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The Grave of Lady Anne Grimston

Anne Grimston was a wealthy women, the daughter of an Earl, and lived and died in Hertfordshire, England over 300 years ago. Yet it was what happened after her death that made her more famous than anything that happened in her lifetime.

Throughout much of her life, Lady Anne scoffed at the notion of a Higher Power and the possibility of life after death. But, although she was known to her friends as a staunch atheist, she prided herself on keeping up appearances, and so, every Sunday, she dutifully attended church services in St. Albans.

It is unclear what happened to Lady Anne to make her lose her faith, but records show that both of her children died at an early age; her son, Edward, died in infancy while a daughter, Mary, died at the age of nine. At any rate, when Anne grew old and her friends attempted to comfort her with talk of the hereafter, the dying woman is said to have declared: “I shall not live again. It is as unlikely that I shall live again as that a tree will grow out of my body.”

And, as fate would have it, that is exactly what happened.

Read the story of what happened at Lady Anne Grimston's final resting place at Journal of the Bizarre. -via Strange Company


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I'm not finding an online version of the church guide book that dates first publication of this legend to the 1840s, (well after the lifetime of any who directly knew Lady Anne), but it also is said to claim plenty of documentary evidence in the church records of her 'piety' and participation in educating the young of her time in the traditional church doctrine of life-after-death etc.

On Google books there are lots of accounts from the latter half of the 1800s that call the legend ridiculous, saying that it was quite clearly made up after the fact to explain the condition of the grave. Such condition, they point out, is not really that unusual for churchyards at that time. One such account is from a book by William Chambers called "A Week At Welwyn":

"Here, again, we have an instance of a mythical legend being inconsiderately raised on a visionary substratum of fact.

Lady Anne died in 1713, and was buried here; her tomb being a structure of stone raised a few feet from the ground, environed by an iron railing. To the surprise of the worthy parishioners of Tewin, there in time sprung up a number of sycamore and ash trees from the crevices of the structure. The natural explanation of the unforeseen phenomenon would have been, that the tomb was constructed among the unexhausted roots of these trees, or that their seeds had been accidentally dropped into the earth; and that springing from these sources of vitality, the shoots had, through a vigorous growth due to soil and climate, forced their way to the surface. This, however, was too simple a way of accounting for the marvel.

A superstitious legend was invented, and found credence even among those who should know better. The story ran that Lady Anne, in dying, had professed her disbelief of the Resurrection; declaring that 'she should as soon think that seeds would force themselves from the stone-work of a tomb, as that a dead body should do so, or that trees should spring out of her grave, as that she in any form should rise therefrom/ and 'that if the word of God were true, seven ash trees should spring from her grave.'

It is melancholy to think that such trash as this should still be gravely printed in local guide-books, with the remark appended, that 'the lesson is grand and obvious, and may be received by every Christian without the smallest tinge of superstition.' There is actually a sermonising tract, sold in the shops at Hertford, giving currency to this preposterous legend.

The growth of the trees from the tomb cannot but be considered something remarkable in vegetation. The trees, six or seven in number, have displaced the stone-work and railing, so as to produce a confused and fantastic group of slabs, stones, and twisted iron rails. As observable from the diagonal pathway across the churchyard, the tomb is haunted by crowds of visitors. ...

As regards the calumny which has been so indiscreetly propagated against Lady Anne Grimston, it has been contradicted in a letter from the Earl of Verulam, in the number of Notes and Queries above quoted. (Here, again, we have an instance of a mythical legend being inconsiderately raised on a visionary substratum of fact. As regards the calumny which has been so indiscreetly propagated against Lady Anne Grimston, it has been contradicted in a letter from the Earl of Verulam, in the number of Notes and Queries above quoted (Notes and Queries, Feb. 25, 1871). His lordship says, in writing to the editor:

'I do not believe that there is the slightest foundation for the legend which you have printed about Lady Anne Grimston, to be found in the character of that lady'."
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Or the seeds landed on the ground, sprouted, and grew in the family plot. Finely maintained graveyards and cemeteries are a 20th century thing.
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Let's be honest, the quote about a tree growing out of her body smells like it was made up after the fact to make a good story. Still, just the condition of her grave is interesting enough to pass along.
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