Symbol of the Month – The Chalice

Rev Murray’s chalice – note Communion wafer above it. St Nicholas churchyard, Chislehurst
©Carole Tyrrell

The first symbol of 2018 is the chalice.  It’s traditionally associated with the Church and the Communion and is often found on rectors and priests headstones for obvious reasons.   Almost like having the tools of their trade close at hand so to speak.

I found the fine example above in the churchyard of St Nicholas in Chislehurst.   Note the communion wafer on top of the well sculpted 3D sculpture of the goblet.   This headstone is dedicated to a former rector of the Church, Rev Francis Henry Murray and this little corner is almost an ecclesiastical enclave.  There are three other former Rectors buried here as well as a former Bishop of Singapore and an Archdeacon of Bromley. Rev Murray’s wife is buried alongside him under the grapevine and crown of thorns symbols and behind them is buried their son, Lieutenant  Herbert  Francis Murray  who was lost at sea on 7 September 1870 on the HMS Captain and his monument features a large anchor. There are two gleaming brass wall tablets inside the church dedicated to each of them respectively.

Chalices, goblets or cups – whatever you want to call them –  have been used in religious and other important ceremonies for thousands of years and are also associated with the Last Supper and the Holy Grail.  In Matthew 26:27:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you..”

During the Communion worshippers drink wine from the chalice as a representation of Christ’s blood and then eat the communion wafer

From Salinas, Spain
Shared from wikipedia. Creative Commons

after it has been dipped in the wine as an interpretation of his body.  Chalices are often made from gold or silver, hexagonal in shape and can be decorated with semi-precious stones as with this example from Spain.  It’s very ornate with the inscription ‘Sanguinis meus vere est petus’ . This translates to ;My blood is drink indeed’ from John 6:55.  This was made for the church of John the Baptist, Salinas Spain.

 

 

They can also be heavily decorated in other ways as with this one from 6th century Italy.

Etruscan chalice from Bucchero – 6th century BC.
Shared under Wikipedia Creative Commons

 

In the Sufi faith the chalice takes centre stage as it represents the sharing of blessings such as water and milk and this brings the desert nomad and steppe peoples together.  It also appears within Wicca and Paganism where it represents the Goddess as water is a feminine element.  In some Byzantine and Gothic imagery, the chalice can also be a protective symbol as, anyone holding a chalice is demonstrating that they are God’s servant and they have turned away from evil.

The Holy Grail is traditionally assumed to be the cup that Christ drank from during the Last Supper.  It remains unidentified although many chalices have been suspected as being the Grail.

The chalice can also appear with other symbols such as, for example, a white circle to represent the consecrated Eucharist. Also, a chalice with an X shaped cross on its front is an emblem of one of the disciples, Andrew, and a flaming chalice is the 

The flaming chalice – the symbol of the Unitarians.
Shared from Wikipedia Creative Commonsemblem of the Unitarian movement.

Chalices also feature heavily in heraldry and in some vanitas paintings.  These were still life paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries from Flanders and the Netherlands.  They invited the observer to ponder on the transcience and meaninglessness of earthly life and used symbols to indicate this. In Allegory of the Eucharist by the Flemish painter Alexander Coosemans (1627 – 1689) the chalice is the

Allegory of the Eucharist Aleaxander Coosemans
Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

centrepiece. But the items surrounding it have a deeper meaning.  The cornucopia is a symbol of creation and divine bounty, the wheat stalks and grapes are obviously representations of the Communion wine and bread and the pomegranate and quince are representations of plenty as well as fertility and immortality.

However, there is also a negative to the holiness of the chalice with the phrase ‘the poisoned chalice’.  This where a situation or item appears to be good on the surface and then turns out to be the opposite. Shakespeare refers to this in Macbeth Act 1 Scene VII as Macbeth contemplates the murder of King Duncan:

We still have judgment here, that we but teach

Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

To plague th’ inventor: this even-handed justice

Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice

Seek and ye shall find is an old adage and it can often be applied to looking for symbols in a churchyard or cemetery.  I think I’ve found just one example of one and then they’re everywhere.  And so it was with St Nicholas – I found 4 examples within the churchyard.

