British Listed Buildings

History in Structure

If you log in, you can comment on buildings, submit new photos or update photos that you've already submitted.

We need to upgrade the server that this website runs on. Can you spare a quid to help?.

Horsefield Table Tomb in Churchyard of Church of St Mary, Prestwich

Description: Horsefield Table Tomb in Churchyard of Church of St Mary

Grade: II
Date Listed: 21 February 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1406283

OS Grid Reference: SD8103203688
OS Grid Coordinates: 381032, 403688
Latitude/Longitude: 53.5295, -2.2876

Location: 6 Carmona Drive, Prestwich M25 3JN

Locality: Prestwich
County: Bury
Country: England
Postcode: M25 3JN

Incorrect location/postcode? Submit a correction!

Listing Text


Table tomb commemorating the botanist John Horsefield and his family, c1854.

Reason for Listing

The Horsefield table tomb, c1854 in St Mary's churchyard, Prestwich, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: it commemorates the regionally significant botanist, John Horsefield, a gingham weaver who strove to enable working-men to develop their knowledge of botany, which was seen at the time as the preserve of the gentleman
* Design interest: the table tomb incorporates richly detailed carvings that directly reference Horsefield's life, including a striking epitaph by the poet Charles Swain, and a depiction of a 'Trigridia conchiflora var. Watkinsoni', one of the flowers that Horsefield hybridised
* Group value: it has group value with the Grade I listed St Mary's Church and the other listed monuments and structures in the St Mary's churchyard


St Mary's Church, Prestwich, dates to the C14 with later alterations, and the oldest extant grave marker in the churchyard dates to 1641. However, the topography of the churchyard suggests a much older burial ground. The churchyard has been extended many times, including in 1827 when boundary walls were constructed. Prior to these walls being erected the churchyard was enclosed by a ditch and hedge created in 1706, and subsequently by the planting of beech and fir trees in 1763. Further extensions of the churchyard occurred in 1864, 1886, 1924 and 1950.

The western section of the churchyard contains, amongst other graves, the unmarked burials of thousands of inmates of the County Asylum Prestwich dating from the mid-C19 to early-C20, although several communal graves for the asylum's attendants and some inmates are marked by grave slabs. In 1801 a hearse house (altered in the mid-late C20) was constructed to the north of the church.

John Horsefield (1792-1854) was a botanist and gingham weaver who was born into a poor family and worked tirelessly to educate himself. His passion for botany developed from an unillustrated edition of Culpeper's 'Herbal', which encouraged Horsefield to identify all the plants mentioned. As a working-class man himself, Horsefield strove to enable others to participate in botany, which was seen at the time as a gentleman's pursuit. Horsefield founded and presided over the Prestwich Botanical Society for over 30 years from 1820, holding meetings in local pubs and combining oral as well as text-based presentations in order to help illiterate people learn. He also encouraged working-men botanists to pool funds in order to buy books. Horsefield was the first person to discover the moss Entosthodon templetoni in England and also hybridised a new daffodil known as Narcissus 'Horsfieldii'. John Horsefield lived in severe poverty throughout his life; at the time of his death the only property he owned was 37 bulbs of Narcissus 'Horsfieldii'.


Table tomb of dressed sandstone. Decorative relief carving. Lain base with six short, square legs supporting a rectangular table with a moulded margin and carved surface design in the form of an elliptical arch supported by scrolled consoles with imposts incorporating an ivy-leaf motif. Arch band with a medallion to apex contains a dove descending bearing an olive branch. Naturalistic carving of vines to left of dove, oak leaves and acorns to right. Spandrels with carved foliation. An oval-shaped panel below the arch contains a carved relief of Horsefield's hybridised 'Trigridia conchiflora var. Watkinsoni'. Inscription reads 'IN MEMORY OF/ JOHN HORSEFIELD/ OF WHITEFIELD, BOTANIST/ who died March 6th 1854, in the/ 62nd Year of his age'. Below are 18 lines of verse by the poet Charles Swain (1807-74), which read 'Ye who behold God's works in Nature's ways/ And find in flowers mute anthems to His praise/ Who read the volume of eternal love/ In seeds of earth as in the stars above/ Here read a name whose fame shall long endure./ One of poor birth, but Gifted although poor:/ God - unlike man - the humblest spirit lifts/ Nor asks his wealth before He sends His gifts!/ Where'er Botanic science could be learn'd/ New links disclosed - new species yet discerned/ Where'er by wood or lane or heath or hill/ God op'ed the book that taught Botanic skill/ There HORSEFIELD's foot from dawn to eve was seen/ to learn - to teach - to be what he has been,/ An honour to the soil that gave him birth:/ Oh, may that spirit for whose loss we grieve/ Our God accept - our Saviour Lord receive. C. Swain. Further inscription to bottom of table reads 'Also of Esther Horsefield, widow of the above who died June 17th, 1872 in the 79th year of her Age (and James their son and Alice his wife)'.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.