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Potton Churchyard

Ann Rugely's gravestone March 2007
Ann Rugely's gravestone March 2007

Saint Mary's churchyard contains a very fine collection of eighteenth century gravestones carved with angels, skulls and various scripts. One gravestone records a grisly death: “A few bones, the only remains (through the Great Fire) of Nicholas Sparkes, were buried on August 22nd, 1783”. He was the .

The pictured tombstone is of Ann Rugeley. She was wife of Henry Rugeley, innkeeper at the Crown in the Market Place. A brief and tentative history for her can be put together from parish records. She was born Ann Chambers in Bedford and she was baptised at Saint Cuthbert's on 2nd November 1670. She married Henry Rugeley (who was younger than her having been born in 1673) at Saint Peter de Merton in the town on 19th July 1699 and presumably moved straight back with him to Potton. The Potton parish register records baptisms of their children: Ann, the first born was baptised on 27th April 1700, having been born a week earlier; Frances was born on 26th August 1701 and baptised five days later. Next came the first Henry, born on 1st February 1703 and baptised a fortnight later, sadly he was buried on 26th January 1704, not quite a year old. Susannah was born on 4th January 1705 and baptised on 21st January and Rowland was baptised on 20th November 1706. Another Henry came next, baptised on 26th September 1708. Sadly, just like his brother he died as a baby, being buried on 10th October in that year. Lastly came a third Henry, born on 28th August 1709. Happily this Henry survived into adulthood and succeeded his father at the Crown. Ann was now in her 39th year and does not seem to have born any more children. Her tombstone reveals that she died on 1st February 1733, she was buried three days later, aged 62; her tombstone says 65 but this sounds suspiciously like a rounded up date. Henry himself, an Overseer of the Poor for the parish in 1714, curiously, has no entry in the Potton burial register but does have a gravestone, showing that he died on 25th March 1756, aged 83.

The churchyard was enlarged in 1842 by the Rev. Richard Whittingham (who wrote of the Great Fire when he was serving as curate in 1783). The old churchyard was closed for new burials (except in vaults and existing grave spaces) in 1879 and the new churchyard was closed three years later; all further burials in Potton would be undertaken at the new cemetery in Sandy Road.