This is a diary kept by the Sexton of St Just-in-Penwith Church, Cornwall found by Joan Bown in a drawer in the Church. She sent me a copy several years ago. I have reproduced it in total here for all interested.

Fran Stewart

The full text is reproduced here by kind permission of the transcriber, Fran Stewart. It has been re-formatted onto one page per year for ease of use on the web. Though rather morbid reading, it offers a fascinating and unusual insight into the daily life of a small community and the tensions between its officers.

The Sexton’s Book

written by E. Millet of Bosavern.

MAY 1 1893

At the request of our Vicar the Revd. JOHN ANDREWS REEVE I accepted the Office of Sexton to the Parish Church of St Just. (signed E.(S) Millett Bosavern) Was published as Sexton from the Pulpit by the Rev. J. A. Reeve.

May 17th. 1890

Copy of Order from Queen and Council re St Just in Penwith Burials discontinuance in St Just forwith and entirely in the Parish Church of St Just in the County of Cornwall and also in the Churchyards after the 3rd July 1890 except as follows. “In such Vaults and wholey walled graves as are now excisting in the Churchyard, Burials may be allowed, on condition that every coffin buried therein be separately enclosed by stonework or brickwork properly cemented. (Signed C.S. Peel.)

Scale of Fees chargeable—Upper Yard

Ordinary Funeral 7s. 6d.
Choice of Grave space extra 5s. 0d.
Reserving or buying Grave space £1.1s. 0d.
For single wall Grave £2.10s.0d.
For Double Wall grave £5. 0. 0d.
Burial in existing Wallgrave. Vicars 10s.6d.
Upright Headstone 10s.6d. A
Re-opening Wallgrave Single 10s.6d.
          "                   " Double Sexton £1. 1s.0d.
          "                   " Clerk 2s 6d.
          "                   " Churchyard 5s 6d.
Placing flat stone on grave space which must be bought £2.10s.0d
Curbing to grave. Single 5s.0d. B
        "        "       " Double 10s.0d.
Childs grave Ordinary funeral 5s.0d.
extra choice of space 5s.0d.
Reopening ordinary 6ft. Grave 7s.0d.
Reopening ordinary 9ft. Grave 10s.0d.
For upright A headstone, kerb B and purchase of grave £1.16s.6d.


May 6th. Joe Trevorrow finished the first grave under my supervision no.24 of 2nd. Row A Section and in it was buried E.M.Rodgers Aged 20.

May 8th. Meeting of Committee at Church House when I took over books etc. being the Register of Graves , Cemetery Ledger, and the plan of first Section of ground, and up to this date not one entry had been made in it.

May 11th. had Joe Trevorrow one day levelling ground and making place more presentable.

May 13th. Wrote to Wm. Merrifield, stepson of the late Henry Pike for all books, papers, maps, parchments etc. relating to the Three Churchyards. Joe Trevorrow finished the work clearing up Churchyard and in the afternoon had a cart horse and man for half a day and removed all spoil to Eastern end and put it into pits there, paid Joe Trevorrow as per ledger. Mr Daniel of Ennis, Paul came to me last night about erecting headstone to his Uncle and Aunt, George and Mary Casley buried in the Bones grave on South gate of Old Churchyard. I told him there would be no objection on payment of fees, I supposed 10/6d. but would see the Vicar.

May14th. Spoke to the Vicar before the Morning Service about the above, the fee is 10/6d. and no objection regarding the erection.

May 15th. Took Joe Trevorrow up and levelled the place where the stone to be placed.

May 17th. Was in the Churchyard until 1o’clock, and saw the stone fixed. Mr Daniel, paid me 10/6d. Vicars fee. Received notice at 6.15pm that the grave No. 15, 1st Row, Section A Southside in which Nanny Edwards is now buried and which grave was sunk 8ft deep would be required to be ready by Saturday 20th. at 5pm for the remains of her husband Phillip Corin Edwards aged 84.

May 20th 5pm Phillip Corin Edwards was buried. Rev T. S Rankew officiated. Remained and saw ground cleared up.

