This beautiful carved headstone caught my eye from across the road when I was walking along Bow Road in east London. Bow Church – or to give it its proper name, St Mary and Holy Trinity, Stratford Bow – is today marooned on an island in the middle of a busy road and the churchyard is railed off. There are a number of old tomb stones in the churchyard, which has been a designated public garden since 1894. The church, founded as a chapel of ease in 1311, is the only surviving medieval building in Bow.
The headstone is quite worn and mossy so I was unable to read the inscription on it, but the carving depicts what appears to be an angel taking the hand of a dying person, who is being comforted by a woman. I’ve never seen an image like it on a gravestone before – it’s beautiful and poignant. The quality of the carving is very fine – the folds in the fabrics worn by the figures are realistic and a great deal of detail, such as the angel’s hand, still survives today. Whoever commissioned the headstone must have paid a lot of money for it.
Considering the damage inflicted on Bow Church during the Second World War, this lovely old headstone is a stunning survivor.