News from St Laurence Churchyard

A rather unimposing table tomb in the St Laurence Churchyard is that of Colonel Cromwell Massey who died at the age of 103.

This simple fact, together with the dates of his life (1742 – 1835), is inscribed on the tomb – but there is no indication of the exciting life this man must have led.


A monument in the Church, however, tells us that “Having fought for the Honourable East India Company, on the Madras Establishment, against Hyder Ally (the Sultan of Mysore), he was captured and thrown into a dungeon for three years and nine months, suffering “cruel indignities” with about 200 British Soldiers, their ammunition having been accidentally blown up!”*


*Now comes the really exciting part. The battle involving Colonel Massey was important as the ammunition tumbrels were not “accidentally blown up” but blown up by rockets! Mysore had the first iron-cased rockets and these were taken to London (Woolwich Arsenal) and researched and developed by William Congreve (later Sir William Congreve). Congreve’s rockets were successfully used in the Napoleonic Wars, and it is that rocket which features in the American National Anthem.


On his release from prison Colonel Massey stayed in India, and the monument goes on to state that he retired to St. Laurence for the last 11 years of his life.


More connections can be made, but the earliest is with the man who worked for the British East India Company for most of his life, and who was involved in a battle with more of an outcome than he could have expected at the time, rests in a tomb in the beautiful Churchyard of St. Laurence Church.


Written by: Barbara Byne

Find out more about St Laurence Church here.

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