May 21st Gave Mr Reeve Vicar the fee 10/6 received from Mr. Daniels for erecting of headstone to George and Mary Casley, 11 am Church Gate.

May 28th Received notice at 9:30 pm for a grave No 24. 2nd Row, Section A for E.M.Rogers whose funeral would take place of Tuesday 30th at 5 O’clock.

May 30th Elizabeth Mathews Rogers age 20 was buried. Mr Reeve officiated. Funeral an hour late.

June 13th and 14th Joe Trevorrow on two days clearing up the roadways paths etc. removing thistles, docks etc. and generally tidying up the Upper Churchyard. John Vingoe today spoke of purchasing and reserving Two graves space, putting up Headstone Curbing etc. and agreed to meet him tomorrow in the Churchyard between 9 and 10 O’clock.

June 15th met John Vingoe in the Higher Churchyard at 10 O’clock when he purchased (money to be paid on Monday the 19th when title to the ground will be given). No. 20 and 21 grave spaces in Section A, Second Row, on which he will erect a Tombstone to his Mother and Father, enclosing the space with a curb of granite.

June 17th—Joe Trevorrow employed today clearing pathway in Lower Churchyard.

June 17th—Joe Trevorrow employed today cutting down thistles, docks nettles etc. around walls and in the centre of Lower Churchyard. John Vingoe came and paid for above mentioned Sections in Higher Churchyard also paid Fees for Headstone, Kerb etc. in all £3/12/6d. gave him parchment Certificate No.2.

June 29th Received instructions from Mr Osborn of Penhale to prepare a grave for his infant child, funeral to take place on Monday July 2nd.

July 7th 8:30pm Certificate of the death of Sophia Walls, five day old baby with a request to bury it tonight, sent JOE up with Certificate to the Clerk to notify to Mr Cooper when it was arranged that the child should be buried at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.

July 8th Joe Trevorrow began about 5 O’clock to dig the grave and at 9 O’clock Merrifield brought the child to the Higher Churchyard, but owing to some mistake Mr Cooper was left at the Church so Joe had to go to town to fetch him. Merrifield had not collected the Fees so I hold him responsible for them, as he went to the house to remove the childs body. The child was not baptised.

July 11th. Called at Merrifields house and left a message with Jane Merrifield that I should look to William for the fees on a/c of the interment of Sophia Walls infant. July 14th Received notice this morning at 8:30 that Mr Ben Richards child would require interment at 5 O’clock of the afternoon of Monday next the 17th inst. child is called William aged 3 months.

July 17th—William Richards aged 3 months was interred No 23 grave Section ..... from South wall 5:45 pm

July 26th received notification at 00:45 that a grave was required by 5pm. on Saturday next the 29th. for the interment of Matthias Maddern age 47, miner. Wm. Merrifield paid balance of S. Walls fees 2/– at funeral.

July 29th—Matthias Maddern was buried at 6 O’Clock a fairly attended funeral one of the members of the Philantrophic Club (bearer) had taken more liquor than was good for him, and like a sensible man left the ground as soon as he had reached the grave. Some little trouble experienced from a few noisy women who considered themselves hard done by when they came up and found the gates shut. One young woman went so far as to threaten me with a stone, but this only happened when the great Mr Henry Olds advised them to take the law into their own hands and burst the gate in. The beauty of the whole thing is that no one outside the gates ever pointedly asked to be admitted, they simply went to and fro grumbling.

August 3rd two women Jane Eddy and Peggy Williams called on me relatively early to the burying of a still born child, or so reputed, behaving very insolently to me. I asked them for a Medical Certificate when they presented me with a sort of paper said to be written by Alfred Chenhalls, Registrar and signed by Peggy Williams Mid-wife. I told them that I could not bury or dispose of any body on such a certificate. I must have one from a Medical man, the woman Eddy cursed and said pretty much when I ordered them off the premises. After dinner I saw the Sergeant of Police, he declined to act in any way. I saw also the Registrar who said I could not bury on such a certificate, so I asked him why he wrote it out for Williams signature if he knew it was useless. I also saw Edwin Trembath one of the overseers who stated that I could not bury the child on such a certificate. Returned home and wrote to Pascoe Grenfell Coroner, on the subject as per Press copy in No.2 Book Folio 849.

