I recently visited a Welsh churchyard where I saw a monument that made me reflect on the careful strategies involved in pulling down ‘dangerous’ memorial, as well as the perils of their natural collapse. In this instance, I’m not sure this wasn’t natural collapse given all the pieces are still in the place where they fell. Perhaps subsidence rather than, or alongside, inclement weather did the trick. So this particular instance might be less the ‘archaeology of health and safety’ and more on the ‘archaeology of monumental entropy’ or ‘monumental failure’.
This monument, a grandiose Victorian churchyard structure, like a mighty tree felled by a storm, lies in dismay and ‘dying’. I say ‘dying’ and not ‘dead’ since its form and text are still legible, so it persists in a kind of dilapidated half-life. Its four pieces still are aligned, implying its original form.
Moreover, its top resting on the base of another grave. Was this monumental dominos; was this monument already removed or removed subsequent to its damage by the fallen monument beside it?
In the shot above you can see another cross that has been removed and rested against its original base; that case looks more like churchyard management and health & safety concerns.
Such instances are rarely recorded as characteristics in themselves of churchyards today, yet archaeologists investigating these traces should be attentive to their powerful presence as ‘dying’ memorials, not only to their original form or potential for conservation and restoration. The same might be true in many past societies’ cemeteries and burial grounds.