Restoration of Tombs



In 2016 a survey of the tombs/headstones was done in the churchyard at Ruan Lanihorne and several were identified as needing some work done on them.  It was decided to tackle ten of the oldest ones first and so the process of getting a faculty began. Photographs were taken of their present state, a summary of the work needed, a statement of how the work would be done, a risk assessment, an estimate of the cost and finally to search for a relative to gain permission.  I had thought that it would be quite difficult to find a relative but actually I was able to do this fairly quickly.  The faculty was now applied for and eventually we received a visit from a diocesan representative to have a look at the proposed work.  He was very helpful and earlier this year we got the go ahead.

At the beginning of September the stone masons arrived to start work on the Luke vault in the north corner of the churchyard.  Many visitors have asked whether this was an air raid shelter and have been directed to the plaque in the transept.  The plaque tells us that nine members of the Luke family are within, Mary Luke 19th October 1800, sister Elizabeth 22nd October 1807, brother John 3rd November 1807, sister Jennifer 2nd January 1792, sister-in-law Mary 5th December 1813, sister Martha 20th March 1816, brother William (vice admiral) 19th December 1818, sister Susanna 8th August 1819 and sister Ann 27th December 1819.  Three of the sisters were married but their husbands were not interred with them.  Susanna’s husband Richard Thomas was buried in Veryan and is mentioned on a plaque there along with his first wife Abigail.  I also wonder whether Jennifer is interred as she also has a headstone in the transept next to their parents John and Elizabeth Luke.  The Luke family lived at Treviles.

The exact date of construction is not known but we do know from the will of Ann Luke that the vault was erected by her brother John Luke.  I suspect that as Jennifer had a headstone in the church that it was probably built after 1792 and before 1807 when John died.  It is also the will of Ann Luke that bequeaths to the church the sum of two hundred pounds in trust for the interest thereof to be used “for the proper repair of the said Monument,” unfortunately this bequest now would not cover the cost of paint.

The vault has a granite barrel top with stone sides surrounded by iron railings and over the years vegetation has caused a considerable amount of damage to the top.  Before work was started permission had been sort to open the vault to ensure that the inside was sound and this was the first thing to be done.  A small opening was made in the bricked up entrance.  On inspection it was found that the inside had a brick barrel ceiling with stalactites of lime hanging down, the walls had been lime plastered and two coffins on a wood floor. For many years it had been conjectured that with the number interred the coffins must be stacked on either side but as only two could be seen it is now speculated that the remaining members are stacked below the wooden floor which was higher than the bottom of the entrance.  The inspection found the inside was in extremely good condition and so work could be started on the outside.  The opening was resealed.

Firstly the vegetation was removed and then they slowly removed each granite block from the top, carefully placing them on the grass in the order they came off.  The next job was to remove the several inches of soil that had built up over the years from beneath these stones.  When this had been cleaned up it showed that there was a layer of stone and lime mortar.  With this now all cleared they started to reinstate the granite blocks on a layer of lime mortar, while this set they started to clean out the stone sides ready to re-point.  The whole of the vault was re-pointed where needed and the final job was to take off the rust on the railings and then paint them.  The metal entrance gate needed some repair and went off to be welded; this will be painted as well on its return.


The next tombs to be restored are the Blamey table top tombs by the porch.


While the stone masons were working on the Luke vault we started the repairs on the Blamy table top tombs by the porch.  We have a retired stone mason who is advising us but it made sense to make a start while the other stone masons were there.

The first tomb contains Nicholas Blamy 6th September 1811 and his wife Sibella 18th March 1807.  The second tomb contains their son Nicholas Blamy 8th February 1796, his sister Mary Ann Behennah 28th August 1818 and brother-in-law Henry Behennah 17th March 1823.  Nicholas married Sibella Odgers in 1767 at Ruan Lanihorne and as far as I can find only had two children Nicholas and Mary Ann.  Their son Nicholas unfortunately died at the age of 23 and so the Blamy name died out in this line.  From a newspaper article in 1811 we know that Nicholas Blamy was living at Gonitor and from the tomb of Henry Behennah that he was at Gonitor in 1823.  In 1927 Mr Penter found at Gonitor the bottom of a glass bottle with the date 1745 and name N. Blamey, Ruan, whether this was the same Nicholas I have no idea but as he would have only been four, I feel that it was probably a relative.

As mentioned above with the Blamy name died out I had to search for a relative through the daughter Mary Ann Behennah, who complicated matters by only having four daughters but I was able to trace down through her daughter Elizabeth who married William Martyn, a great great great great grandson in Australia, who was delighted to give permission for work to be carried out.