Aug 4th—At noon received notice from Hattam that the women Eddy and Williams had climbed the wall of the Cemetery p[opened a grave No 24 D Side and deposited the child in the space. I immediately went up and found the facts as stated, I wrote a telegram to the Coroner and one to District Inspector of County Constabulary which about 2:15 I passed in to Post Office reporting this illegal proceedings.

Aug 5th went in by 8:30 Bus to see the Coroner and Inspector of C.C. as Sergeant Hill of this place absolutely refused to move in the matter or make any report of it to his superior officer. On getting to Chenhale saw the Coroner who told me he could take no cognisance of the matter without a report from the Police upon which inspector Matthews report on the matter was opened by him and read-after some conversation the Coroner remarked that he did not see that it was a matter for him to interfere with and gave the Inspector a few lines to give to the Deputy Registrar of St Just. Left the Registrar, dropped the inspector at Chyandour and went on up to town to see a Magistrate. Met Mr T.B. Bolitho who heard what I had to say and sent me on to the Magistrates Clerk for him to see what steps could be taken in the circumstances, went direct to Walter Borlase’s office who with his Clerk looked through several authorities bearing on the matter, but having a meeting in the Guildhall with the Registrar at eleven appointed 3 o’clock for me to see him again. I was again at his office at 3 o’clock when he told me he could find no section or subsection in any Act by which these women could be brought to book, but if I brought him the Deed relating to the Cemetery it might be possible to take proceedings against them, this I have promised to do Tuesday next so must see Holman about it.

Aug 6th Decided on calling a Meeting of Higher Churchyard Committee for instructions on it, wrote and delivered notes to the following R. Thomas Wm. Holman, Dr Nesbit, John Phillips, and the Rev. Cooper. Telegrams—Grenfell Coroner—Women Eddy and Williams broke into Cemetery this morning and buried child—no certificate—Millett Sexton St. Just. Inspector County Constabulary Chyandour—Two women Eddy and Williams broke into Cemetery this morning and buried child without certificate—see Coroner Millett. Sexton St Just. Coroners reply to telegram—Gulval. Millett. Sexton., St Just. Police not informing me—cannot interfere— Grenfell, Coroner, Penzance.

Aug 7th A meeting of the Higher Churchyard Committee. After a conversation over what had happened at the Churchyard it was decided to Summon the women for Trespass. it was also decided to report the matter to the Home Secretary should necessity arise before Friday next. Mr Millett to go to Penzance and consult further with Mr Borlase tomorrow morning.

Aug 8th I saw Mr Borlase at 2:10 Pm who though a case under injury to property might be “on account of the trespass and appropriation of ground by breaking it and burial”, this was as far as the Magistrates Clerk could go and that for further action in the case we had better see a Solicitor. Refer to Act 37.38 Vic Chap 88 Sec 18. Possibly charge may come under malicious injury to real property or Query? does it fall within the case of Regina v Sharp 26 Law Journal, Magistrates Cases Page 47. Saw Cornish T.H. about 2:45 who thought as Borlase that case might come under 37.38. Viv.

Aug 9th Meeting held at School Library same members present and after hearing my report of consultation with Borlase decided that Mr. W Holman and I should meet tomorrow in Penzance, go to Messrs. Cornish, place the matter in their hands with a view to prosecuting and for Cornish to report the matter to the Home Secretary.

Aug 10th. Met J.B.Cornish at about 9:45 and arranged to meet him with Holman at his office at 12 noon. We met as agreed and settled to prosecute Jane Eddy and Peggy Williams, also to report the whole proceeding through our solicitor to the Home Secretary.

Aug 11th received notice about 5:30pm from Mr Peter Olds that his grandchild was dead and he would require his purchased grave re-opened, but would let me know for certain tomorrow morning at the Market house.

