Fortunately, John Nelson's History of Islington (1811), recorded those he found at that time.
These moving testimonies reveal attitudes to life and death in Georgian London in ways that we find strange today. But there's real faith here, a certainty in the promise of resurrection and a strong sense of the fragility of life. The inscriptions for the dead seem to warn or instruct the living in some way. Here are some of our favourites,
- "As Death once travelling the Northern road, stopt in this town some short abode, enquiring where true merit lay, He envied and snatched this youth away." (Edgerley tomb, undated)
- "Farewell, vain world, I’ve seen enough of thee, And now am careless what thou say’st of me; Thy smiles I court not, nor thy frowns I fear, My soul’s at rest, my head lies quiet here. The faults you saw in me take care to shun. Look you at home, there’s enough to be done." (Mary Bird, 1786)
- "A child of remarkable strength and health, died 24 July 1804, in the 14th year of her age, of a mortification of the bowels caused by a stoppage arising from swallowing cherry-stones." (Victoria-Louisa Bridel)
- "May Christ conduct my soul to bliss! All else is naught, compared with this. Give another wish, kind heaven, to meet friends, wife, and children seven." (Charles Bussell, 1786)
- "Death, like an overflowing stream, Sweeps us away: our life’s a dream, An empty tale, a morning flow’r, Cut down and withered in an hour. Our age to seventy years are set, How short the time, how frail the state; And if to eighty we arrive, We rather sigh and groan than live." (Eleanor Chilton 1799, aged 52).
- "Beneath this stone doth honest Deakin lie. The good, the great, the virtuous, all must die. He acted well his part while here on earth, To heav’n now call’d enjoys a better birth. Friend to the poor, a friend to all he knew, His virtues many, and his faults but few. Those few, were only Nature’s common lot, Think of his goodness – faults may be forgot." (Francis Deakin, 1780)