05 October 2022

Forgotten Footstones and Henry Scrase

Judy Middleton & D. Sharp 2022

copyright © G. Osborne

When digging up the garden you would normally encounter a troublesome flint or two, but you would certainly not expect to uncover a crafted stone complete with initials and dates. In fact, six footstones were recently unearthed in Trafalgar Road.

A traditional bed had a headboard and a footboard, and a footstone can be compared to the latter. If you did not have a kerb around a burial plot, it was essential to have a footstone in order to warn a future grave-digger where not to dig. When the churchyard of St Nicolas, Portslade, was closed to further burials in 1871, footstones were no longer a necessity. In practical terms, they were no doubt an impediment to the man endeavouring to keep the grass under control. Then there was also the fact that building work was going on in the churchyard such as the north aisle being added in 1859, and the Brackenbury Chapel being built in 1869. While a full-size grave stone could be incorporated into the floor of the church, it seems there was no use for footstones.

copyright © D. Sharp
A good example of footstones that escaped the Victorian and Edwardian re-ordering of the churchyard can be seen by the west wall (all members of the Goddard Family), in the background is the former Portslade Brewery.

Therefore the local stonemason was given the surplus footstones. However, the stonemason might have had scruples about re-using such stones or breaking them up for hard-core. It must be remembered that churchyards are special, and these stones had stood on holy ground and ought to be treated with respect. Therefore they were carefully buried – in fact the stones were quite simply laid to rest. This theory is borne out by the fact that the six stones were buried together. If it had been just a random stone, there might be a different narrative.

A glance at Edwardian photographs of the churchyard show that there were many more footstones at that time than we see today. Perhaps other recipients of redundant footstones were not so scrupulous in handling them.

copyright © D. Sharp
In this early 1900s photograph of the St Nicolas churchyard several footstones can be seen that are not present today in this section of the churchyard.


In The Keep, Falmer, there is a huge estate map dated 1840 detailing all the land belonging to Mrs Elizabeth Bridger. It is astonishing to us that it comprised such a large swathe of Portslade stretching from Tenantry Hill in the north to the mud and shingle on the seashore -just think of the land value at today’s prices.

Elizabeth Bridger died in 1849, and inevitably parts of her estate began to be sold. An early transaction took place on 28 January 1853 when part of the Sea Side Piece was sold for £274 to Hove builder William Howlett. In 1862 the Bridgers sold some land off Trafalgar Road to Mr Holes, and Henry Scrase was also busy buying and selling land in Trafalgar Road.

James Holes

In the 1861 census James Holes, aged 40, was described as a brickmaster, and he lived at 26 Hova Villas with his wife, two daughters, and 12-year old son James who was born at Lewes. It is instructive to note there was a Michael Holes, a brickmaker living in The Drove (the old name of Station Road) and that both he and James Holes had been born at Dover.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
1909 map showing Holes' former Brick Works to the right of Victoria Recreation Park

James Holes was in the brick-making business from the 1860s to the 1880s. When St Andrew’s School in Wellington Road, Portslade, was being built, Holes supplied 20,000 bricks for the project, free of charge although they were worth all of £25. He was so well regarded that he had a road named after him. Holes Road retained the name until 1897 when the powers-that-be decided it was not a very salubrious term, and re-named it Beaconsfield Road.

In 1871 James Holes sat on the Portslade Burial Board. He had other interests too – in 1896 he owned some shares in the 52-ton schooner Mystery. The other part owners were Henry Field, an Aldrington victualler, and John Baruch Blaker, market gardener.

In Portslade Cemetery there is a tombstone that was ‘erected by James Holes as a mark of respect to his niece’ who died on 15 April 1883 aged 54. She was the last surviving child of Thomas Hunt, Quarter-Master of HMS Arethusa who was killed by the first shot fired at the bombardment of Sebastopol; he had served in the Royal Navy for 50 years.

Henry Scrase (1819-1909)

Henry Scrase was born on 19 September 1819 at Brighton, and it is interesting to note that he was christened in the popular but non-conformist church in North Road founded by the Countess of Huntingdon.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Henry Scrase lived in Church Street opposite to St Nicholas Church Brighton, and would have worked on the restoration of Brighton's Parish Church in the 1850s.

The census returns of 1851 finds Henry Scrase living at 44, Church Street near Mount Zion Place, Brighton, with his wife Ellen and family. He is described as a master stonemason. He must have felt at home because there was another stonemason living in the same location, and indeed James Godsmark from Portslade served his apprenticeship with Mr Lambert there.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Herald 7 February 1863
While living in Brighton, Henry Scrase was the Hon. Sec., of the Brighton Institute, an early subscription library in Queen's Road, Henry Moor, a Brighton Member of Parliament, was the president.