Aug 12th saw Mr Peter Olds at about 9:45 am at the Market house and proposed that the child should be buried in No 1 Sec. A Row for children, but on consulting with his family he decided upon opening his grave, having it built in brick, thereby making it a Vault and burying the infant grandchild in the bottom of it.

Aug 28th William Monk aged 15 Months was buried in the same grave as his brother Thomas Monk section D South side No 25.

Sept 1st—Noon—Received notice to have grave ready for Annie Hollow, North side of gate from gate.

Sept.3rd—Received notice at 10 am. that a grave sufficient for a Brick grave would be required for Charles Tippett of Keleynack who died on Friday last. Grave no.19.a. Section. 2nd.row.South. Funeral on Wednesday next at 4 pm. Age ??

Sept 4th In Churchyard at 7 am and pointed out by measurement where the grave was to be dug. In measuring off found the line of the late Sexton was very much out.

Sept 5th William Perrow gave me notice to have a grave ready for his child and would wish the child buried on his Mother. No. 38 1st Row A section.

Sept 6th. 4-30pm Charles Tippett was buried in the bricked grave No 19 A Section 5-30pm John Perrow was buried as above, aged 2 years. Sept 13th Mrs James of Carn Bosavern called at 8-30am to give notice to have a grave ready for her daughters baby Semmens James aged 6 months funeral for tomorrow the 14th at 4-30pm.

Sept 14th 5-00pm James Semmens James age 6 months was buried in Section ? North side no 25.

Sept 18th Noon.Received notice that a grave No 17 Section A. South side would be required for Joseph Hosking on Wednesday 20th. at 4-30pm Grave for 2 coffins 8 ft deep.

Sept 19th. 3-45pm received notice to have a grave ready for Charles Harry aged 5 months for 4 O’clock on Thursday 21st inst.

Sept 20th. Joseph Hosking was buried in Section as above, funeral an hour late 5-30pm.

Sept 21st Charles Harry was buried in No 26 Grave section D. Northside counting from gate.

Sept 25th Dr Jago. called at 8o’clock this morning to arrange for a grave for his child who died yesterday morning. Funeral for Wednesday morning if I could be ready—told him I could be ready for tomorrow at any time so settled for eight o’clock on Tuesday.

Sept 26th Dr Jago’s boy was buried in No. 1 C row on Southside at 9-15 am. Received notice last night that the child John Curnow aged 18 months would be buried on Wednesday at 4-30 in the same grave with his Grandmother Nanny Curnow. No 23 A Section 2nd row North side.

Sept 27th 5-30pm John Curnow was buried Funeral late.

Sept 29th. 5pm Received notice for a grave for the child Ethel Laury aged 6 years. Grave No 2. C Section southside.

Sept 30th Ethel Laury was buried, the funeral being an hour and a quarter late. Saw it leave Tregeseal at 5-15 when it was arranged that it should be at the Church at 4-O’clock. This sort of thing will have to be put a stop to.

Oct 4th A Stillborn child was buried this night at the request of the father William (Hy?) Trezise in the grave with his other child. No.18 D Southside.

Oct 5th Notice was brought this afternoon that a grave would be required for the little girl Mary Ann Dale who was suffocated through falling into an arsenic flue at Botallack Mine, the grave will be no.3C Southside, the interrment to take place tomorrow at 5pm.

Oct 6th. 5-30pm the child Mary Ann Dale was buried, the funeral was an hour late, consequently it was dark before the grave was finished with.All was quiet inside the Churchyard, but in the road outside the boys and girls behaved disgracefully, so much so that at times the Rev Reeves words could not be heard. A policeman too, being present in the road.

Oct 11th 10-15 am received notice from W.Tresize that he would require a grave ready by tomorrow afternoon for the remains of his wife Constance Tresize aged 30.

Oct 12th. Constance Tresize buried at 5-15 in No 18, 2nd Row A section. Peace and quietness for once in a while.

Oct 14th Mr Joseph James called at about 2 O’clock to say he would require a grave for his child Bessie James for Tuesday at 4-30 o’clock.

Oct 17th The child Bessie James was buried in No 4 grave Section C of Childrens ground. The weather at the time was very bad, pouring torrents of rain which cleared up afterwards for an hour or so and then set in a soaker all night.

