Back in 2013, the chest tomb erected over the grave of Robert Rose in St. John’s churchyard was named one of “Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts” in an annual listing issued by the Virginia Association of Museums. Rose, born in Scotland in 1704, had emigrated to the tobacco colony as an ordained Anglican minister in 1725. Following his arrival, he served as rector of two parishes — first, Essex parish in the tidewater and then St. Anne’s parish in the Blue Ridge. He led an active life, serving his parishioners, practicing medicine, dining with governors, and venturing throughout the colony, all while accumulating a massive estate. When he died outside the town of Richmond in 1751, his body was brought to the yard of the town’s new church and buried in a prime spot on its eastern side. Later, his executors marked the site of his burial with a monumental tomb of limestone and marble, likely ordered from England. Its lengthy inscription celebrates his human qualities, including the testament that “His extraordinary genius and capacity in all the polite and useful arts of life, though equaled by few, were yet exceeded by the great goodness of his heart.”
Rose’s tomb is the oldest surviving marker in the crowded churchyard. Over its years of exposure to the elements, it gradually wore down, requiring several repairs. By 2013 it needed a great deal more help, leading to its listing as an endangered artifact. Shortly after its listing, the St. John’s Church Foundation, which cares for the historic elements of the church and runs its tours, successfully raised funds for its restoration through the generosity of Rose’s descendants. By 2016, its repair by parishioner and contractor Ashley McCune and stone conservator Howard Wellman was complete.
On Friday, June 30, at 10:30am, the Foundation will be holding a Dedication Ceremony to celebrate the monument’s restoration. It will be the 266th anniversary of Rose’s death. All are invited!