A tale of two Hebes…..

Another possible Hebe on the Jamson headstone St Mary’s churchyard, Higham ©photo Carole Tyrrell

Although I didn’t see many symbols in St Mary’s churchyard in Higham that I hadn’t previously seen before, my attention was drawn to this one.  

It appears to be another version of the carving, although in far better condition, that I called Hebe after the Greek Goddess and first saw in the churchyard of All Saints, Frindsbury.   Higham is only, just under 3 miles, away from Frindsbury so a journeyman stonemason could probably walk or ride there in a day.

View showing the elegance of the carving on the Jamson headstone, Higham. ©photo Carole Tyrrell

The one in Higham is on a in a unusual roundel on a headstone dedicated to Catherine Jamson who died on 26 August 1806 at 52.  It’s beautifully carved and still crisp but with its head missing.  There is an almost ghostly  impression of where it once was if you look closely.  It seems to be a clean break but is it vandalism, as they always like to go for the heads on statues or carvings, or just wear and tear over the years? We may never know.  In 2012, according to the Kent Archaeological Society, the epitaph read:

“While in this World I did Remain,
My Latter Days were Grief and Pain,
At Length the Lord did think it Best,
To Take me to a place of Rest”

Thomas Jamson is also buried with her and he died on 3 November 1828 aged 82 years.  He was a house carpenter and left a substantial will to his second wife.

The Caryer headstone in 2011 , All Saints Frindsbury Photo Kent Archaeological Society

In All Saints churchyard, Frindsbury, the headstone is a sad one as it is dedicated to Hannah Caryer, wife of John who died young aged 30 years in 1809.  John, her husband died later and also young aged 41 and their young son who predeceased his mother by 8 years. The Frindsbury Hebe still has its head although there has been some wear and tear over the years.  So could it be the same stonemason as they were itinerant craftsmen who travelled from parish to parish.  Sometimes you can see their work in several churchyards but of course it could be two separate stonemasons using the same symbol, perhaps from a pattern book of the time.  However, it’s interesting to note that both ladies died 3 years apart – a fashionable emblem at the time?

However, part of the pleasure of researching symbols in country churchyards is in attempting to identify an individual stonemason’s work.  I have not yet been lucky enough to find any signatures or identifying marks on carvings.  But maybe I’m not looking in the right places.  But this seems to be almost a coincidence that this symbol appears on the headstones of two women in the same area. Especially as it’s a pagan image, if it is Hebe the Greek goddess, in a Christian burial place.

Although I have found several occupations on headstones such as carpenter, caulker, baker and gunner, the only stonemasons grave I have found so far in All Saints churchyard in Maidstone. There are two of them and they date from the 19th century.  But I am sure that I will find one that dates from an earlier period if wear and tear hasn’t got there first.

©Text and photo Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

I am indebted to the Kent Archaeological Society athttps://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/ for the epitaph on Catherine Jamson’s headstone.

2 thoughts on “A tale of two Hebes…..

    1. Dear Jo
      Thanks for your comment – it’s odd to see a pagan goddess in an English churchyard but if someone has the money to pay for it……I’m sure I will locate the picture on which it’s based one day.
      Thank you for sticking with shadowsflyaway!
      Best wishes


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