Volunteers working at the Dissenters’ Burying Ground at Ponsharden uncovered a missing headstone which had been crushed beneath the Downing vault’s fallen granite cross.

Rob Nunn and Tom Weller, who have taken on the role of custodians of the cemetery, made the discovery while working at the site last month.

“Basically we were raking up the thousands of leaves that fall onto the site every winter, when we spotted a small piece of stone sticking out of the ground,” they said.

“We documented all the surviving headstones in 2012, and during this process noted that several monuments had been so badly vandalised that only the very bottom of the headstones remained in-situ, the rest lost (along with the details of whose graves they were). 

“We carefully cleared the ground around this fragment of stone, and realised it was part of a much bigger slab. We then noticed traces of an engraving. As we cleared it further it became apparent that it was a headstone we’d not seen before, as it lay crushed beneath a large granite cross. It took about an hour to shift the cross and excavate the new headstone, which turned out to belong to a grave about six feet away.”

The headstone recorded the details of John and Peggy Downing of Falmouth who had died in 1859 and 1855 respectively. “It’s a fantastic find, as it means two more forgotten lives have been pulled out of obscurity,” said the custodians. “We will shortly be putting the new information on our website. 

“We expect more discoveries like this in the future, as a century of compacted mould is gradually washed away by the rain.”