Side view of Rev Murray’s chalice, St Nicholas churchyard, Chislehurst
©Carole Tyrrell

This is dedicated to a former rector of the church, Rev Francis Henry Murray (1820-1902). He was an energetic Rector at St Nicholas for over 56 years and wasn’t afraid to push forward church alterations or change styles of worship despite opposition from Diocesan Bishops.  The parishioners were inspired by him to agitate for the establishment of St Katherine’s Rotherhithe.  Rev Charles Fuge Lowder, the first vicar of St Peter’s, London Docks and Rev Murray were great friends as they were both leading members of the Society of the Holy Cross.  This was formed in February 1855 by a group of 6 Anglo-Catholic clergy.  Rev Murray was also responsible for the first publication of the now classic Hymns Ancient and Modern.

 

Rev Charles Lowder also has a memorial in the churchyard with a chalice portrayed on its other side.  He was another energetic, pioneering priest who devoted 24 years of his life to working with the poor in one of the most deprived dockland areas of East London.  In 1856, aged 36, he founded the St George’s Mission.  This was in response to a request for assistance to the Society of the Holy Cross from the vicar of St George’s in the East.  The Society is still in existence worldwide with a membership of over 1000 priests.  Every year, on the date of his death in 1880 on the 9 September he is commemorated.

A more modest chalice is on the Greatheed monument which is dedicated to Ellen and Stephen Greatheed.  The latter is merely recorded on the epitaph as ‘Priest’ but he wasn’t mentioned on the list of St Nicholas’ rectors inside the church so perhaps he was based at another local church..

This is dedicated to Edward Herbert Fuller  Jenner and he is also recorded on his epitaph as ‘Priest’ but isn’t  listed on the list of previous rectors. Again note the communion wafer above the chalice.

Finally, as I explored St Nicholas’ interior I looked up at the 19th century stained glass windows and there at the bottom of one window were two angels holding a chalice between them. The Holy Grail perhaps?

Detail from Victorian stained glass window of possibly the Holy Grail/ St Nicholas church Chislehurst
©Carole Tyrrell

 

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References and further reading:

Some graves of interest within the churchyard – St Nicholas Church Chislehurst publication

https://www.ancient-symbols.com/symbols-directory/chalice.html

http://www.lsew.org.uk/funerary-symbolism/

https://symbolsproject.eu/explore/others/objects0/cup-/-chalice.aspx

https://www.reference.com/world-view/chalice-symbolize-f6e394fff39e62f0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalice#Poisoned_chalice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Coosemans

http://www.symbols.com/symbol/flaming-chalice

http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholic-symbols/chalice-christian-symbol.htm

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+26-27&version=NIV

http://nfs.sparknotes.com/macbeth/page_40.html

 

 

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Part 3 – a nurse’s enduring love and a patient’s remarkable artistic legacy – Netherne Hospital cemetery Aug 17.

One of  the most poignant stories from Netherne Cemetery is  that of Jean Barboni. He was an 8 year old who died in the hospital in 1915 and whose death haunted his nurse, Elizabeth Martin, for the rest of her life.   Ms Martin’s niece, Edith Kelly,  contacted her local paper to share her aunt’s memories and her own outrage at the then state of the cemetery.   Elizabeth had shared her still vivid memories of Jean with Edith 30 years later after his death.  She had devotedly nursed Jean who was born with what we would now call learning difficulties but then was classed as mentally defective.  Edgard Barboni, his father, was an officer in the French army and a physicist engaged in top secret chemical warfare work during the First World War.  They had had another little boy named Pierre and were finding it difficult to cope as Jean required specialist care.   Eventually he was admitted as a private patient in a house for the ‘mentally subnormal’ as the Victorians classed him at Netherne.  Edith discovered, through her aunt’s diaries that she had always felt that she had contributed to Jean’s death by allowing him to be put in a pauper hospital, Netherne, where he contracted TB.  After Jean’s  parents returned to France with Pierre Elizabeth tended Jean’s grave until her own death. Edith was quoted as saying

‘ For as long as I could remember, she regarded him as her own child.  I suppose the emotional involvement must have been that much greater because the parents were in France and possibly never visited the grave again.’

