A month ago I visited the graveyard near my childhood home in St. Budeaux, Plymouth. I was principally out to take some photographs of the church and to – if lucky enough – uncover a headstone or two related to landlords of the past of the Blue Monkey pub (for the history that I’ve been researching). I have found memories of the cemetery, what with riding through on push-bikes and taking the old family dog for a walk, so to approach it again in a different light was revealing.
Firstly, I realised that St. Budeaux Church is home to a dozen Commonwealth war graves. These are dotted around the cemetery, and each of them hold a special history of the person and the period of time. Secondly, I did manage to locate a few headstones of former publicans, including that of Francis Martin. Thirdly, I came across other hidden histories that are hinted at in several headstones. The most notable was that of a child of the Earl of Ranfurly, whose child Henry John Knox drowned in the Tamar in 1845.
However, the church’s most famous grave – that of Mary Newman – will remain a mystery. As noted in a previous blog post, Mary Newman was the first wife of Sir Francis Drake; there is some discussion as to whether or not she was a native of St. Budeaux on the Devon side of the Tamar, or of Saltash (with her cottage being proclaimed in Saltash town). It is believed that she was buried in the parish in which she married Drake (back in 1569), however, the actual location of her burial is completely unknown. Local histories believe that the location was ultimately lost in the Victorian period after alterations to the church grounds.
This particular location of Plymouth is a trove of hidden history of the area, and one that perhaps has not been fully explored. Time is always the limiting factor, but ideas sparked in my head of finding out more information about the various headstones in order to piece together more of a history of the space. But then my mind returns to focus and shouts at me: “No, Dave, you must finish the pub history first!” Yes, brain, I will get back to the Word document to do my best.