Restoring a floored record
The ledgerstones project seemed simple: get down to floor level and record the writing on the stones as exactly as possible. The reality was different because hundreds of years of wear sometimes made this a real challenge. It was dirty and uncomfortable and often took several pairs of eyes (and finger tips) and different lighting to trace the outlines of letters. Sometimes it would take an hour to record two of the older and worn stones. I was glad that my boiler suit had built in knee pads.
Person Research: Ann Nation
I also researched some of the names on the stones. Life was short before the middle of the 20th century and Ann Nation, like so many others buried in the Abbey, died young at 22 in 1825. Finding out who she was, where she lived and what she did was like a detective story, gathering snippets of information from many different sources.
I discovered that Nation was a very unusual surname in 19th century England. Using the Abbey’s baptism, burial and marriage records and old rate books, city directories and copies of the Bath Chronicle in Bath Records Office I put together her story. It took hours with many false turnings. Her father John was a butcher on Cheap Street and she ran a ‘School for Young Ladies’ for three years until her death near Camden Crescent. Her parents then took on the houses as dwellings. But of course that tells us so little! We have no idea what she looked like, how many ‘young ladies’ she educated, how a butcher’s daughter managed to open a school in such a prestigious new location. All we know is that she must have meant a great deal to her grieving parents because they went to the trouble of leaving her memory on the floor of Bath Abbey.