As I left the cemetery and walked back around the border of the field again I noticed the large number of flints on the ground.  I was tempted to take one home as a souvenir but it was too heavy. However, the local flints provided inspiration for a Netherne patient, Gwyneth Rowlands, who painted faces, usually of women directly onto the ones that she found in the fields around the hospital. She might have even found some in this very field.

Sadly, I could discover very little about Gwyneth, despite her work being on display at the Wellcome Collection recently.  She was admitted as a patient in 1946 and stayed there for 35 years probably until it closed in the 1990’s. But on a recent visit to the Wellcome Collection Reading Room I spoke with one of the volunteers, Rock, who told me that Gwyneth may still be alive and she had been in contact with a staff member up until 3 or 4 years ago.  She is considered to be part of the Outsider art movement.   Gwyneth’s technique was to paint directly onto the flint using watercolour, indian ink and varnish.

Art therapy which subsequently  became part of the Outsider or Art Brut movement began at Netherne in 1948 when the pioneering Edward Adamson (1911-1996) became the first artist to be employed full time as an Art Director.

Edward Adamson
Shared under Wikipedia Creative Commons licence.

He formed a huge collection of over 4000 pieces of artwork which is now housed at The Wellcome Collection in London. He believed that the creation of art was a healing process especially for those who could not speak or express themselves in any other way.  However, Adamson wasn’t a teacher or someone who used the artworks as a diagnostic tool.  Instead his approach was as a facilitator artist.  He worked at Netherne until his retirement in 1981. Art therapy was also called  ‘psychiatric art’ . The Outsider Art movement is concerned with artists who are outside the mainstream, usually self-taught and often living within institutions.  It often has no meaning except to the artist themselves although the raw power and emotion of some of these artworks can be really impressive as with Gwyneth’s flint heads.

View from Farthing Downs, 500ft up, across to Neherne Cemetry.
©Carole Tyrrell

As I walked over the top of Farthing Downs later on that afternoon heading for Sunday afternoon tea and cakes at Chaldon church I saw the cemetery on the opposite slope.   I hoped that it would always be surrounded by large green fields and that its incumbents would always rest in peace under the chestnut trees and wildflowers.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

Further Reading:

Outsider Art: From the Margins to te Marketplace, David Maclagan Reaktion Books 2009

Art as Healing, Edward Adamson, Coventure 1984

https://wellcomecollection.org/adamson-collection

http://www.mendiphospitalcemetery.org.uk/history.html

http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/10494304.Campaign_victory_after_cemetery_with_war_dead_finally_cleared/

https://billiongraves.com/cemetery/Netherne-Asylum-Cemetery/292853

http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/hosp/n/e140106/1.htm

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/indepth/nostalgia/8392020.Forgotten_graves_of_the_war_dead/

http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/8437328.Diaries_of_Catholic_nun_reveal_tale_of_child_buried_at_Netherne_asylum/

 http://beyondthetrenches.co.uk/the-other-war-dead-asylum-patients-during-the-first-world-war/

 http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/8421298.Developer_s_broken_promise_over_asylum_cemetery/

 https://www.genesreunited.co.uk/boards/board/ancestors/thread/1314646

 

 

Part 2: Betty, Jean, Gunner William, Jessica and a German POW – a return visit to Netherne Hospital Cemetery August 2017.

 

 

A familiar gap in the trees across field.
©Carole TyrrellThe Victorian iron gates were still in place and seemed to have been cleaned at least as I pushed one open and re-entered Netherne Hospital cemetery.  Someone had thoughtfully hung a wind chime from the other gate.

There had been  blue August skies above me as  I’d plodded up Woodplace Lane again.  The suburbs of Coulsdon and Hooley soon petered out to give way to fields.  I lost my bearings around the newly expanded Netherne on the Hill.   But I retraced my steps and found myself at the entrance of a large ploughed field and saw a gap in the trees on its opposite side.