The two tombs are identical in construction.  They are rectangular in shape, each having several rows of red bricks with a similar connected course inside, a torus moulded white limestone outer border to lids with an inscribed slate inset between which sit on metal ties.

The first thing we had to do was to remove any vegetation that was growing on the tombs and it was decided to tackle Nicholas and Sibella’s tomb first as it needed less work.  After advice from the stone masons we chiselled out the old lime mortar where needed from between the bricks and cleared out earth from where there was nothing plus what seemed like an everlasting supply of snails. A couple of bricks on two of the corners had come out and these were cleaned off ready to be put back in.  The whole of the walls were then brushed off to ensure there was no loose dirt etc and we were ready to start the re-pointing and repairing.  The stone masons mixed the first batch of lime mortar for us, giving instructions on how this needed to be done and then showed us how to do the re-pointing and the tools we needed.  We started by lime mortaring back the couple of loose bricks on the corners and then started to re-point the walls.  With this finished we moved onto the second tomb.  The second tomb needed a lot more work including almost completely rebuilding one end.  We started by rebuilding the collapsed end and then carried on to chisel out the old lime mortar where needed and replace with new.  With the sides complete we tackled the top which was up and down all over the place.  Firstly we took out all the odd bits of slate that had been used to prop the mouldings up and then cleared under them to sit them flat again, with this done we pushed them back together and made them level to match the other tomb.  The final job was to lime mortar the mouldings to the base on both tombs and we were finished.


With both tombs finished we moved onto the next tomb of Catherine Daw behind the tower.


With the Blamy tombs finished we moved onto the tomb of Catherine Daw or should I say what was left of the tomb.  It had been totally destroyed by three large ash trees and it was guessed that this tomb had once been a table top tomb but with only the slate and a pile of bricks it was difficult to say exactly.

The tomb contained Catherine Daw 31st March 1829 wife of John Daw of Veryan and sister Elizabeth Martyn 27th November 1850 widow of John Martyn of Lower St Columb.  Both sisters were married in Colon and their surname was Williams.  It looks like Elizabeth came to stay in Veryan with her sister Catherine after the death of her husband in 1798.  I have not been able to find the death of Catherine’s husband John in Veryan or Ruan.  The only connection they have to Ruan is that Elizabeth was the mother of William Martyn who was farming at Gonitor.

Tracking a relative for this tomb was easy as I had already used the Martyn line for the Blamy tombs.


A few years ago the trees were cut down to ground height and left to rot, so we hoped that the removal of the remaining wood would be easy.

Our first job was to carefully lift the slate off the pile of bricks and this took three people as the slate was so heavy and it was then laid on the ground clear of the grave.  We then sorted the bricks into whole, half, quarter and bits, with each category in piles.  Next we had to clean off the old lime mortar without damaging the bricks ready for reuse.  Having cleared the grave of bricks and vegetation we then started to look at how much damage the trees had done to the foundations, luckily we only needed to go down two courses on one side.  Removing the remainder of the tree stump, to allow us to rebuild the side proved very hard.  The stump had rotted at the top but not at the bottom.  Carefully using the chainsaw and axe we gradually chopped it away.  While doing this we found that the stump actually had grown around a number of bricks and stones.  Two chainsaw blades and a re-sharpened axe later it was gone.  The soil, roots and sawdust was cleaned off the in situ base bricks ready to be built on.  The first part course was lime mortared in place and allowed to set.  As there was no indication as to whether there had been a connecting inner wall just like the Blamy tombs, we decided to put one in to help strengthen the sides.  The next part course was laid to bring the total base up to ground level and the building of the next three layers began.  We finished laying the final three layers of bricks with lime mortar and when these had set, filled the void to just below the top brick.  The next bit of relaying the slate headstone was going to be tricky as it was so heavy (I couldn’t even lift one end), so we got three strong men to help.  A layer of mortar was put on the top bricks and then the men carefully lowered the slate into position, with this now bedded in, the final job was to point in the bricks.


With this finished we moved onto the railed tomb and grave of the Peter family.


After the mammoth task of rebuilding the Daw tomb we moved on to the tombs of the Peter family.  The   tombs are next to the Luke vault in the North corner of the churchyard.  The first (railed) tomb contains the Reverend John Peter, Rector of Grade & Ruan Minor 12th November 1852, his wife Mary 3rd March 1867, daughter Sarah Hitchens 4th January 1832, daughter Mary 4th January 1832, daughter Martha Franklen 1st August 1885 and son Reverend Lewis Morgan Peter, Rector of Ruan Lanihorne & Vicar of Cornelly 30th March 1895.  The next grave contains John Luke Peter 20th November 1900 (second son of the Reverend John Peter) and his daughter Mary Wilmot Peter 8th December 1859.

