Poignant Falstone service dedicated to former rector's daughter

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Church warden of St Peter's Church, Falstone, Jill Swaile, with the restored gravestone of Mary Beal, who died in 1879.
Church warden of St Peter's Church, Falstone, Jill Swaile, with the restored gravestone of Mary Beal, who died in 1879.

A PIECE of Falstone’s history which was found deep within an overgrown area of a graveyard will be re-dedicated this weekend following a two-year fund-raising effort.

A community ‘weed and clean day’ at St Peter’s Church in October 2015 uncovered the 19th century headstone, which had been covered in brambles.

As volunteers continued to search, they discovered a grave with a stone surround, topped off with an ornate cast-iron railing, and various pieces of an Italian marble memorial which were scattered around.

Although a name was missing, records from Northumberland County archives at Woodhorn revealed the plot belonged to Mary Lawson Beal, who had died at Falstone Rectory in 1879 aged 15 from tuberculosis. She was the daughter of the then rector, Reverend. Samuel Beal.

Church warden Jill Swaile and her husband Alan, a local coal merchant, decided to launch a fund-raising mission to raise the money required to restore the memorial.

This included Mary and Alan completing an extreme via ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in Cumbria and a sponsored cycle ride around Kielder reservoir organised by their godson, 10-year-old Thomas Cowan.

The cost to restore and re-letter the memorial was £1,200.

Jill said: “Although we raised just enough money to have the actual headstone restored, we did not have the money to have the plot and memorial professionally erected so the local community and my husband worked tirelessly to complete it.

“They have done a grand job which I hope Samuel and his wife Martha can look down on and be proud of.”

A special service, which will include the re-dedication of Mary Beal’s headstone, will take place on Sunday at 11am in St Peter’s Church.

“I feel very proud of the fact that, as a community, we have been able to restore Mary’s grave and headstone so she can rest again and find so much about her father who was an extraordinary man of his time,” added Jill.

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