Gravestone preserved in museum

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The memory of a young boy will be preserved at the Central Stories Museum in Alexandra.
Thomas Greenbank was only 20 months old when he accidentally drowned in 1870.
Thomas was buried at Drybread Cemetery, near the township of Omakau, with a headstone made of slate.
The delicate nature of slate caused it to break apart over the decades, due to frost shattering.
The remains became hidden until one of the trustees of the cemetery, Karen Glassford, of Drybread, discovered the pieces under weeds during a clean-up.
The remains were so fragile Mrs Glassford consulted Heritage New Zealand adviser Dr Matthew Schmidt on the best way to preserve the headstone.
Because using schist for a headstone was so rare, and it had previously been disturbed, Mr Schmidt advised it should be removed and stored.
He contacted archaeologist Matthew Sole, of Alexandra, who carefully removed the headstone piece by piece, placing it in a specially constructed box.
The headstone was now housed at Central Stories Museum, where it could be protected from the destructive forces of ice and snow.
Flora Clarke, of Mosgiel, was a descendant of Thomas Greenbank’s family.
‘‘My grandmother was Elizabeth Greenbank. I never knew her, she died when she was very young,’’ Mrs Clarke said.
‘‘They asked permission to preserve it, and they were talking about keeping it in a museum, and putting another headstone there.’’

Fragile past . .. Thomas Greenbank’s headstone has been preserved at Central Stories Museum, in Alexandra. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

She was happy to hear the headstone had been preserved and was supportive of the idea of a new headstone, which could list other family members who were in the same plot.
‘‘It is good to hear they have lifted that stone, because it was in a real mess when we had a look.’’
Mrs Glassford was hoping to replace the headstone, but it would be dependent on funds.
She said the intention was to replace the newly lifted headstone with another in the same style, but not slate, and with the original inscription.
‘‘Little places like this — if you don’t start protecting their identity then it is lost, so the cemetery is about protecting those who lived there,’’ Mrs Glassford said.

Puzzle pieces . .. Thomas Greenbank’s headstone in situ at Drybread Cemetery before it was recovered. PHOTO: SUPPLIED