History Mystery

Freemason's CodeWe had a trip out to Mellor Church yesterday in search of a gravestone that might cast some light on Mrs P’s family history. We failed, but we did find one that was straight out of a Dan Brown novel.

That’s it on the left. Unlike the other graves, it is built into the wall of the church next to the door and surrounded by iron railings.

You can see from the square and compasses with the death’s-head in its centre that this was a Freemason’s grave or monument, but it was the symbols lower down that intrigued me.

On the right, you’ll see below John Brierley’s name what looks like some sort of code which is why I took the photo so I could study it more closely at home.

The obvious next step was to Google ‘Freemason’s gravestone code’ and, blow me, third down on the results page was this site that not only gave the answer to the code, but also featured the very same gravestone.

The inscription is written in the pig-pen cypher used by Dan Brown in The Lost Symbol and ostensibly tells the insightful reader when Thomas was born and when he died which seems a lot of trouble to have gone to.

You’ll see that there is also other symbology going on. Above the square and compasses there is the all-seeing eye with a lead sundial above that, while top left is an angel blowing a trumpet above a letter A.

Top right is a penned sheep with the moon and constellation to its left and beneath is a pointing man stood on a rock, a ladder on his left and a star under him.

Either side of the square and compasses are a two-handled cup on the left and a sun-symbol on the right and there are also carvings atop of the pillars either side.

On the left is a Christogram above which is an egg and a hand offering a coin, and on the right is a cockerel. And in the centre are the letters J Z H.

It turns out that Thomas Brierley has himself an entry on Wikipedia and a degree of mystery surrounds his death. Also a mystery is pie-wedge shape lower down which was added in 1985 which uses the same pig-pen code to give us the name ‘Richard M Kenyon’.

Quite intriguing and I haven’t even touched on the strange carvings on the ancient font inside the church.

If I was the vicar, I’d get Dan Brown over there pdq to include Mellor in his next blockbuster — the collection plate would soon be overflowing from the visitors this would attract!

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

12 comments… Add yours
  • Maggie May 30th August 2011

    That does look a bit spooky and an unusual place for a gravestone.
    I came over from Mrs Nesbitts because your blog name intrigued me. I am still non the wiser but will browse round for clues.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  • Mr Parrot 30th August 2011

    Maggie, the explanation is to be found here.

  • Reader Wil 30th August 2011

    I like your explanation about “Shooting Parrots”. It’s unique. About the gravestone I can say:”It is interesting but complicated. It looks like a cartoonbook full of riddles. Was it a real gravestone or a commemorative plaque? In British churches there are always a lot of them.

  • Mr Parrot 30th August 2011

    Thanks Wil, the story is even more complicated than I’ve told it. Thomas Brierley had the stone made before his death to his own specifications, so presumably it meant something to him personally.

    He also had an earlier stone coffin made that was kept at another church in the village awaiting its owners ultimate arrival! It became something of a tourist attraction and the vicar there insisted that it be buried without its occupant and it is presumed to be there still under the earth.

    I wonder what messages are carved on its lid.

  • Yorkshire Pudding 30th August 2011

    Perhaps Dan Brown could create a part for you in his new novel about the Lancashire Freemason Lodge of Union. The Reverend Rhodes sounds good – preaching hell and damnation from the pulpit to your trembling flock of freemasons.

  • The Wartime Housewife 30th August 2011

    Fascinating. I come from a long line of Freemason men. My sisters and I went to the Masonic School in Rickmansworth, Herts, my mother attended the Masonic Hospital in London and my grandmother died in the Masonic Benevelent Home in Leicester.

    The school was very beautiful, built in the 1930s and awash with symbolism in every brick. Our school motto was ‘Circumornatae ut similtudo templi’ ie ‘That we may be as the polished cornerstones of the temple’. Our conduct badges were solid silver ashlars which we wore on our cardigans with pride. Sadly, I lost mine and they’re not made of silver any more.

    Funnily enough, I was at a funeral on Friday and the teas were served in Masonic branded cups and saucers. One is now in my corner cabinet!

  • Mr Parrot 30th August 2011

    YP: Or perhaps the leader of a mysterious lost tribe of Israel that had made its way to Derbyshire carrying the tablets of Moses. (To be taken three times daily after meals.)

    TWH: Pilfering! Not model behaviour for a Freemason-educated gel.

  • The Wartime Housewife 30th August 2011

    I ain’t guilty, Gov! I WAS going to nick it but decided that I would simply ask outright if I could have one and they were unexpectedly happy to oblige.
    And that, M’Lud is the case for the Defence.

  • Mr Parrot 30th August 2011

    Case dismissed.

  • Jay from The Depp Effect 31st August 2011

    Wow .. I’d LOVE to visit that church! Where is it?

    I would have understood the square and compasses, and I would have guessed that the symbols were also related to Freemasonry, but I would have been stumped – and fascinated – by the rest!

    Love the pictures and the explanations, and the mystery. I love genealogy too!

  • Jay from The Depp Effect 31st August 2011

    By the way – you’ll be glad to know I’ve added the picture link! Thanks for letting me know I’d forgotten it. 🙂 Sorry about that.

  • Mr Parrot 31st August 2011

    Jay, the church is in Mellor in the north east corner of Cheshire. It used to be Derbyshire until 1936 when it bcame part of Stockport.

    And thanks for posting the answer to your Macro Monday!


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