Following a small exploratory excavation, a vault appearing to contain the remains of Admiral Sir James and Lady Stirling has today been located beneath land adjacent to the old Rectory at St John’s Church, Stoke-next-Guildford.
Sir James Stirling was a British Naval Officer who became the first Governor of Western Australia in 1829, who is credited for "vision, tenacity and enterprise" in guiding the early development of the colony.
Lady Ellen Stirling was described by contemporary sources as accomplished, charming, amusing, well educated and fashionable, by her mother as "someone who preferred horses and boats to dancing or conversing sentimentally with the beaux" and elsewhere as "not meek or motherly and took more than a passing interest in exploration, prison discipline and natural history."
The Stirlings had no fewer than eleven children, five sons and six daughters, and died in Guildford in 1865 and 1874 respectively, having been married in St John's in 1823. Although it was known that their remains were somewhere in the area around St John's, following development in the mid twentieth century, the exact location had been unconfirmed until now.
"Very good news"
Revd Mark Woodward, Rector of St John’s Church, Stoke, said: "I am delighted that the location of the original burial place of Admiral Sir James and Lady Ellen Stirling has been found. This is very good news for the family, the Government and people of Western Australia, and here at St John’s Stoke Church where we have always wanted to locate the grave.
"We have worked very closely with the family descendants, as well as the Government of Western Australia over recent years and look forward to continue that very close working relationship. They are very much in my prayers at this time.”
The Bishop of Dorking, Jo Wells, said: “This is momentous news, particularly for the surviving family of Sir James and Lady Ellen, and for the people of Western Australia with whom we join in honouring the memory of their ancestor and founder. They are very much in our prayers, and we will work closely with all those concerned going forward.”
Immediate steps have been taken to protect the location for health and safety reasons, and to ensure the dignity and tranquillity of the area is upheld.
Photo of James Stirling: Wiki-Open Source
Photo of Ellen Stirling: Lady Ellen Stirling c 1828 by Thomas Phillips oil on canvas Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Purchased with funds from the Ian Potter Foundation 2008 - used with kind permission.
Nick Edmonds / Kate Jamieson
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