The Hickling Belvoir Angel Headstones

Belvoir Angels Logo

“He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways”

(from Psalm 91 & the dedication in Heathcote’s Vale of Belvoir Angels)

Hickling is one of the three villages where the densest clusters of Belvoir Angel headstones occur: Hickling, Nether Broughton and Upper Broughton. Between them, these villages account for 92 of the known examples (out of a known total of 328) – the villages sit in a triangle on the edge of the Vale of Belvoir with both of the Broughtons just a couple of miles from Hickling and less than a mile from each other.

It is very likely that several (and possibly many) Belvoir Angel headstones haven’t survived the last 300 years; it is certain that some have been damaged and that a few may have been moved. Sadly, since the graveyard census project began in Hickling some 20 years ago, the stones have deteriorated badly – the modern pressures of acid rain and pollution are achieving what 250 years hadn’t.

Heathcote records the earliest example of a Belvoir Angel in Melton Mowbray in 1681 and the earliest Vale of Belvoir example in 1690; the latest is found in Old Dalby in 1759. The surviving headstones in Hickling range from 1702 to 1758; 34 headstones have survived. What we don’t know is how many may have been lost; there were 820 burials recorded in the Hickling Parish Registers between 1690 and 1760! At present there are only (approx.) 350 memorial headstones in the churchyard.

  • Please contact us if you find a reference or description to a headstone not included in our current list.
  • Please also contact us if you can add any further detail or information to any of our records.
  • If you would like to share your photographs, paintings or artwork of the Hickling Belvoir Angel headstones, please contact us with your images and details of how you would like your credits to appear.
  • Thank you!

Most of the Hickling Belvoir Angels are protected by a Grade II Listing with English Heritage (6 are not) and they can mostly be found in clusters around the south porch of St. Luke’s Parish Church.

The Hickling Belvoir Angel Headstones:

There are 34 surviving Belvoir Angel headstones in the churchyard of St. Luke’s, Hickling; 3 of these are double-sided (listed in date order, oldest first):

  • John Caunt died August 20th 1702 (age 30)
  • Bryan Wollarton died July 7th 1703
  • John Collishaw died February 12th 1704 (age 24) and Anne Collishaw died 20th December 1729 (age 20) – double-sided
  • Anne Hopkinson died 1707 in her first year
  • John Barlow died September 7th 1710 (age 25)
  • Anne Daft died March 22nd 1713 and Robert Daft died May 16th 1719 (age 3) and Anne Daft died July 11th 1719 and Margaret Daft died May 2nd 1723 (age 4).
  • Richard Smith died March 5th 1719 (age 59) and Elizabeth Smith, his wife, died March 5th 1734 (age 74)
  • John James died December 27th 1719 (age 7) and Thomas James died May 23rd 1719 (age 20 weeks)
  • Thomas Hardy died January 25th 1720 (age 48) and Judith Hardy, his wife, died March 21st 1727 (age 53)
  • Hugh Gill died February 13th 1720 (in ye 5th year of his age)
  • Magrett Morris died May 28th 1723 (in ye 7th year of her age) and Robert Morriss died May 2nd 1752 (age 69) – double-sided
  • Sarah Shittlewood died January 20th 1724 (age 26)
  • John Smith of Cropwell died December 23rd 1725 (no year on headstone) (age 73)
  • Dosie (Theodosia) Fawkes died 23rd December 1727 (age51)
  • Eliz Hardy died May 15th 1728 (age 17)
  • Edward Collishaw senir died April 12th 1729 (age 70)
  • George Man died November 15th 1730 (age 45)
  • Margret Man died December 10th 1730 (age 37)
  • John Gill died February 9th 1732 (age 19) and Hugh Gill died March 10th 1732 (age 7)
  • Edward Collishaw died February [1733] [age 51] and Rebekah Collishaw, his wife, died 5th October 1749 (age 65) – double-sided
  • Anne Caunt died March 7th 1734 (age 17)
  • Margret Neal died December 3rd 1734 (age 48)
  • Mary Man died April 20th 1735 (age 15)
  • Elizabeth Morley died 20th October 1735 (age 40)
  • Anne Man died November 19th 1735 (half a year old)
  • George Hives died March 1st 1738 (age 38)
  • Samuel Morley died June 8th 1738 (age 48)
  • Margaret Gill died May 18th 1740 (age 51)
  • William Man died August 30th 1742 (in the 6th year of his age)
  • Mary Daft died January 27th 1744 (age 33)
  • Mary Willkinson died January 17th 1749 (age 32) and Ann (age 24 weeks) and Mary Willkinson (age 2 years)
  • Richard Musson died November 7th 1753 (age 19)
  • Ann Musson died June 13th 1755 (age 44)
  • Joseph Daft died April 29th 1758 (age 68)

(Pages not yet live – please look out for new links as they appear, above) Each of the headstone entries (above) will link to its own page which, as far as possible, includes the inscription, photographs and information about the individual and their family.