I began to walk across the field towards it. As I did so 3 or 4 policemen and women walked past the entrance. ‘Yes, we’ve found her, she’s visiting the cemetery, it’s ploughed so no damage to crops otherwise we’d have suggested that she walk around the border.’ said one into his walkie-talkie.  ‘Doesn’t look like a ghoul.’ They walked on and I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or insulted – me a dangerous person?  Obviously the neighbourhood watch had been on duty and I wondered what had been going on at the cemetery.

A defiant purple branch of buddleia stood tall over the wait high wildflowers as a white butterfly fluttered around it. Bright splashes of colour from ragwort, scarlet pimpernel, speedwell, red sorrel and fleabane stood out amongst them.  There were also fresh puffballs and older ones half hidden in the undergrowth.

The birdsong stopped as I stood inside the graveyard and looked around.  It didn’t look as forgotten as it had done in 2007. The cemetery had been cleared but was now rampant again with summer vegetation.  There was now a clear border around it which made it easier to explore. The horse chestnut trees still stood tall with bright shiny conkers here and there beneath them.  At the bottom of the cemetery was a luxuriant bush of ripe elderberries and I looked over the hedgerow to see two horses grazing in a nearby field.

It still seemed incredible that 1350 people were buried here but now the cemetery felt less abandoned. I looked again at the 6 memorials set into the concrete plinth, presumably to preserve them, but at least I now knew why the 7 year old Betty Trotman had been buried there.

In 2010, the developers of the Netherne on the Hill site had claimed in a local newspaper that they had never been approached by any family members of the people buried there.  But in 2013, a Croydon paper reported on the 2 and a half year campaign by two local people, an amateur historian called Adrian Falks and a Ms Wendy Mortimer.  They had both called for the cemetery to be cleared and the graves within it to be maintained.

Ms Mortimer knew that she had a great-aunt, Frances, who had been buried there in 1915 and had been extremely upset when visiting the graveyard in 2008 to find her last resting place to discover how overgrown the site was. She had had to crawl under a fence to actually get inside to find 5 feet high brambles and no memorials.  Ms Mortimer’s great-aunt, Frances, had been an epileptic, which at the time wasn’t properly understood and appropriate treatment didn’t really exist.  Frances had become brain damaged after falling from a wall, presumably during an epileptic fit, and had subsequently been sent to Netherne where she was classed as ‘an idiot’ in the less than PC classification of the time. A photo in the paper shows Ms Mortimer kneeling in the middle of the then cleared cemetery beside flowers in memory of her great aunt. It was a tragic tale of a life ruined which nowadays with the correct medication would have been very different.

As I walked around the edge of the cemetery I could see holes dug by animals, presumably foxes. Again in 2010, it was alleged by another Croydon paper that burrowing animals had dislodged some of the remains buried there and that bone fragments had been found.

Due to the war hospital scheme which displaced the asylum population in order to treat nearly half a million wounded or shell- shocked soldiers, some of which are buried here.  There are also the children of serving soldiers interred there.

I am indebted to Adrian Falks’ research on the soldiers who were buried at both Cane Hill and Netherne Asylums.  However, the names of most of the servicemen remain hidden in closed records.  But here are the stories of two of them who are buried at Netherne.:

In 1914, Gunner William James Carpenter joined the army for a better life.  But he found Army discipline was too tough and  often went AWOL which led to constant disciplining.  William finally deserted just before being sent to France in 1915. But after an argument with his wife he left their Peckham home and vanished for nearly 90 years.  He had died alone in Netherne hospital but it’s unknown how he ended up there.

Until 1962 a German POW, Hermann Albert Schnid, was buried there.  He had contracted syphilis which was treated at the hospital and he’d died there in 1917.   In 1959, the German War Graves Commission wrote to the Netherne authorities requesting that his body be exhumed and moved to the Cannock Chase German military Cemetery in Staffordshire.

Mr Falks also discovered the names of a few of the children of serving soldiers who were buried in the cemetery. He was quoted in a newspaper article as saying that he thought the state of the  cemetery was ‘shocking’ and ‘that all but one of the children buried at Netherne had had fathers who were fighting in the First World War.’

