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The Knight’s Tombstone, a 32″ by 68″ broken ledger stone of Belgian black limestone, originally marked the grave of one of Jamestown’s elites in the floor of the 1617 church. It was relocated to the southern entrance of the brick church in the 1640s during construction on the same site, so the original placement was lost. Carved depressions present on the top of the stone originally held engraved monumental brasses, but those were missing at time of discovery. The outline of the depressions depicted a gentleman in armor which indicated the grave marker was for a knight, likely Governor Sir George Yeardley.

Yeardley, who died in 1627, was one of two knights to die during the life of the second church (c.1617 to c.1639). The other was Lord De La Warr, Sir Thomas West, the colony’s first resident governor, who was buried at Jamestown in August 1618. However the stone likely belonged to Yeardley based on a reference to it in the 1680s will of his step-grandson, Adam Thorowgood II. Thorowgood requested that his own tombstone be engraved with the crest of Sir George Yeardley and have the same inscription found on “the broken tomb,” indicating that the stone was originally damaged in the 17th century.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities’ Mary Jeffery Galt led excavations on the site. During the project, preservationists repaired the fractured stone with Portland cement, which is now known to be harmful to historical materials.

At the start of the church excavations, Jamestown Rediscovery conservators working with Jonathan Appell—a specialist in preserving historical gravestones and monuments—removed the heavy stone fragments for cleaning and restoration. After carefully removing the Portland cement from the broken edges, the team rejoined the fragments with stone epoxy and infilled the cracks with a color-matched mortar. The stone has now been returned to the site and placed atop the grave that archaeologists believe it originally marked. See the Conservation Blog for more about the restoration process.

knight's tombstone with conjectural drawing of missing brass inlay
Left: The knight’s tombstone. Right: A conjectural image of what the original brass inlay of the knight might have looked like based on surviving English examples.