Friday, November 20, 2009

Obama, Olympics, Marijuana, Search engines

Please forgive me. I have decided to start giving my posts more exciting titles.

Speaking of lych and lychgates.

I was re-reading a book I found when I was cleaning out my back room, about the American Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg. It was written by one of the caretakers of the battlefield, or park rangers or whatever you call them, and it is filled with facts and old pictures.

One of the pictures shows the entrance to the cemetery part of the battle ground - the old Gettysburg cemetery where much of the heavy fighting took place - called Cemetery Ridge, I think - and I note a large structure in the picture that was at the entrance to that town cemetery. The picture was taken after the battle, so the building is messed up. Remember, this was in the summer of 1863. Anyway, they refer to it as the "gatehouse" and the cemetery caretaker/sexton lived there with his family. Here is the picture (click to enlarge):Now, I can't imagine anyone using this entrance to prepare a corpse for burial, and the cemetery isn't a churchyard, but I think this might still qualify as a lychgate. My meaning is that some of these old traditions might have been carried on from England in this country too. Maybe. Although Gettysburg was "Pennsylvania Dutch" (Germans).

What do you think? A stretch?


  1. Yes, a stretch. Almost as big a stretch as the post title. It looks far more like a triumphal arch. One of the requisites of a lychgate seems to be a pitched roof.

  2. I'm going to have to agree with A. When I think of a lych-gate I think of Haworth churchyard and the Brontes (there was one there). This looks like Washington Square Arch got lost - I think the Gettysburgers were trying for a misplaced urban grandeur.

  3. I'm going to disagree with the commenters before me. A stretch, perhaps, but I'm willing to bet there are lychgates like this in the UK as well. Gatehouses frequently had residences for gatekeepers. And I suspect there are many types of gates.

    On the other hand, that's all speculation.

  4. If you go to Geograph you will find well over 1000 pictures of lych gates (and another couple of hundred lychgates). I will happily admit that I haven't been through every last one, but I am certain you will find they don't look like this gatehouse.

    The main feature of the lych gate is that it was a place where the clergy met the body and, most importantly, started the burial service. It is therefore considered part of the church, or used to be. Your picture is of a gatehouse to a town cemetery. We have gatehouses at town cemeteries too, but they are not lych gates.

    Lych gates can at times be quite substantial, but they are always at a church entrance and have a roof for shelter.

  5. I didn't mean to start a controversy. It only seemed interesting to me, because I couldn't remember having seen them here. The cemeteries I've seen in small towns usually have just had a fence around them and one or a few gates (which seem to magically open in the early morning and close when it gets dark.) In larger cities I have seen fancier fences, like iron bars, or solid walls at the more expensive-looking ones, but never a formal entrance that I remember. So I was interested. Please let's not let this get out of hand, I meant no harm with the post.

    I really do appreciate all your comments, and, Sheila, I have visited your link. Stephanie, I think it would really be cool for this "oddity" or the word lych to be included in one of your novels.

    Thanks again.

    Hey, Lidian.

  6. A controversy? Where's the controversy? You asked a question and we answered. You didn't say we had to agree with you. I'll stay out of the bagpipe question.



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