Sometimes you make a discovery that makes your heart sing. One such moment for me was finding the Spencer graves in the village churchyard in Sapcote in Leicestershire. Here unexpectedly were four generations of my family, resting side by side, with a line of seven beautiful headstones, dating from 1801 through to 1887. As I read the inscriptions in the deserted churchyard on that wild, wet autumn morning, I felt I had found this family.
The inscriptions are beautiful and, in many cases, personal, giving a sense of the people, the lives, the joys and the tragedies.
First, my 5x great-grandparents Thomas Spencer and Mary Harrison:
Sacred to the memory of Thomas Spencer and Mary his wife both natives of this parish. He departed this life December 20th, 1810 in the 65th year of his age. She departed this life June 2nd, 1805 in the 61st year of her age. Also of Thomas, Kitty and Thomas sons and daughter of the said Thomas and Mary Spencer, the latter of whom departed this life March 31st, 1801 in the 19th year of his age, the two former died in their infancy. The stars shall fade away, the sun himself grow dim with age and nature sink in years but we shall flourish in immortal youth unhurt amidst the war of the elements, the wreck of matters and the cruelty of the world.
Then Thomas and Mary’s children, including my 4x great-grandparents, William Spencer and Mary Puffer:
Sacred to the memory of Mary the daughter of William and Mary Spencer, who departed this life 1st of July 1814 in the 18th year of her age. She is not lost but gone before. The dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Eccl)
Beneath are deposited the remains of William Spencer, who departed this life 17th January 1824 aged 51 to whose memory a tablet is erected in this church. Also of Mary, wife of William Spencer she departed this life 27 February 1848 aged 77. Mors est certa tempus incertum.
The plaque gives us more information about him:
Sacred to the memory of John Spencer who died October 27th, 1827 age 52. Also Mary his wife who died February 26th 1851 aged 75. Farewell vain world I’ve had enough of thee and value not what thou canst say of me. Thy smiles I court not nor thy frowns I fear. Alls one to me, my head lies quiet here. What shallst thou soon in me take care to shun and look at home there _ to be done
Then my 3x great-grandparents, William Spencer and Ann Pougher, some of their children and their daughter-in-law, Selina (though not my 2x great-grandparents, John Spencer and Mary Neal, who are buried in Leicester):
In affectionate remembrance of William Spencer who died February 23, 1839 aged 43 years. Arthur and Charles sons of the above died in their infancy. Farewell wife and children dear who I have left with grief and care but God for you will provide if you make him your only guide.
In loving memory of Ann relict of the late Mr William Spencer who entered into her rest October 8, 1887 aged 83. Life is real life is earnest and the grave is not its goal. Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken to the soul.
To perpetuate the memory of Mary Ann daughter of William and Ann Spencer who died February 6th 1845 in her 7th year. Our days are like the grass or like the morning flower, if one sharp blade sweep o’er the field, it withers in an hour.
In memory of Arthur son of William and Ann Spencer who died on July 6, 1847 aged 11 years. In the cause of missions he had long been a careful collector and self-denying contributor and in his last moments he laid at the feet the Church Missionary Society his little all. Love of the Saviour stirred him to provide help to the souls for which the Saviour died. Christ is all.
In loving memory of Selina wife of William Spencer who died December 19th, 1883 aged 55 years Rest in peace (rest worn away)