The Funeral – From The York Gazette, Jan 4th

Stillingfleet church – grave to left of this

In the second edition of our last week’s paper, we brought down our narrative of this afflicting accident to Friday night when the inquest was held on nine of the bodies of the unfortunate sufferers.

On Saturday morning, the search was resumed with the drags, for the bodies of Sarah Eccles and Sarah Spencer, – but we regret to say, the, that notwithstanding every exertion was made – it was without success; and the poor afflicted relatives were thus denied the consolation of seeing their remains interred with those of their fellow sufferers. The Rev. D. F. Markham, however, secured them, that neither labour nor expense should be spared, to find the bodies.

On Sunday morning, at nine o’clock, about 30 of the villagers proceeded to the church-yard, where they all set to work to dig the grave in which their late companions and friends were to be entombed. It was made 21 feet long, by 7 feet wide; and they finished their labours in about an hour and a half. The usual morning service was performed at the Church, by the Rev. D. F. Markham, in a most impressive manner. He was assisted at the altar table by the Rev. Mr. Bree, of Haxby. The congregation was very numerous, and the singing was performed by the choir of Escrick church, – the psalms selected were the 147th, the 112th, and the 39th.

The sublime Liturgy of our Church was read in a beautiful manner, and the prayers for the fatherless children and widows and all who are desolate and oppressed, – and for protection from sudden death; and the thanksgiving for creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, – in which special mention was made of the three individuals who had been saved by the protecting hand of Providence, – evidently had a powerful affect upon the whole congregation, many of whom dropped a silent tear to the memory of their deceased companions, – and appeared to be deeply impressed with the mournful event, which had so suddenly snatched them from the eart.

The Rev. pastor, too, was several times, during the progress of the services, nearly overcome by his feelings.The Sermon was preached by the Rev. D. F. Markham, from Psalm ciii, 1, 2, 3, 4. “Bless thee Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgiveth all thing iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies.” From these words, the Rev. Preacher made a most excellent discourse – particularly exhorting his hearers to value, as they ought, the blessings bestowed upon them by a bountiful providence; and at that time, when the termination of the year was fast approaching, to ask themselves, whether the goodness of God was firmly impressed on their minds? Did their hearts overflow with gratitude to their divine Benefactor? Had they resolved to amend what they had done amiss, and to be more frequent in the performance of good works?

He shewed how grateful they ought to be to that Providence which had preserved their lives, when so many were snatched away by the hand of death; and, alluding to the recent melancholy event, he observed, that they might exclaim, the Lord was mighty to save and mighty to destroy. – He would not dwell upon the feelings of the poor afflicted relatives, nor mention the heart-rending sobs of the widows, or the plaintive cries of the fatherless, which he had witnessed, – when administering comfort, support, and consolation; but he would say, let it be the business of his hearers to take warning at this dreadful visitation; and let not the heavenly Father repent that he had made them; but let them strive to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. The sermon was listened to with great attention, and has made, we trust, a deep and lasting impression on the congregation.

There were three processions with the bodies to the church, three bodies being taken each time; and the Escrick choir heading the way, singing a funeral hymn. The three bodies brought first were those of William Bristow, the parish clerk, Thomas Webster and Cecilia [sic] Sturdy. On the arrival of the melancholy train at the church yard, they were met by the Rev. D. F. Markham, and the Rev. Mr. Bree, – the former reading in a most impressive manner, that beautiful sentence from Job: “ The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord”.

- The bodies were then taken into the church, and placed in the chancel; the bearers taking their stations around them. The churchwardens were placed at the door, to keep order, and prevent the mourners from being impeded by the large crowd which was congregated. The bodies of John and Jane Turner, and Elizabeth Buckle, when then brought into the church, in the same manner – as were lastly those of Henry Spencer, Elizabeth Spencer, and Christopher Spencer.

The whole of the corpses being arranged in the chancel, and the mourners seated in the pews, the spectators were admitted, and the church was instantly filled in every port. The number of mourners could not be less than 120, and the emotions they displayed were heart rending in the extreme. The beautiful funeral service of the church was read by the Rev. D. F. Markham, and was listened to with the greatest attention. – The Escrick choir, who had taken their station in the gallery, sang an anthem from Revelations 14c. 13v. “I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, write, blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, from henceforth: Yea, sayeth the Spirit,that they may rest from their labours.”

The performer of this anthem was far above mediocrity, – and the voices of the singers attuned well with the instrumental music. After the anthem, the bodies were removed from the church in their last sad home, – and the coffins were placed by the side of each other.

This occupied a great length of time  - and it was a most affecting scene to witness the agonized feelings of the mourners as the bodies of their respective relatives were lowered into the grave. This painful duty being performed, and the mourners having taken their station by the side of the grave, the service was continued by Mr. Markham. When the whole was concluded, the mourners after taking a sad last look at the grave, slowly moved from the melancholy scene to their respective homes, – and here we draw the veil over the anguish of the sorrowing survivors; the privacy of domestic grief should not be interfered with. As there are several families deprived of their protectors, and left destitute, we doubt not that the charitable and humane example set by P.B.Thompson, Esq., the Rev. D. F. Markham, and other persons, will be followed up.

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