Joseph Thompson's grave

Harrington, Cumbria

Joseph Thompson, an eccentric farmer from Winscales in Cumbria, was a regular worshipper in the congregation at Harrington church. He did however possess one unusual skill for this period of time .... he could read.

In order to get around the general illiteracy of the population as a whole, many churches employed a clerk whose job it was to follow the service and lead the congregation in responding at the appropriate times.

During each service however, Joseph had the habit of sitting alongside the church clerk, reading aloud each of the responses before the clerk himself could. Needless to say this irritated the clerk so much that, during one service when Joe had been exceptionally annoying, he stood up and slapped him across the face saying ....'Thee clerk or me clerk'.......

Incensed, Joe demanded that the vicar discipline the clerk, but needless to say the long suffering cleric was somewhat sympathetic towards his appointee and suggested that Joe himself moderated his behaviour.

Angered at his perceived lack of success Joe stormed out of the church saying .....'if I can not please myself I shall come no more to your church'

This promise he kept until his dying day, never again entering within the portals of the church. On his death bed however he feared that his wishes might be usurped and he expressly forbade that his body should be taken to the church.

He expressed his wish that his body should be secretly buried at midnight with neither readings nor sermon. This was duly done and he was buried in the middle of the local moor at Scaw, a plain stone marking his final resting place. On it was

Joseph Thompson may here be found
Who would not ly in consecrated ground
Died May ye 31st 1745
Aged 63 when he was alive

When the moor was cultivated the farmer responsible moved the stone deep into the hedge of his field boundary


From the road junction in High Harrington a minor road (known locally as Scaw Road) leads north east to join the main A596. The headstone lies on the left hand side of this road close to a clump of trees half a mile from the Harrington junction. The actual grave lies in the middle of the field over the hedge.

When I visited this site I met an elderly local who well remembered the stone lying in the middle of the field. He also recalled Baden-Powell visiting the grave when he (the local) was a child.