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The Quaker Burial Ground at South Shields was situated in Robert Linton's garden. The first recorded burial was in 1673, the last in 1697. Though Phillips does not locate this cemetery, Hodgson states that Linton's house was in West Pans Way, "now Laygate Lane", and the OS quotes the South Shields museum curator as saying the burial ground was situated west of the present Trinity Church in Commercial Road

The Lay Farm about 1876 near what is now Laygate Circus, at the top of Frederick Street, near Adam and Eve Public House. In the garden 3 stone coffins were found along with an old tomb stone, dated 14.1.1668. The tombstone was removed to the old Public Library, now the Museum. Ralph Milburn lived in this house and was instrumental in the establishment of Presbyterianism in South Shields

Photo: South Shields Public Library


We have received a letter from Dr Frain, South Shields, in which he says:-

Sir, - The discovery of coffins containing human remains at Laygate has excited interest, and various stories concerning them have been told; some of deeds of violence an secret burial, others, that the place was used as the burial ground of some family or sect; and there are old people I have seen who remember to have heard when they were young, that this had been the case, and that there was formerly near the spot a chapel. This is doubtless correct, for records of some who were buried there as far back as 1663 are to be found in the letter which I enclose from Mr. Ingham, of Westoe, who has kindly consented to its publication.
Since Saturday, 15th inst., when the first coffin was discovered, others have been dug up, and the principal bones, such as the skulls, upper and lower extremities, with a few vertebrae, of five persons, adults, two of tall stature, can be made out, showing in their decayed condition appearance of long internments.  They were placed in two parallel rows, and in one grave two coffins had been buried, one on the top of the other.

The following is the letter from Mr. Ingham, to which reference is made above:- Westoe, 27th Jan., 1870

MY DEAR SIR, - I have little doubt that the site, which you had the goodness to show me on Tuesday, where the remains of some old coffins and, of those w had been buried in them, must have been part of the ground belong to “Lay Gate”, and have been used as a burying ground by the family of Melbourne. That family (who are forefathers of Mr. Fell, of Biddick, and myself) possessed the Lay Gate for many generations, and until, at the beginning of this century, it passed by sale to the family of Bulmers, when extensive alterations were made. I learned that two tombs had been removed from what was called “The Grava Stona Garden” and, that one of them had been broken up, but the other had been preserved entire, and was used in the footpath on the premises.  I was willingly allowed to replace flag stones, and I still have the slab its ******** in perfect preservation.  The ********* arms are at the top of the slab, and the ***** inscription describes it as “Sepulenim Radulphus Melbourne” and records his death as in 1663.  There are two, other lines of inscription below; the first recording the death of “Grace Woolf” as in January 1705 6, and recorded the death of “Henry Woolf” in December 1709.
The history of these dates, according to family recollection, is that Ralph Melbourne died early, leaving one young son “Joshua,” and that his mother (Grace, the widow of Ralph) married Henry Woolf for her second husband, and the deaths of both are recorded on Ralph’s tombstone as above stated.
(The tombstone was on display in the foyer of the South Shields Museum for many years, but no longer. Only a  an image is on show now, badly sited. Photo above)
Though there can be no doubt of the tombstone belonging to the Melbourne family, yet it is somewhat difficult to explain why they should use a private burying ground.  The recent generations belonged to the Established Church; but there is an old portrait in the family of “Grace Woolf,” formerly the widow of Ralph Melbourne, and in a corner of the painting is a device of a cross and crown, with the words “ A Sionist (sic) journey in to the New Jerusalem.”  It is probable, therefore, that she and her friends belonged to some Puritan sect, who disapproved of the consecration of burying grounds.
I shall take care that these remains find some quiet resting place, and I owe many thanks to you, by whose kind offices I am enabled to effect it.

                Believe me, my dear Sir,

                                Yours very faithfully,

                                                ROBERT INGHAM.