A memorial for John Clare

 

The nineteenth-century poet John Clare is buried in the churchyard at Helpston, his native village between Stamford and Peterborough. His tomb is heavily encrusted with lichen, which makes the Victorian lettering difficult to read and the tomb difficult to locate for its many visitors. 

 

 

 

After some of my work was shown in the excellent Clare Cottage (his attractively-restored birthplace at Helpston) the John Clare Society asked me to create a marker for the tomb for the 150th anniversary of his death, in 2014. It would need both to locate the grave for visitors, re-present the wording, and be consistent with the character of the churchyard.

 

I suggested a  half-scale replica of the tomb which would stand on its en, with the replicating the wording in the original script. This matches the height of adjacent tombs and the choice of Ancaster stone keeps it consistent in character. I took rubbings of the lettering and, beneath the lichen, found an attractive,  curvy Victorian script which I  enjoyed replicating.

 

This design had a couple of unexpected resonances. Clare was a modest man who wished to be buried under a 'simple milestone', which this shape echoes. He asked for an equally modest inscription:

 

                                             HERE Rest the HOPES And Ashes of JOHN CLARE

 

He did not get this wish in his original tomb, but they are inscribed into the top surface of the new stone in a deliberatley contrasting font. Clare has his wish 150 years later.

 

 

 

Each year the children of Helpston lay 'Midsummer Cushions' at Clare's tomb. It is lovely to see them around the new grave-marker.

 

On the right is the President of the John Clare Society, Carry Ackroyd.