RECENT tidying and clearance of vegetation in St James' Churchyard by local volunteers and Community Service workers has revealed many long-obscured gravestones of former West Malvern residents.

But one which has always been clearly visible commemorates perhaps the most remarkable person ever to live in the village - Dr Peter Mark Roget. His Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, (first published in 1852 and still available in updated form today) ensured that he would become - and remain - a household name wherever English is spoken.

Many of today's residents will know that he lived here, and even that he is buried in the churchyard. But not many may realise just what a remarkable man he was: the Thesaurus, a completely original idea, was a side issue or hobby which he did not actually produce until after he 'retired'! Trained as Doctor of Medicine, he gained his degree at Edinburgh at just 19, after five years' study and pursued a distinguished and successful medical career.

But he was - and did - much more than that. He has been described as Jack of all trades and mater of every one! For example: at 21 he had a letter published in a book by the great scientist Sir Humphry Davy; in 1814 he invented a new kind of slide rule; 10 years later he analysed "persistence of vision" - a phenomenon which would later be applied in cinematography. He was a brilliant chess player, and had published in 1840 a solution to the problem of how to move a Knight over every square of the board without going twice over any one.

Most notably of all, in 1815 he received the accolade of his contemporary scientists when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, of which he was later secretary for more than 20 years. After holidaying for many years in West Malvern, this truly remarkable man finally retired to the village, where he died in a heatwave in 1869 at the age of 91.

Those with an interest in West Malvern's past are reminded of the chance this evening (Friday) to see fascinating old pictures of the village in a slide presentation of which will follow the AGM of the Friends of St James's which starts at 7.30pm.