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St Andrew's Graveyard (HT)

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About St Andrew's Graveyard (HT)

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The churchyard has been extended a number of times, in 1791 by Sir James Tylney Long, then later in 1870 on the south side and again in 1896 when the area to the west was added. St Andrew’s graveyard contains the remains of a fascinating range of people.

Some graves are closely linked with faith in Rochford, including that of James Banyard, the founder of the Peculiar People. Banyard was born in 1800 when Rochford was a small collection of 180 houses centred around the market square and surrounded by fields of corn. In his early life, he had a reputation as a disreputable drunk around the town but became a convert to Christianity and joined the local Wesleyan chapel, becoming a keen local preacher. He would later have a fuller encounter with God and declare that man must be “born again” to receive God’s Holy Spirit. 

He eventually led a breakaway group from the Methodist church that met in his cramped cottage in West Street. After two years, the fledging group moved to premises in Union Lane, where the workhouse was, and then again after a further two years they moved to the old barracks near the current Marlborough Head pub. It was during this time that the group experienced God’s healing power among them on a number of occasions and took this to be a sign of God’s favour on them. 

James Banyard would have followers across Essex as the movement spread, with 180-200 coming along to his Sunday service in the newly built chapel in North Street. The group named themselves the Peculiar People and continued to spread throughout the region. The emphasis on healing would become the defining point; they would not permit any of the group to see a doctor and this would lead to difficulties, especially when children from the group died. Eventually Banyard was faced with a dilemma over the health of his own son and resorted to medical help. He then declared that faith and medicine can work together. His congregation could not tolerate this change in theology and many left him, with the Peculiar People movement continuing to grow in the area under new leadership. James Banyard died in 1863. 

It is interesting to note that this group, which was at the forefront of spiritual experiences and practising the gift of healing, would struggle in 1918 when the Pentecostal movement came over from America, bringing with it the gift of speaking in other tongues. The council of elders moved against this, saying that the gift of tongues was a sign of spiritual infancy, but many of its members were not convinced and joined the Pentecostal movement. Several Pentecostal groups in Essex were founded by ex-members of the Peculiar People. 

Another grave just outside the porch belongs to Miss Augusta Tawke. In 1909, she set up a home in Hockley for “wayward girls” and was also responsible for purchasing the old Corn Exchange building in Rochford Square and turning it into a laundry to provide some income for needy women. This building is now the home of the Women's Institute. 

The grave of Emma Hunt marks the resting place for an unsolved murder. Emma lived with her husband in the middle cottage of three, next to the Old Ship in North Street. When the railway arrived in Rochford in 1889, the area between the railway track and St Andrew’s church was known as the wilderness, which included a pond. On the morning of May 20th 1893, the body of Emma Hunt was found in the pond; her throat had been cut. The person responsible has never been traced. Emma’s gravestone has the appropriate inscription “For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil”. 

Another set of graves marks the resting place of airmen based at Rochford Aerodrome who died in World War I. They are all placed together, with Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones marking out 4 corners of a plot and one grave in the centre:

  • The middle grave is that of Captain Henry Clifford Stroud, who was killed in action on the night of 7th/8th March 1918, aged 24.
  • The top left headstone is for Second Lieutenant G. C. Malcolm of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, attached to the Royal Flying Corps. He died on 27th September 1917.
  • Top right is the headstone for Lieutenant A. S. Talbot of the Royal Flying Corps, who also died on 27th September 1917, aged 27.
  • Bottom left commemorates Lieutenant J. W. Sheridan of the Royal Air Force, who died exactly a year later on 27th September 1918, aged 29.
  • The bottom right headstone remembers Lieutenant H. E. Davis of the Royal Air Force, who received the Military Cross and died on 19th June 1918, aged 28.

Address:Church Walk
Town:Rochford
Postcode:SS4 1NW
Categories:Historical, Point of Interest