Monumental Inscriptions or Memorial Inscriptions or Gravestones are an important source of information. Not only will they give the date the person died but they will in some cases have details of other family members, husbands, wives and children.
For Cumbria it is unusual for Memorial Inscriptions much before the second half of the 18th century to be available other than for the Nobility, there are three reason for this, up to the late 1700's it was unusual for the ordinary person to have a stone memorial mainly due to cost, most would have a wooden cross that would last 20 or 30 years and may be replaced by family members if there was still anyone taking care of the grave, if they did have a headstone it would be outside and not only suffer from the weather and become illegible but over time it was also likely that the grave would be reused and a new stone put in place. In some cases where family members were buried in the same grave plot they would be added to the same gravestone. Nobility on the other hand were likely to have enclosed tombs or have memorials inside the churches and for them to be in marble or granite or other enduring stone rather than the local sandstone that did not weather very well. Even to this day graves can be 'reused' and although the rules vary from place to place additional related bodies up to 2 or 3 can be buried in the same plot with the permission of the family and the church and after about 75 years the plot can be reused for anyone with the permission of the church or the local authority in the case of civil cemeteries.
So with a few exceptions you are unlikely to find gravestones for average family members before the 18th century even though you know they were buried there from church records.
One of the exercises being carried out by the Society is the collection of data from Monumental Inscriptions, which is then published in different volumes. You can refer to the Publications Page for details of the volumes we currently have available. Over 30 different areas in Cumbria are available and more are being added through the voluntary efforts of society members.
Fortunately many churchyards in Cumbria have had the Inscriptions recorded, though as some of the records can be up to 200 years old some updating may be required. It is also unfortunate that in many church yards the headstones have been removed from thier original locations and stacked against walls so that the burial areas can be grassed over. They say it is for health and safety reasons, but it has altered the church yard and the groupings of stones has now been lost which could be a useful indicator of family connections. It also makes it much more difficult to read and record the stones that have been stacked in this way.
Whilst some transcriptions have been put on line, they can be difficult to find as they are often on personal websites and they may dissapear without notice if the owner decides not to maintain them any longer. Examples will be added to the Parish Map pages as they are located Parish Map page , if there are any Monumental Inscriptions known to exist for a parish then there will be a note and link in the first section of the relevant page. If you find any website with transcriptions of the Church Yard Monumental Inscriptions then please send the details to the Webmaster, you can do this via the contacts page or from the links submission page at the bottom of the links page.
I will however make a reference to one volume that has been made available by Google which is the 1888 book by Edward Bellasis where he recorded the Monumental Inscriptions and Memorials in 32 parishes in Westmorland in his book Westmorland Church notes, you can view the two volumes at Hathi Trust - Westmorland Church Notes 1888 by Bellasis this is readable on line but can not be downloaded as a whole though it can be downloaded page by page it would take some time to download the whole book..