Corpse Road - Church-way Paths

Church-way Paths

Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stones or crosses no longer exist. Fields crossed by church-way paths often had names like "Church-way" or "Kirk-way Field", and today it is sometimes possible to plot the course of some lost church-ways by the sequence of old field names, local knowledge of churches, local legends and lost features of the landscape marked on old maps, etc. One of the oldest superstitions is that any land over which a corpse is carried becomes a public right of way.

An example of a corpse road or way is that of the church of St Peter and Paul at Blockley, in Gloucestershire, which held the burial right to the inhabitants of the hamlets Stretton-on-Fosse in Warwickshire, where there was a chapel which became a rectory in the 12th century, and Aston Magna, where there was a chapel which was merely a chantry. All 'tithes' and 'mortuaries', however, came to the parish church of Blockley, to which church the people of Stretton and Aston were committed to carry their deceased for burial. The corpse road from Aston to Blockley churchyard is over two miles (3 km) long and crosses three small streams en route. The corpse road from Stretton to Blockley runs for some four miles (6 km) and crosses two streams.

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