Grave of 'Washed Ashore' – Friston, England - Atlas Obscura

Grave of 'Washed Ashore'

Friston, England

This simple wooden cross is said to mark the grave of an unknown sailor who washed ashore nearby. 


In the serene churchyard of St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, in the village of Friston on England’s south coast is a small but poignant wooden cross. Its unpretentious, unadorned, design is simple yet striking, for it’s boldly inscribed with the phrase “Washed Ashore,” an indicator of the tragic story of the grave’s occupant. 

The story behind the cross is as heartbreaking as it is mysterious. A product of the church’s proximity to the sea, it’s said that the cross was erected to honor the memory of a sailor who met his untimely demise in a shipwreck off the treacherous coast of Birling Gap less than two miles away.

The sailor’s body was discovered washed ashore and the villagers, moved by the tragedy of the unknown sailor, took it upon themselves to give him a proper burial in the churchyard. With only the scant details of his demise to mark his burial, the grave was marked with the simple yet powerful epitaph “Washed Ashore.”

Though unassuming in appearance, the cross is a testament to the deep compassion and humanity of the villagers. The song Washed Ashore by Shirley Collins, an icon of the English folk revival, was inspired by this grave. 

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