Examples of Memorial Shapes

Graves in Seaford

The variety of shapes used to commemorate events and the deaths of people is innumerable. Most of the earliest were in wood, which has perished down the centuries. Carved stone was expensive, and only a few remain in Seaford and East Blatchington from the 17th and 18th centuries. Although stone began to become more affordable in the 19th century, the majority of burials were marked by wooden memorials until at least the early 20th century. This drawing by the Seaford artist HH Evans of part of St Leonard's churchyard, prior to the 1862-3 alterations, shows some interesting designs, including decorated posts supporting wooden rails (or 'leaping-boards') and what looks like an early traffic "Stop" sign.
St Leonard's porch
St Leonard's churchyard c 1860 by HH Evans
Picture courtesy of Kevin Gordon & Seaford Museum
Clearly there was no official grid plan in use. Doubtless the grave-diggers had a pretty good idea of more recent interments, but would otherwise have continued the practice of excavating wherever seemed sensible and thus, over time, raised the level of the churchyard. Also notable, in the background, is the obvious desire of families to be buried adjacent to one another with matching memorials, which indubitably also determined where the next grave was dug.
Once supplies for the local stonemason became more readily available via the railway network, which reached Seaford in June 1864, the cost would have decreased, and marble and granite made their appearance, along with designs thought fashionable. Some of the carvings were no doubt inspired by what was popular among those rich enough to afford them. Many Seafordians (and to a lesser degree the parishioners of East Blatchington) evidently favoured the "crinkle-cut" pattern, which dates from before Seaford Station was opened. Since Seaford Cemetery opened in 1897, the variety of designs has greatly increased.
What is striking is the wholly distinct character of each graveyard. St Leonard's, St Peter's and the Cemetery are each very different. And so is the nearby St Andrew's in Bishopstone. One could suppose that the parishioners of each never visited the others, even in passing, and that an absence of idea-sharing caused their separate developments.

A Note on Crosses and Shapes
There is great variety in how a cross may be depicted. The ends of the arms can be rounded, squared, pointed, narrowing, flared and so on, and their lengths relative to the central upright also differ. Some might not look like a "traditional" Christian cross, but this depends upon the particular tradition used as a starting point. Likewise almost every possible geometric shape or pattern which can be carved in a symmetrical form has been adapted and used by one or more Christian traditions - circles, squares, triangles, pentagrams, hexagrams etc, often in intricate combinations which had a significance for the followers of one of the many schools of belief which have existed since before mediaeval times. Included, therefore, are what might be mistaken for "magic" shapes, or symbols more often associated with other faiths or beliefs. This is worth bearing in mind before concluding that any given portrayal of a cross or shape indicated a particular association, and remembering that no offensive memorials would have been permitted in a churchyard or civic cemetery.

Some Examples found in Seaford
Click on images for larger versions
Latin Cross
Plain Latin Cross on a 4-tier base

Latin Cross on 4-tier base
Wheel Cross
A Wheel Cross. Unusually, the metal clip attaching the headstone to the rail behind is protruding through to the front.

Wheel Cross
Quatrefoil Wheel Cross
Wheel with Quatrefoil Cross

Wheel with Quatrefoil Cross
Maltese Cross

Maltese Cross

Trefoil Cross
A trefoil (three-leaf) cross, with the deceased's Service Insignia - the Royal Naval Air Service

Trefoil (3-leaf) Cross
Latin cross on peon slab
A Latin cross surmounts a peon-shaped headstone, with a peon ledger and peon footstone

Mixture of Latin and angled (Peon)
Latin cross on rock
A Latin cross surmounting a rock headstone. The Rock refers to St Peter

Latin cross on a rock
Peon Headstone
The peon footstone matches the peon-with-shoulders headstone

Peon shaped stones

Chests are empty above the base
Chest Tomb
Chest Tomb, with base, inscribed or decorated panels and peon ledger

Chest Tomb, with ledger, base,
and inscribed or decorated panels
Raised above ground for show
Chest Tomb
Chest Tomb, with tapered sides & peon ledger

Chest Tomb, with tapered panels
Half-diamond top, with inscribed Latin cross

Half-diamond headstone top with inscribed Latin cross
Full Diamond
Full diamond on a headstone

Full diamond on a headstone

Tomb lids are also known as ledgers. Slab tops may be level with the ground or raised several inches
Slab tomb, with flat ledger

Slab Tomb, with base and flat ledger
A slab tomb
Slab tomb with angled and decorated ledger

Slab tomb with angled ledger
A slab tomb
Slab tomb with peon (fully angled) ledger

Slab tomb with a peon ledger
A slab peon tomb
Two-tier slab tomb with peon ledger

Two-tier slab tomb with peon ledger
Oval Slab
Slab tomb with an oval ledger

Slab tomb with an oval ledger
Decorated Slab
Slab tomb with decorated ledger

Slab tomb with decorated ledger
Celtic crosses
A pair of Celtic crosses

Celtic Crosses
The Masonic cross (when found in a Christian churchyard). Example recently unearthed

Masonic Cross
  Bull Obelisk
John Bull obelisk, St Leonard's

A Commonwealth headstone
War grave headstone, Seaford Cemetery

Standard CWGC-pattern War headstone

For other carvings etc, see Memorial Decorations

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