THE MYSTERIOUS HEADSTONE FOUND OUTSIDE AN ECCLES GRAVEYARD
Many of you hopefully have had a stroll through the grounds of Eccles Parish Church and enjoyed the pleasant greenery of the gardens, with cherry blossoms trees and weeping willows helping create a tranquil setting to enjoy the 12th Century church.
Until 1965 headstones were still on display with over 4,000 people buried there when the headstones were removed and the area grassed over.
Dotted around the eastern wall of the church are about 20 headstones one chosen from each century to show the different designs used throughout the years.
A few years ago I was admiring the Eccles mural, the original painted by Ed Povey in 1980, which in turn was painted over in 2012, at the side of the mural are a set of steps which lead to the back of the Grapes pub.
I walked up the stairs and was amazed to make out part of a headstone protruding from the churchyard but now being used used as part of a flagged pathway, with very little lettering showing to give any clues as to whose it was.
Today I was passing and revisited the spot and was pleased to the headstone still showing but overgrown with moss, grass and weeds.
I spotted the Eccles Precinct security staff, Mark and Alex and asked if they would kindly give me a hand to clean away the rubbish and hopefully reveal some more clues, the temptation to call them Burke and Hare was overwhelming I must admit.
They very kindly shovelled away the grass and poured water on the stone and slowly we were able to make out some lettering which was barely legible.
More water and a stiff brushing revealed even more of the lettering, which appears to read,
"In Memory of John son of William....Harrison...Departed"
Sadly the rest of the headstone goes under a fence and into the churchyard and we were unable to clear away any more grass without trespassing onto church ground.
The mystery is, Who were the Harrison family, I do know it is quite a common name in the Eccles area, we even have a Harrison Street in Peel Green.
Why is the headstone in such an incongruous setting, was it one of the headstones that was removed in 1965 and has somehow ended up as part of footpath, there are slabs of stone there but they don't appear to be headstones to me.
Obviously more research is needed but the whole gravestone if it is intact, needs to be exposed and cleaned before we can find out who the people are.