The Story of the Gravestone at The George & Dragon
Outside the pub is a tombstone marked ‘In loving memory of Walter…’ – the albino son of the landlord, born in 1867. A description of the events by George Long can be found below.
His parents had the following inscribed on the stone: ‘May God forgive those who forgot their duty to him who was just and afflicted’.
Extract from ‘English Inns and Roadhouses’ by George Long, 1937
When cycling through the Sussex byways some 20 years ago I came upon a village inn that was unique in its own way. It was on the lane from Horsham to Shipley.
The inn, The George & Dragon was entered by a path through a tiny garden and beside it was a large monumental cross bearing this startling inscription: ‘In Loving memory…etc. etc’.
This was on the monument itself and on a board in front printed two additional announcements:
‘This cross was erected on the grave in Shipley churchyard and was removed by the order of H. Gorman, vicar.’
‘Two globe wreaths were placed on the grave by friends and after being there for two years were removed by E. Arkle, the following vicar.’
The white-haired landlady of the inn related this strange story of clerical bigotry and parental affection.
It seems that Walter had been afflicted from his youth up. White hair and pink eyes must have been a serious handicap to a sensitive lad and he was further troubled by occasional epileptic fits. But parental affection is often increased rather than diminished by misfortunes and he was idol of his family. Then one unlucky day he was suspected of petty theft, although quite innocent. The charge so preyed on his sensitive mind that he drowned himself.
At much personal sacrifice to the heart-broken parents they erected a costly marble monument over their son’s remains in Shipley churchyard and not unnaturally voiced their grief and indignation at those whose tongues had been the cause of the tragedy.
When the vicar saw the protest graven on the cross he chose to regard it as a personal attack upon himself and ordered its removal. The reasons given was firstly that the symbol of sacrifice could not fittingly be placed upon the remains of a lost sinner who had committed suicide and secondly that the wording was offensive.
And so the afflicted parents were compelled to see their son lie in a nameless grave – but they had a magnificent revenge. They removed the cross to the garden in front of The George & Dragon and placed a board upon it stating the reason for their action. This was to the consternation of the vicar who made every possible effort the cause the removal of this rock of offence.
If the Budds had been ordinary tenants of a tied house the matter would have been easily resolved as the brewer could have been pressed to act in the vicar’s favour. But The George & Dragon was a free house and was in addition the property of Mr and Mrs Budd.
All efforts consequently failed and not long afterwards the Rev. Gorman left the church and Mr Arkle reigned in his place. He most unwisely thought fit to show his power by ordering the removal from the already desecrated grave the wreaths which had been placed there by the sorrowing relatives who had been permitted no other memorial.
These sad relics were placed beside the cross in the garden and the name of the Rev. E Arkle was added to the ‘roll of honour’.
All this persecution was very profitable to the Inn and its owners. The newspapers saw good copy and made the most of it and the Inn obtained increasing custom from the incident’.
A photograph of Walter’s mother can be seen on the left-hand corner of the Bar.