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The Lych Gate

The history of the Lych gate of St Michaels and All angels church has a little known horse racing connections. The structure was erected in memory of racehorse trainer Charles Jousiffe in 1892 at a cost of £130.

Charles was born in Herne Bay, Kent and was keen to become a jockey from a very young age. He became apprentice to James Thirkell at Epsom and after 18 months he moved North to Mr Osborne of Ashgill.

Charles looked for adventure and set out to work Belgium returning to England in 1864 only to leave again to India. He travelled to Madras, Bengal and Calcutta, training and riding winners and after 11 years came home in 1875. He bought a couple of horses and a small stable in Lambourn.

In 1877 Charles became Private trainer to Mr Bird and Lord Kesteven and took up his quarters at Seven Barrows some 3 miles to the North of Lambourn

With Bendigo he won the richest race run in 1886, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and also won the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

In 1891, the year he died, Charles had 61 horses in training.

His funeral was held at St Michael and All Angels, Lambourn and his body lies in the Church Yard next to his sister, Charlotte, marked with a simple stone cross.

The word lych survived into modern English from the Saxon word for corpse, mostly as an adjective in particular phrases or names, such as lych bell, the hand-bell rung before a corpse and lych way, the path along which a corpse was carried to burial.

The origins of Lych Gates stems from the Middle Ages, before mortuaries, and at a time when most people died at home, the dead were placed on a bier and taken to the lychgate where they remained, often attended against bodysnatchers, until the funeral service. The lychgate kept the rain off and often had seats for the vigil watchers. At the funeral, the priest would conduct the first part of the service under the shelter of the lychgate.

 The Lych gate in Lambourn is unlikely to have been used for these purposes and serves as a beautifully decorated entrance to the churchyard from the market square as well as a memorial to Charles Jousiffe who trained so many winners in the valley of the racehorse.