Sarah's tombstone

The picture on the left is the tombstone of Sarah Johnson who died in 1819 after suffering ascites over a number of years. The stone, which is now in the Old Rectory Museum, bears a remarkable and detailed testimony to her tragic life.

Sarah Johnson's Tombstone

Sarah Johnson died in 1819 at the age of 28. She was the wife of Moses Johnson, and had suffered from ascites over a number of years.

The inscription on her tombstone reads:

Woodgate Baptist Church
Woodgate Baptist Church
(now demolished)

What is ascites?

Ascites is one of a number of conditions often referred to as 'water retention'. Its most obvious symptom is excess fluid in the body cavity leading to swelling, abdominal pain and other complications such as pressure on the heart and lungs.

There are a number of causes, but it is commonly the result of liver disease.

Oh Reader reflect when viewing of this stone
What sore afflictions in my life Iíve borne
And in my debilitated state was given
Two tender Babes but Death has laid us even.

The stone was originally located in the burial ground of Woodgate Baptist Church, Loughborough, but was moved when the church was later demolished.

The inscription goes on to give details of the treatment for her condition. This consisted of her excess fluid being tapped (drained) from her body. This operation was performed "28 times, 6 operations by Mr Vickers, 22 by Mr Brown of Wimeswould". In all, a total of "310 Gallons 1 Quart 1 Pint", or approximately 1175 litres, were drained from her body over a period of six years.

PeriodGallonsQuartsPints PeriodGallonsQuartsPints
1800 151010
2900 161020
31100 17820
41000 181020
51200 191030
61300 201020
71120 211100
81400 221200
91420 231000
101300 241011
111320 25911
121830 26800
131421 271000
141210 28800
Total6 years 310 Gallons 1 Quart 1 Pint

Towards the end of her short life Sarah and her husband appear to be living in Rempstone. Below are details of payments made to them by the 'Overseer of the Poor'.

March 30thPaid Johnson 22 weeks at 5/-5.10.0.
21 weeks at 3/-3.3.0.
There is an item "Paid for *gin 3/-" which could well refer to Mrs Johnson
June 22ndJohnson rent1.11.6.
July 27thJohnson 14 weeks at 3/-2.2.0.
AugJohnson when ill6.0.
OctJohnson 3.0.
NovJohnson 3.0.
DecJohnson (2 payments3.0.
MarchJohnson when his wife was tapíd5.6.
April Mr Walker for *liquors for Johnsonís wife8.8.
Johnson rent1.11.6.
Johnson 3 cwts coal3.3.
May 31stJohnson when his wife was tapíd6.6.
June 14thMoses Johnson 5.0.
July 3rdMoses Johnsonís rent1.11.6.
Aug 16thJohnsonís wife 6.0.
Aug 30thMoses Johnson 2 weeks11.0.
Sept 6thMoses Johnson 5.0.
Sept 20thMoses Johnson 2 weeks10.0.
Nov 1stMoses Johnson 7 weeks18.0.
Jan 10thMoses Johnsonís rent1.11.6.
Feb 21stMoses Johnson 7 weeks17.6.
AprilMoses Johnson 6 weeks15.0.
Dr. Brownís bill for taping, etc Johnsonís wife8.19.6.
Jan 9thFor purchasing Moses Johnsonís goods2.16.0.
Moses Johnsonís rent 3.3.0.
Pd do 23 weeks pay at 2/6d2.17.6.
Dr. Brown for tapping Moses Johnson12.5.9.
Nov 27thJohnson rent3.30.
March 31stMr Ball for valuing Moses Johnsonís goods5.0.

(Nottingham Record Office)
*Nursing procedure suggests Brandy in case of shock due to lowering of abdominal pressure.

Click here to see Woodgate Chapel monuments in the Rectory grounds

©Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society