During the late 1860s Henry Scrase and his family came to Portslade where they lived in Albany Villa, North Street. It was a wise move because Scrase was the only resident stonemason in the area, and there was plenty of work to be had not to mention the new Portslade Cemetery created in 1871. Indeed, there was so much work that it kept his sons busy too; they were as follows:
copyright © G. Osborne
On the left is the former home
of Henry Scrase in North Street,
which was later converted into a shop

(all these buildings were demolished
many years ago)

Henry J. J. Scrase, stonemason

Walter Scrase, stonecutter

Frederick Scrase, stonemason

Arthur Scrase, stonemason

Albert Scrase, stonemason’s assistant

The eldest son, Henry J. J. Scrase, lived at 3 Church Road, Portslade, in the 1860s, and he did not have to walk far to reach his father’s business premises in North Street. (Number 3 no longer exists). He was married to Susan who was a theatrical artist.

It can be assumed that the parcel of land in Trafalgar Road, Henry Scrase had purchased, before the houses were built of course, was the place where the Scraces worked their trade, and where their stones were stored. Therefore, the lost footstones must have been buried on the site. They were forgotten about and the subsequent garden remained undisturbed for many years.

By 1890 Henry Scrase had retired as a stonemason, and it was his son Arthur who carried on the family business. Henry did not actually retired from work entirely, he was employed by East Steyning Rural District Council who were the local authority in control of Portslade, Henry’s official job title was – Assistant Overseer & Assessor & Collector of the Queen’s Taxes. Henry died in 1909

By 1901 Albert Scrase was living at 17 Beaconsfield Road (the erstwhile Holes Road, previously mentioned) and Arthur Scrase had moved to the next road from his father in Albion Street.

Footstone A

copyright © L. Robins                                                 copyright © D. Sharp
On the left the E. B. 1816 footstone found in a garden of Trafalgar Road
On the right the Elizabeth and John Butcher headstone in St Nicolas Churchyard

It should be noted that the footstones all came from the west side of the churchyard. This stone has the initials E. B. 1816, and came from the grave of Elizabeth and John Butcher. This headstone has suffered badly by erosion over the years, The inscription was recorded in 1983, but not visible today reads:-

Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth wife of John Butcher who died 27th March 1816 aged 75 years.

Footstone B

copyright © L. Robins                                                         copyright © D. Sharp
On the left the Godsmark footstone found in a garden of Trafalgar Road which lists the initials and dates of Samuel Godsmark's children from his first marriage, plus one grandson and one of Samuel's parents.
On the right the Godsmark headstone in St Nicolas churchyard, sadly since this photograph was taken in 2016 most of the Godsmark's headstone inscription has eroded away.

This footstone has suffered from erosion and the first inintial cannot be discerned, although the initial ‘G’ is clear enough. The ‘G’ stands for Godsmark and their headstone stands on the west side of the churchyard.

There follows:-
G. 17(?)7 (one of Samuel's parents),
G. 1822 (Samuel son of Samuel & Mary),
G. 1829 (William son of Samuel & Mary),
G. 1830 (William, the grandson of Samuel & Mary).

Samuel Godsmark family lived at the Stonery in Portslade where he was a farmer.

The inscription on the headstone reads:-

Sacred to the memory of Mary wife of Samuel Godsmark who departed this life January 1
st 1803 aged 27 years. Also of Samuel Godsmark who departed this life April 9th 1829 aged 56 years. The Lord gave and the Lord / Hath taken away. Blessed is the name of the Lord.

Samuel had a number of children, all born in Portslade, three by his first wife Mary, and the rest by his second wife Judith, ;

the following lists his children, the first five were all buried in Portslade:

Sarah, born 1798, died 1831

William, born 1800, died 1829 (was the landlord of the George Inn in the Old Village)

Samuel, born 1802, died 1822

Sarah, born 1806, died 1825

Jeffrey, born 1807, died 1824

Edwin born 1809, died 1811

Henry, born, 1810 and died of the smallpox while his sailing ship was moored on the Thames at London

James, born 1816, died 1891 in London, (Godsmark was a wonderful surname for James Godsmark, a former stonemason, who became famous as a fiery itinerant preacher, besides penning several books)

Owen, born 1818, died 1840 in USA

Footstone C

copyright © L. Robins                                                    copyright © D. Sharp
On the left the ‘T B – 1867 and (?) - B. 1866' footstone found in a garden of Trafalgar Road
On the right the Thomas (1867) and Sarah Brown (1866) headstone in St Nicolas Churchyard,
The headstone in the churchyard is in excellent condition due to the type of stone used for this memorial, note the decorative detail on the headstone replicated on the footstone.

This footstone has also been eroded so that it is impossible to read the 1866's first initial, ‘T B’ – 1867 and '(?) B' - 1866. This footstone came from the grave of Thomas and Sarah Brown, and their dates of death were 6 February 1867 and 26 April 1866. This gravestone is in very good condition compared to most in the churchyard which is probably due to the type of stone used here.
The headstone’s full inscription reads:-

In memory of Thomas Brown who died February 6th 1867 aged 74 years. Also of Sarah, wife of the above who died April 26th 1866 aged 73 years.


Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

Mr G. Osborne

L. Robins

Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Keep : ACC 2499/18 – relating to the Bridger / Cattley families, Portslade

Copyright © J.Middleton 2022
page layout by D.Sharp