The Gibson Tomb

The Gibson tomb was described in "A Topographical History of Surrey" of 1844

"At the western extremity of the church-yard is an enormous rude mass of portland stone, with rustic work at the corners, an urn at the top, inclosed by iron rails, with an inscription to the memory of James Gibson, esq., late merchant and citizen of London"

A more formal description has been provided by the the London Borough of Sutton.

"Erected 1777 to contain the remains of James Gibson and his family. One storey, painted stone. Moulded skirting to plinth, and moulded cornice rail above. Vermiculated angle quoins, and round-arched entrance with "Gibbs" surround. Partly fluted eaves cornice, pyramidal stone roof with "Adams" vase surmounting. Inscription on east wall."

James Gibson was at different times a sailor, a distiller, a wine merchant, a miller, and Master of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, one of the Twelve Great City Livery Companies. The tomb was erected under the will of his daughter Mary Gibson and is dated 1777. The church still inspects it on 12th August each year in accordance with Mary’s will. The tomb is something of a mystery as there is no other known connection between Sutton and the Gibsons.

"Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers" By John Nicholl Published 1851 page 486 lists James Gibson Esq was Master of the company in 1771.

From the Register

10 Oct 1736 Elizabeth Gibson. Burial
04 Apr 1748 Matthew s. James Gibson & Martha. Burial
30 Nov 1753 John s. John & Jane Gibson. Burial
18 Jul 1761 Arthur s. John & Jane Gibson. Burial
21 Jun 1773 Matthew Gibson. Burial
13 Apr 1776 James Gibson. Burial
12 Jun 1776 Martha Gibson. Burial
13 Jan 1787 Elizabeth Gibson, 46, Hampstead, Middlesex. Burial
29 Oct 1793 Mary Gibson, 62, Hampstead, M'sex, reg. 29 Oct 1793 [Hatband,Scarf, Gloves, Rings, £10.] Burial

26 Oct 1823 Mary Augusta Gibson d. Mary Ann Free. Hy Hatch, Off. Min. Baptism

1786. Elizabeth Gibson left £250 for clothing, subject to repair of monument and vault.

From: 'Parishes: Sutton', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4 (1912), pp. 243-246. URL: sutton. Date accessed: 26 March 2008.

1793. Mary Gibson left £416 for the minister, the clerk, and the churchwardens for examining and repairing a vault, and for the poor.

From: 'Parishes: Sutton', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4 (1912), pp. 243-246. URL: sutton. Date accessed: 26 March 2008.

Quoting Peter Likeman
"The tomb is a local landmark and has a red “heritage” plaque on it as a local building of interest. I am copying out for you several details we have in the church and records of bequests by the Gibson family and it is possible there is more to be found in the Heritage Section of the Library in Sutton: I will ask.
There is no known connection of the Gibson family with Sutton but at the end of he 18th century Sutton was rural and citizens from London thought they would like to be laid to rest in such a setting. There are several such tombs along the back wall of the churchyard but none so grand by half as the Gibson tomb.As far as I am concerned, I have lived in Sutton virtually all my life and worshipped at St Nicholas and the tomb has always been there. I was then churchwarden for a period in the 1980’s and I am probably one of the few people that have been inside the tomb.The annual inspection of the tomb on 12 August each year was almost a local event with the priest coming in full vestments and a boy carrying the keys on a cushion and other paraphernalia. You will see that one of the legacies required the Rector preach a sermon but with one exception in 1965 when a newly appointed Rector Rev J.M.Scott preached a sermon on 12 August in that year no sermon has been preached on the occasion of opening the tomb for very many years.The Rector of St Nicholas from about 1985-1995 rebelled against the "undignified side-show" that it had all become and we started to discretely inspect the tomb at an unannounced time. The succeeding Rector was then even less impressed with the practice and citing that the condition of the tomb was now dangerous refused to enter. That means that the door of the tomb has not been opened for possible nearly ten years but I usually try to sweep up around the tomb on the appointed day.The conditions of the bequest make Christ’s Hospital, formerly in the City of London but now in Horsham responsible for the upkeep of the tomb but after 224 years they do not seem to want to know! Actually the condition of the tomb to my lay eyes is not too bad and it is definitely not about to fall down.

From Register of Monumental Inscriptions in St Nicholas church and churchyard.
Compiled 1972 by Norman Crabtree of Sutton whose comments are reproduced.
Above the door of the tomb:
Within this tomb lyes the remains of JAMES GIBSON and family. Late merchant and Citizen of London to whom this tomb was erected 1777
[Norman Crabtree wrote: The tomb contains two stone and five timber coffins. The stone coffins have no inscriptions but it is likely they contain the remains of James Gibson and his wife Martha who both died in 1776. It is also just possible that their son Matthew who died in 1748 was reinterred in the family vault when it was erected in 1777. The wooden coffins each have brass plates with inscriptions: I (Norman Crabtree)have numbered them 1-5 below for reference.
Number 1 contains (both) Jane Martin who died in 1764 and Jane Leach who died in 1769; I have been unable to connect these two women with the Gibson family and it seems likely they were reinterred together in the Gibson vault when it was built.
Number 2 is also on the floor and is partly covered by number 3 which is on top of it and it was possible only to read the year and the age: 1773 and 62 years. It is possible therefore this is Matthew Gibson (another Matthew?) who died 21 June 1773.
Number 3 is a very large coffin indeed and contains the remains of Martha Wood who died in 1783. She is believed to be the daughter of James Gibson.
Number 4 is on top of one of the stone coffins and contains the remains of Elizabeth Gibson who died in 1787. She left a legacy for the upkeep of the tomb.
Number 5 is on top of the other stone coffin and contains the remains of Mary Gibson who died in 1793 who left a legacy for the upkeep and also the annual inspection of the tomb.]

On a painted board in church:
In the will of Mrs Elizabeth Gibson, spinster, dated 7 December 1786 “ I give the sum of £500 four percent Bank Annuities unto the Minister and Churchwardens (for the time being) of the said Parish of Sutton in the County of Surrey, in trust, to pay and apply the interest to the future repair of the said monument and vault as often as need or occasion shall require; and in the meantime I direct the interest of the said £500 to be laid out in the purchase of shoes and stockings for the poor people and children of the said Parish at the discretion of the Ministers and Churchwardens for the time being.
Mrs Mary Gibson by her last Will gave and bequeathed to the Minister and Churchwardens, for the time being, of the Parish of Sutton in the County of Surrey; £500 three per cent consolidated Bank Annuities on trust to be applied as follows: Five pounds to the Minister of Sutton for the time being for ever for preaching a sermon on the twelfth of August every year. Five pounds to be distributed that day at Church to the poor in every year by the Churchwardens. One pound to be paid to the Clerk of the said parish for the time being on that day in every year. Four pounds to be divided between the Churchwardens on that day in every year, on condition that the said Churchwardens do attend on the said twelfth of August in every year and survey and examine the monument and family vault of the Gibsons, and if any reparations or amendments are wanting that they do apply and certify the same to the Governors and Guardians of Christ’s Hospital, and if they should refuse or neglect to repair and amend the aforesaid monument within the limited time that the said Churchwardens of Sutton for the time being give notice of such refusal or neglect to the Governors and Guardians of the Foundling Hospital. October 1793, Giles Hatch, Rector. Richard Mugridge, Thomas Young, Churchwardens."