Angels in English and Welsh churchyard and cemetery memorials, 1660–2020
journal contributionposted on 20.09.2022, 10:59 authored by Rachael Jones, KDM Snell
Churchyard and cemetery memorials are increasingly important to historians for themes such as family and community history, demography, artistic styles, and changing attitudes to mortality. In this article, via analysis of 250 Anglican, Nonconformist and cemetery burial sites in England and Wales, the authors investigate the use of angels and cherubs as gravestone features and look closely at the chronology of such representations. Building on historical, ecclesiastical and literary scholarship, they shed light on the phenomenon of these ‘winged beings’ as grave markers, and evaluate well over 1,000 memorials to reveal distinctive trends affecting gender, changing styles, and survivals. The authors consider denominational and Welsh-English cultural differences, and highlight an extraordinary array of angelic/cherub representation in gendered child and adult gravestones from the early modern period into the twenty-first century. Memorialisation via angels long survived the Reformation and is flourishing today - the article discusses why.