Historic Wrath of God

Conal from Australia asks an odd question:

In St. Mary’s Churchyard (Woolwich) used to be a headstone telling of the death by drowning of 2 (?) young boys who had taken their new skates to a frozen pond on Blackheath (I don’t know which one). It draws the moral that this was divine retribution for skating on a holy day. I was taken to St Mary’s on occasion by my father, I remember it well, not least for his appalled reaction to such a homily. It has been removed, cleared, and unlike the earlier clearance in the 19th century, the headstones were not recorded.

Do you know anything of this, or where I might check it out further?

I confess I’ve never heard of this incident. Normally I’d suggest Conal check out Greenwich Heritage Centre, but they, apparently, have no record of either the accident or the headstone.

My next thought was, of course, Neil Rhind’s history of the Heath, which is pretty much definitive. But apart from my nicking this rather wonderful picture of skating on Prince of Wales pond in 1904 (which is from Greenwich Heritage centre – sorry chaps…) – from a good sixty-odd years after Conal’s two little boys killed by the wrath of God – there is little about skating in my version of The Heath other than noting that skating rarely happens these days as the winters aren’t so severe.

Of course I only have the first edition, something I always mean to rectify then forget about until the next time someone asks something like this, so apologies to Neil if the incident is mentioned in there.

I can’t imagine that the newly-renamed Kentish Mercury (The Greenwich, Woolwich and Deptford Gazette, and West Kent Advertiser were turned into the Kentish Mercury in 1838) would have missed a juicy story like this though. If there isn’t a copy in the Heritage Centre it will probably be in the National Newspaper Archive. I confess a cursory online search of the millions of pages they’ve scanned for online search so far didn’t bring much up for me and I don’t have the hours in the day for a trudge up to Boston Spa (though actually, the Phantom Webmaster points out that the current transfer of all the Newspaper archives from Colindale to Yorkshire has a five-month embargo on research via their services anyway).

Has anyone else anything on this? Do you remember the headstone? Anything more on it?

the attachments to this post:

Ice skating on Prince of Wales Pond 1904
Ice skating on Prince of Wales Pond 1904

One Comment to “Historic Wrath of God”

  1. ms teapot says:

    Conal could try mailing the parish rector; he may be able to give more information about the clearing of the headstones, or be able to point you further. His email is on this page: http://www.southwark.anglican.org/parishes/313bw