Some of the children are:

Leslie Thomas Jackman aged 11 – died 11/12/1917 – whose father was a serving soldier

William Arthur Simmonds aged 15 died 15/10/1917 – his father was presumed killed at the Battle of Arras.

Sidney Peters aged 5 – died 03/10/1915 – had a soldier father.

Jessica Davis  – aged 11 who died from TB on 20/02/1915.  It’s not known if her soldier father survived the war.

 and these two:

Both of her parents, Dorothya m

William John Newland – aged 15 – died from pulmonary TB on 18/02/1918. I found his case particularly poignant as he was an orphan without next of kin who had been transferred from an Epsom workhouse infirmary. I hoped that someone was with him when he passed away.

Book of Life dedicated to the 7 year old Betty Trotman.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

And finally Betty Trotman, aged 7, recorded on the Book of Life memorial as having died on 31/05/1929 after a 5 month stay in Netherne.  It had been surmised that her parents probably worked at the hospital.   I am indebted to a local resident who had searched for more information on Betty’s family via genesreunited.  Both of her parents, Dorothy and Charles were Londoners and have moved to Godstone in Surrey.  They married in 1921 but it’s not known if Betty had any siblings.  Dorothy died in 1991 aged 90 and Charles preceded her in 1959 aged 65.

 Asylums were often overcrowded and an epidemic such as influenza or TB would soon spread amongst patients.

I haven’t found any photos of these incumbents in Netherne cemetery which is sad as I would have liked to be able to put faces to the stories  I stood there in the hot August sunshine and realised that under the wildflowers were people with names, Jean, William, Betty, Frances, etc who had all ended up in Netherne often because there was nowhere else for them to go. But some of the once anonymous dead had been reclaimed by their relatives and they no longer rested alone and forgotten.

But one of the saddest and most moving stories is undoubtedly that of 8 year old Jean Barboni  who died in Netherne in 1915 and whose nurse mourned him for the rest of his life.

Part 3 – the nurse that never forgot the little boy she cared for and a patient’s remarkable artistic legacy.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

http://www.mendiphospitalcemetery.org.uk/history.html

 http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/10494304.Campaign_victory_after_cemetery_with_war_dead_finally_cleared/

https://billiongraves.com/cemetery/Netherne-Asylum-Cemetery/292853

http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/hosp/n/e140106/1.htm

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/indepth/nostalgia/8392020.Forgotten_graves_of_the_war_dead/

http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/8437328.Diaries_of_Catholic_nun_reveal_tale_of_child_buried_at_Netherne_asylum/

 http://beyondthetrenches.co.uk/the-other-war-dead-asylum-patients-during-the-first-world-war/

 http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/8421298.Developer_s_broken_promise_over_asylum_cemetery/

 https://www.genesreunited.co.uk/boards/board/ancestors/thread/1314646

 

 

 

As anonymous in death as they were in life? Part 1 of a visit to Netherne Hospital cemetery

Close-up of the cemetery gates showing NETH over the top of them. May 2007.
©Carole Tyrrell

I first visited Netherne Hospital cemetery on an overcast day in May 2007.  It’s located at the edge of a large farmer’s field and is a broad, sloping strip of land bordered on three sides by huge, majestic, spreading horse chestnut trees.  You can look across the cemetery to the local beauty spot Farthing Downs in the distance. The trees were luxuriantly leafy on my visit and the graveyard certainly looked more appealing than in the photos I’d seen of it on an urban explorer’s website.  He had visited it in January when it looked very desolate and forgotten.  But on that day in May I saw large white candles of horse chestnut flowers in abundance as I peered through the two elegant, probably Victorian, iron gates.  Once they must have had Netherne Asylum in large iron capital letters over the top of them but now only ‘NETH’ remained.   They were almost being engulfed by large branches and leaves trying to force their way through. ‘Someone will steal them for scrap.’ I thought to myself as I pushed one of the gates open and entered.

