married again to Philippa Maynard on 28 Feb 1703 also in Thornbury. They had a number of children between 1704 and 1713. John Johns, was buried in Thornbury 6 Aug 1734 but there is no sign of a headstone.
John Johns Junior is recorded as signing the Oath of Allegiance, sworn at The George, Holsworthy, 12 September 1723 before William Bickford and Richard Yeo Esqs. He is also recorded on the 1741 list of Freeholders as a Yeoman.
John Johns 1695 – 1743?
John Johns, Elizabeth and John’s surviving son married Mary Jeffery from Bradford on 4 Sep 1718 and they had 6 daughters between 1719 and 1731 although the last one Grace died aged 5 months. So far, I have found no marriages for any of these girls so tracing family down through the generations is difficult.
Looking at the earliest available census in 1841 there is only one family of Johns in the hamlets and they are Samuel (1791) and Hannah (1801) and their 3 children. However, tracing their marriage and baptisms back through time indicates that this family originated from West Putford and were unconnected with the Thornbury family.
The Stone Box Tomb
This is the oldest gravestone in the churchyard, and is a Grade II listed monument in its own right. These are the inscriptions:
The purpose of the two holes in the top stone is unclear – they cut through part of the inscription, and are not symmetrically placed, although they are expertly cut.
The plant growth and passage of time are now threatening this important structure and late last year (2017) I managed to secure some money to carry out a Conservation Report. I am pleased to report that we have now been successful in securing half of the money needed to carry out the restoration. As it is a Grade II listed structure this is an expensive process and it is going to cost £6000 including VAT to carry out the repairs which include:
Removing the top and allowing it to dry prior to repairing cracks and other damage
Carefully recording and dismantling the tomb
Eradicating the ivy
Preparing a proper foundation on which to rebuild the tomb
Cleaning the stones without disturbing the lichens and patina of age
Rebuild the tomb and possibly install stabilising cross walls to strengthen it
Consider the best treatment for the curious holes in the top and fill them to prevent ingress of water and seeds
Reinstate the top in position.
I am therefore starting the process of find the outstanding £3000 from other sources before we can complete the work.
Meg Galley-Taylor, January 2018.