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Grammatical Mistakes
All Saints, Ravenstone

It just beggars belief. Only a few days after the recent comments in the Citizen, regarding present standards of spelling and grammar, up pops a Government website extolling the need for accuracy in spelling and grammar - and littered with innumerable mistakes in spelling and grammar. And the alleged response from some woman supposedly in charge of this farce? Apparently she’s not “bothered,” because mistakes can be put right later. Could be rather interesting if a job hopeful with an iffy C.V. came up with that during an interview. But there’s one field of literature where no doubt most of us wouldn’t have a clue if there were grammatical mistakes, and that’s the Latin inscriptions on church memorials. Locally, at Ravenstone in fairly recent times such an inscription, much weathered, could be read on a tombstone of the eastern churchyard commemorating the Reverend Thomas Seaton, and in 1932 the inscription was transcribed onto a wall mounted tablet in the south aisle of the church. Thomas was born in 1684 at Stamford, Lincolnshire, and in 1701 he entered Clare College, Cambridge as a ‘sizar,’ that is a poor student who, by acting as a servant to a Master or Fellow of the College, paid a reduced fee. In 1705 he then gained a B.A., and the following year became a Freeman Fellow. Ordained as a deacon in 1707, this was also the year that he gained an M.A., and in 1708 he became a priest. Following a period as chaplain to the Earl of Nottingham in 1713 he was appointed as vicar of Madingley, near Cambridge, and then in 1721 as vicar of Ravenstone. However, since this was a position worth more than £26 13s 4d a year, he had to resign his Fellowship. By the terms of his will Thomas bequeathed an estate at Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, to the University of Cambridge, and with the rents to be applied towards a prize for a poem on a sacred subject, this is still in existence. In fact the Times recently carried the obituary of the Hebrew scholar Professor Raphael Loewe, in which was mentioned that during his career he had been awarded the ‘Seatonian Prize for Sacred Poetry’ at Cambridge University, annually offered for a poem “conducive to the honour of the Supreme Being and the recommendation of virtue.” With a seeming resurgence in the study of Latin, its perhaps opportune to also mention some other inscriptions to be seen regarding the local heritage, such as at North Crawley where the church of St. Firmin (this dedication being shared with only one other church in the country) has beneath the eastern window the weathered wording;

‘Petrus cancellum tibi dat firmin
Ut cum lauderis Deo, Petri memoreris’.
This translates as;
‘Peter gives to thee, oh Firmin, a new little
Chancel in order that when you praise God
You may remember Peter’.

Then at Calverton, the almshouses near to the church bear their original inscription ‘Deo ac Pauperibus’ (To God and the Paupers), these having been built by Lord Arden, who financed much of the rebuilding of Calverton church. Yet perhaps the most poignant inscription is to be seen in Ampthill church, where the memorial to Richard Nicholls, born in 1625, incorporates the very cannon ball which killed him during a naval battle against the Dutch off Southwold. The wording reads ‘instrumentum mortis et immortalitatis’ - the instrument of his mortality and immortality. And for a certain individual perhaps another cannon ball could be in order where the sun don’t shine, to buck their ideas up regarding a farcical website on grammatical correctness.