Oct 19th received notice from Mr Taylor senr. at 10am that a grave would be required for an infant named Mark Taylor. son born of one of the brothers Taylor who were drowned in Wheal Owles Mine when it flooded. Grave for Saturday 4 o’clock 21st.

Oct 21st received notice for a grave for the child John Harry aged 2 years and 2 months for Tuesday 24th 4-30pm. The infant Mark Taylor was buried this evening. Funeral nearly and hour late. Very quiet funeral.

Oct 24th 4-30. The child John Harry was buried in the same grave with his infant brother in No.26 Grave section D North side of gates.

Oct 30th received notice from Mr. Walter Holman that a grave would be required for his daughter Agnes Holman aged 8 years. Rheumatic affection of the heart—funeral on Wednesday 1st Nov 9 am.

Nov 1st Agnes Holman was buried at 9-30am in No 6. Section C Childrens ground. Service conducted entirely in the Churchyard, funeral coming direct from the house, the Rev.Purvis of Helston the officiating clergyman.

Nov 6th 6-00pm Mr Harry of Tregeseal came about a grave for his child Clara Harry, aged 15 months, wants the grave for 4-30 tomorrow I promised to have it ready but he must see Merrifield and arrange with Mr Purvis.

Nov 6th Clara Harry buried at 5o’clock in No 7 Sect C southside.

Nov 12th. The same Mr Harry came to me regarding the burial of twin children which he first told me were premature, but on my pressing him for Certificate of such, told me one was born alive, and was Christened by Dr Nesbitt under the name of James Thomas. I told him that under these circumstances, the matter of burial was out of my hands, that he must see Mr Purvis, he was much put out and told me there was a lot of trouble now a days to put much things out of the way, that Mr Pike or the man at the Chapel would take a shilling and fetch the boy away and bury it, and nothing more said about it, that he could not afford time to go to funerals, that he lost a day last week burying his other child. He left me, saw Mr Purvis, and it was arranged to save him the trouble, that the grave of his other child would be opened and this coffin put with it, that my deputy would be at his house in the morning, remove the bodies to the Churchyard, that Mr Purvis would be up at the Churchyard at Noon, and bury the child.

Nov 13th Noon the fore going body was buried in No. 7 Section C south with Clara Harry. Mr Harry pleaded poverty in such away that I charged him only 2/6 for opening the grave, but the other 2/6 was to be paid if the Churchyard Committee decided upon enforcing the full fee of 5/–

Nov 30th 10-30am Mr Eddy came to give notice that he would require a grave for his infant girl Grace Daniel Eddy aged 13 months. Funeral to be at 4-o’clock on Saturday December 2nd.

Dec 2nd Grace Daniel Eddy was buried in No 8 Section C south at 4-45 by the Rev Hooper our new Vicar his first funeral.

Dec 4th—Mr Pascoe of Labour in Vain called about 10-30am to say he would require a grave for his boy William John Pascoe aged 10 years 3 months. did not know exactly whether for Wednesday or Thursday next, but would let me know later on.

Dec 7th 10am. Mr Hocking of Green Lane called and said he would require a grave for his child Mary Hocking aged 13 months for Friday at 4o’clock. 4-40pm William John Pascoe was buried in No 9 Section C south side.

Dec 8th 4-45 The child Mary Hocking was buried in No. 10 Section C southside.

Dec 16th Mrs Bennetts, called at 10-30am and wanted a grave for her little girl Susan Bennetts, aged 4 years. She would like the child buried in the same grave with its father who was buried on the 20th March in No 14 A Second row southside. This grave was 6 feet deep, so as the regulations relating to this matter could be compiled with I had her wishes carried out.

Dec 27th 4-55pm Susan Bennetts was interred as above. Funeral 3¼hr late, very cold.

Dec 29th 4pm. Mr Rowe came to order a grave for 4 o’clock tomorrow for infant child of ——— Tonkin. illegitemate.

Dec 30 4pm Irene Tonkin aged months was buried in No. 11 grave Section C southside.

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