by Barry Barnes

Some fifteen years ago my wife and I happened upon a grave in Orsett churchyard that is proving to be somewhat of a mystery.

The grave is that of a young girl named Elizabeth Lawler and can be found in the western side of the churchyard, close to the church and adjacent to the "yards" boundary hedge that edges a footpath running from High Road to Malting Lane. When first found the inscription on the grave was very much readable, but now due to the weather and the grave having been covered with grass cuttings etc for a period of time the inscription unfortunately has deteriorated a great degree.

On a CD produced by the Essex Society for Family History entitled "Monumental Inscriptions. South Essex - Volume I" the grave is numbered 347 and it is described thus:-

Kerb with a cross on triple plinth at west end - Cross broken off and lying within kerb.

On cross: Gone but not forgotten.
Top plinth: ln loving memory
Middle plinth: who departed this life 11th January 1916
aged 23 years
Erected as a token of respect by her fellow employees
at Kynock Works
Kynock Town.

When we first found the grave we thought that Elizabeth Lawler must have been involved in some sort of accident at the "works'", perhaps an explosion. The fact her grave, elaborate and expensive in its day, was "Erected...by her fellow employees", seems to suggest that something happened while Elizabeth was at work. It is presumed that as she was buried in Orsett churchyard she or her family must have resided in the Parish. There is no mention of her family on the grave. An elderly [in their 80's] and lifelong resident of the Orsett area has been asked if they knew of a family named Lawler living in the district, this drew a blank.

I have searched copies of the Grays Tilbury Gazette for a period of a few weeks before the stated death of Elizabeth Lawler, to see if there were any reports of an accident at the Kynock explosives works that may have caused her death, with no success. I did think, perhaps wrongly, that as this was in the middle of World War One an accident at such an establishment would have been kept secret and would not have been reported in the newspapers. She was buried on 15th January 1916 and the burial register shows her as being a resident of the Orsett Union workhouse. 

Does anybody have a clue as to who the young lady was and how she met her death?