On 4th January 2023 the team attended to the grave of Robert Sherbrooke VC having been made aware that the cross itself was collapsing towards the grave. This was a substantial change from our last visit when we cleaned the cross in 2021 where we also noted a crack in the column itself. We measured a substantial lean and exposure of the crack to the elements which would ultimately lead to a full collapse.
The plan agreed with Grand-daughter Andrea O'Donnell and the Reverend Anthony Giles was to set a new foundation behind the existing base and to then pull the headstone onto a new platform. The new foundations were set on 4th January with the move to take place on 20th January 2023.
Once set the team returned to Oxton to effect the move of the grave stone utilising ratchet and straps to slowly ease the stone on to its new foundation. No mean fete as the stone was approximately half a ton in weight and at risk from the crack being further opened.
Success ! The stone moved slowly supported on all sides until it slid onto its new base with the column righting itself vertically as it regained its level. We were then able to set about repairing the crack with specialist stone compounds.
As previously done, we then cleaned the stone and those of the Sherbrooke family. It doesn't take long for the stones to deteriorate and as a result they require constant upkeep. All work is risk assessed and the Doff specialist cleaning equipment brought into use. This is NOT a pressure washer and is approved by Heritage organisations for this kind of work.
We didn't stop there. We now provide commemorative plaques at the locations where we conduct cleans and restorations. One was presented to Andrea to be displayed where it would get most noticed by the public and in particular new generations. There are within the church other artefacts but the plaque is aimed at wider public spaces.
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Work didn't stop there. We identified a family grave upon which Private Henry Reeve Royal Fusiliers was named. He was killed in France in 1916, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial. His cousin Peter Reeve was present and gave permissions to proceed.
Finally we spotted a small grave with significant dirt and growth on the surface. The stone was in excellent condition and appeared to be red sandstone but unreadable. What was revealed amazed and saddened the team in terms of the stone and the inscription.
The quality of the stone had retained the story for over 150 years.
At the end of the day all graves were restored and their future extended and over 60,000 people on our social accounts agreed.