I am always on the look out for the unusual, the odd and the downright peculiar, whether it is a house with a 3000 years lease, a lost golden cup, or a sighting of mermaids I just love to find the story behind it all!
So when I heard about a grave in the village of Veryan on the Roseland Peninsula thought to be the longest in the UK I had to take a look.
Churches are, I find, the most wonderful places to find the unusual. But they are also a place of quiet in a busy town and somewhere cool on a hot summers day. Wherever I go I always take a look around the church, you never know what you might learn. Veryan’s ancient church, St Symphorian, sits in the centre of this picturesque village and the grave I had come to see took a little bit of hunting to find. Eventually I spotted it, tucked away against a hedge in a corner.
A Tragic Night
On the night of 1st February 1914 the Hera, a German cargo ship on her way to Falmouth, ran into ‘dirty weather’ off the Lizard. Her chronometer had failed. The ship’s clock was an hour slow. Consequently in the thicken fog the crew were unable to take proper bearings.
The weather worsened and the crews hopes of reaching Falmouth began to fade. Then suddenly breakers were sighted, indicating rocks nearby. The Captain gave the order to “put about” but it was too late. Hera struck the outer stones of the Gull Rock just off Nare Head and quickly began to take on water. The crew sent up distress rockets and fired flares and guns. The port lifeboat was launched with most of the crew. But the captain and a few seamen were left on board the ship.
Then quite suddenly the Hera just disappeared beneath the waves, taking the captain and the other men with her. All that was left was part of her mast sticking up above the water. The one remaining lifeboat was also swamped and the surviving men thrown into the sea. Luckily nine of them managed to reach the mast and clung on, shouting and blowing a whistle. By the time the Falmouth lifeboat arrived some hours later, there were only five men remaining.
Tragically the bodies of fifteen of the nineteen sailors who died that night are buried here. But perhaps to save space they were buried head to foot beside a boundary hedge. The grave is roughly 30 metres long (98 feet) making it the longest in the UK. And it also records the names of the men who were lost and a rather poignant poem.
The community in and around Veryan, although used to shipwrecks, were deeply moved by the events of that night. It is said that the local people stood on the cliffs and watched the tragedy unfold. Unable to do anything to help. Historic records also show that hundreds of people attended the burial service in Veryan. As recently as 2014 a memorial service was held to mark the centenary of that fateful night.