Sketch Plan of the Hickling Belvoir Angel Headstones (not to scale):

Click here for a printable pdf of the map and information sheet (copies are also available in the porch of St. Luke’s Church).

Hickling Angels - map & info sheet text
Hickling Angels – map & info sheet
Hickling Angels - map & info sheet
Hickling Angels – map & info sheet

The sketched plan (above) is numbered chronologically and it is noticeable that there is no pattern to the surviving headstones in terms of time/dates (although there are some identifiable family clusters).

Anne Hopkinson 1707 (Ann Schmidt)
Anne Hopkinson 1707 (Ann Schmidt)

(April 2022) Until now, we had been working on the basis of 33 surviving Belvoir Angel headstones in Hickling. We now know that there are 34. With the help of Ann Schmidt, her database and the English Heritage listings the headstone for Anne Hopkinson who ‘died in her first year’ has been found again and added to the Hickling list.

Ann Hopkinson 1707 (Alan Murray-Rust/Eng Heritage)
Ann Hopkinson 1707 (Alan Murray-Rust/Eng Heritage)

“To Anne daughter of John Hopk[…] by Mary his wife d. 1707 in her first year she was a twin Do not for me in tears remain I sleep but till Christ come again”

The Cobblestones Angel:

Cobblestones Belvoir Angel (DPowell)
Cobblestones Belvoir Angel (DPowell)

The owners of Cobblestones recently explained their find: “(We) currently live at Cobblestones and the gravestone is in the front garden. It is about a third of the original, and has been cut into, probably to be used to support a post as there is a square taken out of the centre. We found it when we were clearing the back garden, over thirty years ago (…) There is, apparently, an important link between John Wright and the production of these angels. John Wright was the first person to own our house in 1797, so that could also be of interest, although he must be the grandson etc. of the masons who cut these gravestones.”

All the right characteristics but no Angels:

We have a small number of headstones which have all the characteristics of a Belvoir Angel headstone but without any angels. We don’t have any real explanation for this but they are all smaller and lower than those with Angel carvings and they are often clustered amongst the Belvoir Angel headstones:

  • The Belvoir Angels represent a distinctive type of naive art which emerged out of the traditions of the 1600s. The headstones without the elaborate carving may simply be the fore-runners of the Belvoir Angels with some crossing over in time.
  • They may be a style-choice or perhaps lettering without imagery was cheaper?
  • It is understood that Belvoir Angel headstones were often damaged and even removed by puritanical folk who disapproved of the imagery and symbolism; perhaps the Angel headers were removed from some of these stones? Some do show slightly rough edges on the tops and even parts of patterning slightly cut off. The grave of Mary Robinson is an odd shape which may indicate angels have been removed from the top corners. However, because of the rough hewn characteristic of the Belvoir Angel stones, it is impossible to be sure.

The appeal of the Belvoir Angel headstones isn’t a recent thing by any means; in July 1917 the vicar, the Revd. FJ Ashmall, received the following correspondence. Sadly, there is no sign that the promised information was sent/survived:

(Notts Archives)

“Dear Sir, Please accept my best thanks for your letter.  In due course I will send to you some particulars of slate headstones.  The slates themselves came from Charnwood Forest and the best work is confined to the Midland Counties accessible from that district.  During the 18th century slate cutters arrived at a marvellous state of perfection and during the 19th century the art deteriorated until every vestige of interest died out.

The raised letter slates are, with rare exceptions, confined to a few villages in your neighbourhood and it is quite evident that they are due to one of two village craftsmen of the district.  The lettering is very beautiful and the work unique.  I wondered if there would be any reference in the registers of a slate cutter who may have died about 1740.  If so, one might reasonably conclude that we should be able to fix upon the genius who did this work.

Yes, Dr Stewart and myself came to Hickling some time ago and took a few photographs.  I called at the Rectory but you were out at the time.”

The Hickling Domesday Book (2000)

The Hickling Belvoir Angels formed an important motif for Hickling’s millennium Domesday book: courtesy of local artists Bob Naismith and Barbara McEwen the artwork appeared on the front cover and as headers and footers throughout.

Domesday Bk front cover
Domesday Bk front cover
Domesday Book - artwork
Domesday Book – artwork
Domesday Book - page header artwork
Domesday Book – page header artwork
Domesday Book - page footer artwork
Domesday Book – page footer artwork

(further images can be found on the individual pages for each headstone)