Yarmouth gravestone recounts tragic sea battle with pirate

A colourful maritime tale about a courageous sailor's battle with a fearsome pirate has been resurrected for years to come thanks to the painstaking chisel work of a Great Yarmouth stonemason.

Colin Smith has spent weeks restoring the headstone of 25-year-old shipmaster David Bartleman – a remarkable gravestone which tells the story of the dramatic encounters leading up to his death on February 14, 1781.

The 64-year-old has transformed the faded relic into a legible icon for the St Nicholas Church Preservation Trust. And during a re-positioning and re-dedication ceremony held yesterday, the headstone was returned to its rightful place at the West End of St Nicholas Church.

Mr Smith of Caister said: 'I feel very proud to have worked on this project – and I have been a stonemason since 1962.'

David Bartleman was master of the brig, Alexander and Margaret of North Shields, which faced the English pirate, Fall, on January 31, 1781. He fought off two assaults from the pirate who boasted 18 four-pounder cannons on his cutter vessel – compared to the Alexander and Margaret's three-pounder cannons.

Bartleman was severely wounded in the second wave of attacks but headed his battered boat back to Yarmouth where he died the following month from his injuries.

His father, Alexander Bartleman, marked the bravery of his son by putting up a special headstone in his memory in St Nicholas Parish Churchyard, Yarmouth.

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Dr Paul Davies, chairman of the St Nicholas Church Preservation Trust, said it took nearly four years to get the headstone restored.

The restoration was funded by the Pearson family who wanted to protect the history of the stone because they believe their distant ancestors were pirates.