The Bleeding Gravestone of St Mary's Church

The murder of Richard Smith with the use of a Halberd

the bleeding gravestone in hinckley
The Bleeding Gravestone of Richard Smith.

St Mary's Church of Hinckley in Leicestershire is the last resting place of Richard Smith who was killed on 12th April 1727, aged 20 years old. Simeon Stayne was a recruiting Sergeant for the Army, he had come to Hinckley and stood outside the 'Pig and Whistle' along Regent Street, informing a crowd of potential new soldiers about the virtues of taking the King's shilling. When the Sergeant suggested that the George Inn (now the Bounty) was named after King George II, Richard started to heckle him and said that the George Inn was actually named the George and Dragon.

Richard would not stop with his comments, the Sergeant lost his temper and gave the crowd a demonstration in how to use a halberd in close quarter combat, it was at this point he struck Richard with the weapon and then left him lying on the floor in blood. Later on, Richard died of the wounds that the Sergeant had inflicted upon him; the Sergeant had now fled Hinckley.

Richard was buried near the Church wall of St Mary's Church during April 1727. Simeon Stayne was later arrested and sent to Leicester Assizes, which is where he received the sentence of death for murdering Richard Smith.

Upon Richard's gravestone is the following inscription:

A fatal Halbert his mortal Body slew

The murdering Hand God's vengeance will pursue

From shades Terrestrial, though Justice took her flight

Shall not the judge of all the Earth do right

Each Age and Sex his Innocence bemoans

And with sad sighs laments his dying Groans

Folklore of the Bleeding Gravestone of St Mary's Church

According to local tradition, the gravestone of Richard Smith is said to 'sweat blood' on the anniversary of his murder. A suggestion was made by F. Bedford who researched the church and authored a guide in 1936. The gravestone used to be positioned under a block of ironstone at the Chancel's East window, it was thought that the 'blood' being sweated was actually due to some sort of chemical action of water dripping from this block on to the gravestone.

The gravestone has been moved away from the Church wall to another location within the Churchyard to preserve the gravestone.

What is a Halberd?

A Halberd (also called Halbard or Halbert) is a two-handed wooden pole with a combined spear point, axe and hook at one end. The Halberd had become a symbol of rank, it was carried by recruiting Sergeants of the British Army during the 18th Century. It was known that the Sergeants used the halberd to ensure that infantrymen drawn up in ranks stood correctly aligned with each other.

During the medieval period (middle ages), the Halberd was an extremely effective versatile weapon of the foot soldier when used in combat. The spear point was at the end of a six-foot pole and was for thrusting to keep enemy troops at a distance, the spear point was also effective against horse mounted soldiers such as knights.

The axe blade could deliver a powerful slice with when used in a long swing to strike the enemy soldier, slicing through clothing and severely damaging armour.

The hook (opposite the axe) was used for penetrating the amour and grappling a mounted knight from his horse to the ground.

The top part of the pole was also covered with metal which protected the wood pole when being used for blocking the weapon of the enemy, such as a sword.

18th century british army sergeant with halberd
18th Century British Army Sergeant with Halberd.