Grave Lessons iii: Breadths at Rufford


A third peculiarity of the churchyard at Rufford Church, Lancashire, is the unusual custom of recording the number of ‘breadths’ on certain eighteenth-century gravestones. Some note one breadth, others, two, three or even six. I can see no explanation for this practice, and I attribute it to an attempt to confirm the number of places available for subsequent cadavers. Having bought a plot large enough to contain Sister Mary, Uncle Marmaduke and Aunt Fanny, in addition to oneself, it would be somewhat wasteful to leave good spaces unoccupied, further burdening the family estate.

Too often, we make provision for our loved ones’ mortal lives, but not their immortal ones. Arranging who gets the house, the family silver, the stamp collection and the cat may be important in themselves, but telling them of the Saviour of souls who bled for sinners is of far greater import. I have a relative who may soon be entering eternity; I pray God gives me opportunity to bequeath him something of a greater value than ever a billionaire leaves his favourite heir.

...the rich man also died, and was buried; Luke 16:22b