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Richard Rollett’s gravestone at Gainsborough


On my way to the CCS regional meeting in the UK in 2004 I called in at Gainsborough, Lincolnshire to see the gravestone of Richard Rollett, sailmaker in Resolution during Cook's Second Voyage.1

Earlier that day I had visited Boston Parish Church in the south of the county and seen the memorial there to people who lived nearby and "bore a gallant part in the exploration of Australia".2 They included "Robert Rollett of this town". According to the register of this church, St Botolph's, "Richard Rollett and Susanna Hart, single Persons, both of this Parish, were married in this Church by License, this Sixteenth Day of October, 1777". The witnesses were Pat Francis and Robt Wright. The vicar added a note saying, "N.B. The said Richard Rollett sailed round the World in the Adventure (in Company with Capt. Cook) A.D. 1772, 3, 4, & 5".

Can anyone explain the above two mistakes: Robert rather than Richard on the memorial and the vicar writing Adventure rather than Resolution?

According to a newspaper cutting I'd been sent the churchyard I was looking for had been re-laid "as a Garden of Rest in 1958 at the expense of Viscount Crookshank, for many years the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough". Driving in to the town, late in the day, from the east I looked anxiously for the church and was delighted to find it, with parking on the road opposite. The church lay back from the road with a large expanse of lawn in front and gravestones lying upright along the walls on both sides. Unsure as to whether this was the right church, I walked to the rear and found a garden of rest. Then came the task of looking at every gravestone to find the one I wanted. Not there! A man in the church hadn't heard of the gravestone I was after and suggested I try the parish church in the centre of town. I was at the wrong church!

A short drive further on and I came across a much larger church with an even greater lawn in front of it. Again, there was parking on the road, and I set off again in pursuit of Richard Rollett. Here, the gravestones had been laid flat on the ground to the side and rear of the church, as a paved area, rather than the garden of rest I was expecting. In the failing light I peered at each one, many of which had very worn inscriptions, and none of which seemed to have anything that looked like the word Rollett.

I gave up for the night and continued to my hotel, vowing to return. It was not until after the Marton meeting as I was then heading home that I next called in, this time early in the day. With a good light behind me I once again wandered over the gravestones peering for the elusive name. Not there! Disappointed, I went inside and almost immediately noticed propped up against a wall the object of my searching!

I picked up one of the leaflets, "A brief guide to All Saints Church Gainsborough" and read, "apart from its 15th Century tower the present church dates from the rebuilding carried out 1734-1744. It opened for worship on 16th September 1744." The features listed included "Rollett Stone (Richard Rollett was the sailmaker who sailed with Captain Cook on H.M.S. Resolution)".

Ian Boreham


  1. See Cook's Log, page 1506, vol. 21, no. 2 (1998)
  2. See Cook's Log, page 20, vol. 28, no. 3 (2005)
CLICK on any picture for a larger version
All Saints Church, Gainsborough
All Saints Church, Gainsborough
The entrance to the Church, with steps and ramps
The entrance to the Church, with steps and ramps
A noticeboard, the gravestone and the front door
A noticeboard, the gravestone and the front door
The gravestone propped against a wall
The gravestone propped against a wall
The inscription
The inscription reads
Near the bottom
Near the bottom is inscribed

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 3, volume 31, number 1 (2008).

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