The Peter family lived at Treviles.  The Reverend John Peter inherited Treviles in 1822 from his father Robert Peter, Rector of Sully in Glamorganshire, who had previously inherited it from his cousin Ann Luke.  The census shows us that only Mary and the children lived at Treviles while John lived at the vicarage at Grade.  On the death of John Peter in 1852, Treviles passed to his eldest son the Reverend Lewis Morgan and as he never married, on his death Treviles went to his brother John Luke Peter.  John Luke Peter may have lived at Treviles for a short while after his brothers’ death.

The first tomb is surrounded by iron railings.  It has granite boarders sitting on low stone walls.  From the outside boarders is a sloping stone leading to two flat rectangular headstones with inscriptions.  On top of these is a stone cross.  On the south side the top of a brick arch can be seen in the low wall and it is guessed that originally there were steps going down into the ground to give access to the tomb.

Peter Mary Wilmot

The second grave has granite boarders with granite slabs inset.  The granite end once had a stone cross on it which now lies broken on top of the granite slabs.  There are inscriptions on the granite end and on one of the boarders.

We started on the railed tomb as this was going to be the easier of the two.  The vegetation that had been growing on it had been given several doses of weed killer previously and the brambles and ivy on the top had died nicely.  The ivy on the sides was still persisting in places so another dose of weed killer was needed.  We hadn’t planned to paint the railings but with the Luke vault next door looking so good with its’ newly painted railings we decided to do the same.  The first job to be done was to rub them down with a wire brush to remove all the rust.  David had to do the inside as I couldn’t fit through the gap in the railings (perhaps it’s time for a diet).  Once this was finished we gave them a coat of black paint.  The two small trees that were growing in the wall and top were persistently putting up new growth but after a good dose of stump killer we hope this has now killed them off.  To give the weed killer time to work we moved to the restoration of the grave of Mary Wilmot Peter.

The first thing to do was to gently move the side granites slightly away so allowing us room to correct the height of the middle slabs and push them back together.  We then pushed the side granites back into their correct position.  The next thing to do was to bring the head end back up to the grave (it had previously fell down the slope and for safety reasons we had propped it upright where it had fallen).  This stone is extremely heavy and it took several moves to eventually get it back to the correct height and position.

The granite stones between the grave and the railed tomb had also been pushed and broken by trees, so we careful took these up, removed the stumps and relaid them flat.

With everything in place, we started to lime mortar the grave and then the granite path.


Now that this was complete we returned to the railed tomb.  The stump and root on the top was careful reduced so that mortar could be put in.  The gaps in the granite were all filled and then we started to mortar the sides.  The tree growing in the side had still not died, so we gave it another dose of stump killer and waited.  It is now showing no signs of life and we hope to finish mortaring the sides soon.



With the Peter tombs complete we moved onto the three tombs of the Dingle family.  These three tombs were in varying degrees of poor state.  The first tomb contains Richard Dingle who died 23rd February 1811 aged 59.  The second tomb contains Mary Ann Dingle, daughter of Richard and Catherine Dingle who died 25th October 1811 aged 24 years.  The third tomb contains Catharine, wife of Richard Dingle who died 21st November 1838 aged 90.  From what I can conclude I believe that the family were living at Trestain and Trelonk farms.  I was able to track a direct descendant from Richard Dingle to a great great great grandson in Australia.

We decided to start with the tomb of Richard Dingle as we were worried that the side of the tomb could collapse at any moment.

The first thing we did was remove the inscribed slate that belongs to the tomb of Mary Ann Dingle which was lying on top of Richards tomb and put it on her tomb.  We then removed the inscribed slate of Richard Dingle and put to one side.  With the headstone out of the way we were able to move the heavy slates off to one side as well. These were laid on the grass in the pattern they came off and the missing slate was retrieved from the ditch and put in the correct position.

With the tomb safer to work on, we started to remove the weeds, earth, old mortar and loose bricks.  The bricks that we had removed were all cleaned of the old mortar and made ready to be put back.  The bricks that were still solid were also cleaned off.

With all the prep work done we started to rebuild the side closest to the church, then continued along the ends and did the other side.  Once the lime mortar had gone off, we placed the heavy slates back on the top and when we were happy that they were in the right position, they were mortared in.  At this stage we re-pointed the whole tomb.  The middle was then filled with stone and broken bricks to just below the slates.  This was then covered in a layer of mortar.  The main part of the tomb was now solid and we placed the inscribed slate back on the top and this was mortared in.

We now moved onto the tomb of Mary Ann Dingle.  This tomb was just a pile of bits and pieces.  The first thing we did was remove the inscribed slate from the top of the pile which we had put there when we started Richard’s tomb and put to one side on the grass.  The long limestone side moulding which had falling between the tombs we had already removed to one side and the one on the other side which has part of its end missing, we now moved clear to the other side.  The two end mouldings we also removed unfortunately one of these was in several bits.

