One of Britain's most mysterious gravestone epitaphs belongs to a 18th century Malmesbury barmaid who was possibly the first person in Britain to be killed by a tiger, according to a national search carried out by BBC History Magazine.

Hannah Twynnoy, who died on 23 October 1703, aged 33, was laid to rest at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, having been mauled to death by a tiger from a travelling menagerie. Not from a wealthy family, a mystery remains over who paid for her expensive tombstone, and the plaque that was erected to mark her death (which was later destroyed), at Hullavington Church some five miles away.

Hannah Twynnoy Who died October 23rd 1703 Aged 33 Years.

In bloom of Life She's snatched from hence, She had not room To make defence; For Tyger fierce Took Life Away.

And here she lies In a bed of Clay, Until the Resurrection Day Richard Smart, Director of the National Archive of Memorial Inscriptions said: "Hannah Twynnoy's epitaph is simple and direct - a great example of the 18th century's approach to death, and to life."

The most bizarre gravestone epitaph in Britain belongs to a 19th Century Loughborough lass, whose short and painful life was described in extraordinary detail. Suffering from liver disease, Sarah Johnston's unusual epitaph depicts the 28 times she was drained of fluid in her abdomen, along with full details of the doctors who carried out the work. It is thought that the doctors named in the epitaph paid for the stone and its engraving. This is a great 19th century example of opportunistic, if somewhat brazen, advertising.

Sarah Williams, Editor of the new family history title, BBC Who do You Think You Are? Magazine, says: "Gravestones are a vital family and local history resource and give us a unique insight into the past. They tell us some fascinating stories of past human life, and this nationwide search has brought to light some real gems. From accounts of bizarre deaths and witty last words, to highlights of lives lived, personal assaults and biting social commentary, the results are an invaluable contribution towards recording our history."

The search for Britain's most bizarre, enigmatic or surprising gravestone epitaph was launched to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of gravestone inscriptions as Britain's gravestones come under increasing danger. Full details of the winner and runners-up will be published in the October issue of BBC History Magazine, on sale 25 September 2007, £3.60. Additional entries of particular interest will be published alongside the winner and runners-up at: -