Burial place of Saints and Kings

A little while ago, HEIRtagger BoarsHill rephotographed some of our images on a trip to Northumberland, and filled us in on the story behind some of the sites. This is the beautiful image of Tynemouth Priory from the History of Art Department’s collection.


HEIR ID 43836 Tynemouth Priory

BoarsHill commented that this is an important place:

“Tynemouth castle, on the north bank of the River Tyne, is now an English Heritage site. According to the local information board, three kings are buried here. (1) In 651 Oswin, king of Deira, was murdered by the soldiers of King Oswiu of Bernicia, and brought to Tynemouth for burial. He became St Oswin. (2) In 792, Osred II, king of Northumbria from 789 to 790 and then deposed, was murdered and buried at Tynemouth Priory. (3) In 1093 Malcolm III of Scotland invaded England and was killed at Alnwick by Robert de Mowbray. His body was buried at Tynemouth Priory for a time, but later reburied in Dunfermline Abbey.”

Photo: Martin Rush July 22nd 2016


This the site, rephotographed by BoarsHill. Not much appears to have changed at first glance. The ruined Priory, which stands on a high clifftop overlooking the North Sea, seems timeless. However, BoarsHill goes on to notice that:

“While most elements in this photograph are broadly unchanged today, the inscription on the nearest tall gravestone has now weathered so badly that it is almost illegible and the information it contains will soon be lost. Such records of inscriptions must be another good reason for preserving old photographs in a searchable database.”


The text on the Coxon gravestone seems to have been:

‘Sacred to the memory of/William Coxon of Tynemouth/Who died December 24 1803/aged 47 years.
Dorothy Coxon/Widow of the above/Who died October 10th 1841/Aged 85 years/William Mitcalfe/Son of the above who died (illegible)’. Dorothy’s maiden name was Mitcalfe, and just to the left of this tombstone is another, half size, sacred to the memory of John Mitcalfe of South Shields.

William and Dorothy Coxon crop up in the National Archive, which reveals that William was a carpenter in the Royal Navy. After his death, Dorothy applied to the Charity for the Relief of Officers’ Widows.

It is also possible to read the writing on a headstone behind the Coxons’ on the original lantern slide image. This large stone, propped up against railings, is sacred to the memory of John, James, Elizabeth and Eleanor Fornear, as well as to Elisabeth and George Humble.

All three tombstones show signs of spalling and weathering even in our early photograph. In theory, taking into account the approximate date at which the headstones were erected (mid 19th century), the probable date of the lantern slide image (c. 1890-1900), and the date of Boarshill’s photograph, it should be possible to plot the damage to the stones and predict how long it will be before they are entirely illegible…



  1. Excellent work tracking the story of William and Dorothy Coxon into the National Archives.


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