Holt’s parish church has fascinating and rich archaeological and architectural dimensions. Its interior and churchyard and well worth a visit. The church is part of Wrexham Borough’s open church network and therefore contains solid and helpful heritage displays exploring the history of the village, its castle, the bridge and the location’s Roman station and potteries. Inside and outside, there are many dimensions of archaeodeath interest. Here are but two, both involving skulls.
The Biography of the Memento Mori Stone
The ‘memento mori’ stone was formerly in the graveyard below the central east window beneath loose stones. Upon removing the loose stones in 2006, the slab was seen to have additional carvings. The heritage board suggests it was a mason’s trial piece later reused as a side-panel for an 18th-century chest tomb with its trial carvings facing inwards. Later, it was repositioned again beneath the window. The translation inside in 2006 represents a postulated fourth stage to its biography. Of course, this doesn’t entertain the strong possibility that the stone might have had an earlier stage (or stages) to its life history before it was used as a trial piece!
The folklore indicates that the carved skull denotes where a stone mason fell from the church to his death at some unknown point between the 15th and 18th centuries. Folklore is rarely helpful, but not entirely random; the presence of the stone as displayed up to 2006 up against the very edge of the church would have inspired this particular gruesome story.
The Thomas Crue Tablet
I am confident that memorial brasses were designed to be impossible to photograph! Anyway, this brass tablet was situated on the north wall of the chapel north of the chancel. It commemorates Thomas Crue, d. 1666, produced by his relative Sylvanus Crue, a Wrexham goldsmith. I just love its skulls and skeleton, angelic head, columns and sundials and crown and hour glass. Sorry the photos aren’t ideal. My transcription is uncertain regarding the fifth word on the first line but otherwise the dreary nature of the imagery is reflected in the text.
The life of man ????ntly from the wombe;
Head oneth both day & night unto the tombe
Of mortall life when once the thred is spunne
Man has a life imortall then begunne
A wife man dying lives and living dies
Such was the man that here intombed lies.
Caerfull he liv’d gods sacred lawes to keepe
Religiously untill the Death or Sleepe
Unto a happy life, his soule did bring,
Ending this life to live with Christ our king
The Latin inscription is another brassy memento mori: ‘me today, you tomorrow’.
Happy stuff indeed!