• Discourses in stone: Dialogues with the dissenting dead 1830-1919

      Smithson, Alison-Mary (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-04)
      Graveyard studies have been rich sources for archaeologists, historians, social scientists, anthropologists, genealogists, art historians and others to investigate a diverse range of interests in death and the mortuary practices of former societies. Evidence from the size, material properties of gravestones and other memorials has advanced theories about characteristics of the lives of earlier people; the environment they lived in; their health; domestic situations; familial and social relationships; status; employment history and personal religious observations and beliefs. Rather fewer are studies that consider what memorial epitaphs and inscriptions can convey about some of these factors, and particularly the meaning and expression of emotion conveyed by choice of text chosen to commemorate the dead. This thesis engages with the ‘conversations’ on gravestones: salutations (‘In loving memory’ etc.); inscriptions and epitaphs, and imagery (motifs and carvings) on nineteenthand twentieth-century memorials of four religious Nonconforming denominations. Sample locations offer contrasting social, linguistic, economic and religious environments, and suggest comparisons between practices in west Cheshire and north-east Wales. The research questions are as follows: • is there a consistently characteristic style of Nonconformist epitaphic and decorative memorialisation in the sample area? if not, are there recognisably distinct denominational characteristics? This study has concluded that each denomination exhibited a number of distinct characteristics earlier in the study period, but these distinctions eroded over time, in particular after the 1880 Burials Act, and under the influences of commercialisation of memorial media; increasing secularisation, and the effects of religious union.