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Hothfield grave of Cecil Headlam shrouded in mystery

By Charlie Harman

A mysterious Greek engraving has been found on a headstone at a village church.

Volunteers clearing St Margaret's Church in Hothfield uncovered the final resting place of Cecil Headlam, a polymath who died in 1934.

While one side bears the expected details, a passage in Greek adorns the reverse but the writing is in parts un-translateable - even by native speakers.

The Greek text which adorns Cecil Headlam's grave
The Greek text which adorns Cecil Headlam's grave

Chris Rogers, chairman of the Hothfield History Society, says the engraving was found during a clean-up at the church.

"We're hosting an exhibition in September around the church, focussing on the history of the building and its surroundings," he said.

"Our society and the Friends of St Margaret's thought we'd tidy up the place beforehand, removing the ivy that was covering some of the headstones.

"My neighbour Karen Brock is an avid family historian and a member of the society.

Chris Rogers at the grave with an old cricket team photo showing Cecil Headlam
Chris Rogers at the grave with an old cricket team photo showing Cecil Headlam

"She started sniffing around and saw the headstone, which I must have walked past on many occasions.

"She started delving into his past - we'd never heard of him before but it turned out he was a well-known cricketer and had led an interesting life."

Ms Brock found Mr Headlam was a first-class cricketer having played for Middlesex and Oxford University between 1895 and 1908 and would go on to have a career as a travel writer, writing books on Nuremburg, Naples and Chartres.

It's believed he had a complex love life, with he and possibly his first wife having relationships outside of marriage.

Members of the Hothfield History Society stand by the mysterious headstone. Pictured is Sharon Butler, Richard Hull, Nick Wheat, Sheila Flynn, Chris Rogers and Martin Crompton
Members of the Hothfield History Society stand by the mysterious headstone. Pictured is Sharon Butler, Richard Hull, Nick Wheat, Sheila Flynn, Chris Rogers and Martin Crompton

He later remarried to a French woman.

His brothers are believed to have studied Greek, possibly providing a clue as to the origin of the out-of-place inscription.

However not all of the words were discernible, prompting gaps.

KentOnline consulted an Ancient Greek speaker - who did not want to be named - about the engraving.

An exhibition will be held around St Margaret's Church in September highlighting the history of Hothfield
An exhibition will be held around St Margaret's Church in September highlighting the history of Hothfield

He said: "It seems to be some love poem, maybe something obscure or someone's attempt at a Greek love poem. Maybe a misquote even.

"The first line speaks of a beautiful couple in Eros [Greek god of love] but I get nothing out of the second one.

"Verse three says 'As she was kissed' and the fourth 'as before the midwife kissed'. Perhaps it's a child's grave?"

Mr Rogers says the discovery is a complete mystery.

He added: "One of his Greek-speaking brothers died before him but perhaps the other wrote it?

"It could've been a family joke, a secret code or perhaps a mistake by the engraver..." Chris Rogers, Hothfield History Society chairman

"Did the deceased himself specify it to be there or did the family stick it on there?

"It could've been a family joke, a secret code or perhaps a mistake by the engraver - I'm sure there weren't many Greek speakers in Hothfield in the 1930s.

The exhibition of the church's history will take place on September 7-8 at St Margaret's Church, and will feature display boards detailing the past of the building and some the graveyard's inhabitants.

Visitors will also be able to view pictures from 100 years ago, placed on the spot from which they were taken.

Read more: All the latest news from Ashford

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