With the very heavy mouldings out of the way we started to clear the weeds and pile of bricks until we could see an outline of the actual size of the tomb.  The tomb had been pushed apart in a couple of places by roots.

Next, we started to remove the loose bricks and clean off the mortar until we had a solid base to start the rebuild.  We started by rebuilding the lower side to bring it up to the height of the upper side hence giving us a complete level to build the final course of bricks on. 

With the last layer mortared in we were ready to place the heavy side mouldings back in place but due to the weight we could not do this on our own so help was requested.  With help from Chris, Steve, Ben and Anna we were able to safely get these on the bricks without disturbing anything. 

We then mortared in the three good side mouldings and looked at how we were going to do the fourth side as this small moulding had completely fallen to pieces.  Having looked at various options we decided to put the biggest bit back in and then used a mortar mix similar in colour to build up the height to match the rest of the tomb.  The sides were pointed in next and with this completed the slate headstone was put back on top and mortared in.

We now moved onto the tomb of Catherine Dingle.  This tomb had a large limestone slab which had split into several pieces and the slate on top of that had also broken into several bits. 

The first thing we did was to remove the inscribed slate and put to one side.  We then removed the two large bits of limestone with the help of Chris and Steve.  With these removed and safely put to one side, we started to remove the loose bricks.

Having removed most of the bricks, we discovered that the reason it had split in half was because the lower base had been broken and one side had sunk.  We put extra mortar on the base of this side wall to make it flat and level.  We then built up the four sides with the original bricks and lime mortar.  The middle of the grave was filled again with the stones that had been removed earlier. 

All the work was done carefully so as not to disturb the nest of some red-tailed bumblebees.  To replace the largest of the two slabs, we again got help from Chris and Steve.  Once in place these were mortared in and then the sides were pointed in. 

The next job was to put the small bits of the slab back in, while leaving a small hole for the bees to continue going in and out.  The small side piece was carefully mortared in with support underneath, followed by the last two bits.  With the top stone now complete we replaced the slate and mortared in.

With all three Dingle tombs complete we moved onto the tomb of Reverend Budd.


The Reverend Richard Budd had been rector of Ruan Lanihorne for forty years and died 22nd February 1849 aged 76.  Richard married Harriet Ann Trist in Veryan on the 6th May 1813.  Harriet was the daughter of Reverend Jeremiah Trist of Veryan.  Richard and Harriet had seven children, Harriet 1814, Mary Ann 1816, Richard Trist 1817. Edward Henry 1819, Theodore 1820, Maria Elizabeth 1822 and Septimus Henry 1828.  All four boys died without children and of the girls, Harriet was the only one to have children that survived to adulthood and it was through this line that I was able to track a great great great grandson in France.

The tomb had been broken apart by a large tree and the reason for leaving this one until last was to let the tree stump and roots rot.  Unfortunately, the main stump had mostly rotted but the roots were still solid. 

The first thing we did was to clear the vegetation off the top of the inscribed stone and uncover the root running along the side of the grave.  We carefully removed the smaller bits of the inscribed stone to the grass outside the railed grave and leant the larger bit against the railings, which we roped securely to ensure it didn’t fall over. 

With room to work, we next removed the curved edging stones, these too had been badly broken by the roots.  We now began to remove the roots and the remains of the stump.  We discovered that they were sitting on a granite plinth which the railings were set into.  We managed to get most of the root out with a chain saw but where it had grown around the railings, we had to use an axe.  Several of the roots had grown out through the railings, so the ground was cleared around the outside of the grave to give access to remove these.  On one side of the grave was a Bleeding Heart plant which we carefully worked around, trying not to disturb it too much.  We were able to leave this as nearly all of its roots went away from the main grave area.  The railings at the end closest to the church had become loose, so we removed the end panel which made access to the grave easier.

With everything cleared, we discovered that the roots had distorted the shape and level of the grave.  As the grave was no longer level or the correct shape, we decided to put in a solid base for the curved stones to sit on.  The curved edging was cleaned and laid out in the order it need to go back on.  With the new base finished, the curved edging was mortared in place.

With the curved base mortared in, we cleaned the underside of the biggest part of the headstone and carefully lowered it onto the edging stones. 

While this was being done, we also started to clear the rust off the railings, getting them ready for a coat of paint.  The main headstone pieces were mortared in next.  The railings that had been removed were made into a gate to give easier access and this was then attached to the main railings, with this in place, we started to paint the railings.

We haven’t quite finished this grave, as there is a small amount of mortar still to go in around the sides and the south side of the railings still need to be painted.