Inside Nature had taken over with a thick carpet of green brambles and undergrowth covering the entire site and it looked as if no one had been there in a very long time.  Without the gates the cemetery would have just looked like a fallow field.  It was impossible to see any monuments or memorials but I did find a raised concrete plinth in which 2 tombstones and a smaller Book of Life memorial had been inserted possibly to preserve them. The Book of Life was dedicated to a 7 year old named Betty Trotman and I wondered why a child was buried here.  Little did I know as I closed the gate behind me that it would take me nearly 10 years to find out.

Netherne was sited at Hooley in Surrey  and was originally known as the Surrey County Asylum or Netherne Asylum before being renamed Netherne Asylum.. It closed in the 1990’s along with the other large asylums and hospitals in the county.  Surrey has always been seen as an affluent region with its exclusive golf clubs, Tudorbethan stockbroker houses and the rolling hills of the green belt. But it has another, less publicised claim to fame. For over a century at least it was also home to several lunatic asylums originally intended for paupers and also homes or children with learning difficulties.  It was felt that the incurable or mentally ill might improve if taken out of the city and into what was then countryside.

The creation of the asylums also reduced the workhouse population as they were designed for paupers.  Cane Hill in Coulsdon, Netherne in Hooley, the Epsom cluster, Earlswood in Redhill and St Lawrence’s Hospital in Caterham were amongst them.  Iain Sinclair in his book, London Orbital, described them as mandalas of madness. All now gone; either demolished or converted into upmarket housing estates.

In 2007 Netherne  Hospital as it later became known was still in the throes of being transformed into an instant village; Netherne on the Hill.  The developers later stated that they were ‘leaving the cemetery well alone and allowing the wildlife to take over.’   It would be another three years before relatives of those buried there would start to come looking for their last resting place. At that time I had no idea that there were 1350 people buried there and that these included children, ex-soldiers, epileptics, the elderly as well as the mentally ill and those who had nowhere else to go.  The people buried in the cemetery seemed to be as anonymous in death as they had been in life apart from the memorials embedded on the plinth.

The cemeteries and burial grounds attached to these asylums and hospitals can be difficult to find. Often the markers on the graves have gone and so there’s no sign of their original purpose and as a result they can often become overgrown and look abandoned.  For example, in 2000 the Somerset & Bath Lunatic Asylum, or the Mendip Hospital as it later became, burial ground in Wells was put up for sale by the NHS as a freehold development opportunity. Nearly 3,000 people, patients and staff,  are buried here with the last burial having taken place in 1963. The grave markers had long since been removed.  However there was a public outcry from the local populace, some of whom may have had relatives living or working in the hospital and they formed a group to stop it.  There is a now a thriving Friends of Mendip  Hospital Cemetery group and so the burial ground looks safe.

I started researching the cemetery and discovered that asylums had a varied population.  In Rachel Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair’s book Rodinsky’s Room they go in search of a man, David Rodinsky, who vanishes suddenly from a room above a back garden synagogue in Spitalfields and discover that he ended up in Warlingham Hospital, another Surrey asylum, where he died.  They speculated that his Eastern European Jewish scholarly background and language of codes and cabbalism may have led to him ending up there as it would have been incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with it. Other patients may have suffered from what we now term learning difficulties which the Victorians classed ‘idiots’.  There were also the elderly with dementia or people with degenerative diseases such as syphilis.

The soldiers appeared in asylums after the First World War when the authorities devised a scheme to treat the almost half a million wounded and shell shocked soldiers.  This involved decanting the current patients elsewhere and then re-designating the asylums as ‘war hospitals’.  By 1920 over 250,000 soldiers had been treated with 9% of them with psychiatric problems.  It saved lives but caused upset and distress to the decanted patient population.  However, not only soldiers were admitted to the ‘war hospitals’ but also their families.

There was an asylum in every county and in 1914 there were 102 in the UK with a total population of 108,000 men, women and children living within them – some permanently.  The sexes were strictly segregated and only met at events such as dances or sports days. Men usually worked on the hospital farm and women in the laundry or kitchen.  Women could be admitted as a result of having an illegitimate baby, rape or post-natal depression.  Asylums were often overcrowded and an epidemic such as flu could kill many patients.

I’d read on the urban explorer website that Netherne that there had been a campaign by a local amateur historian to have the cemetery cleared and accusing the developers of neglect. It was time for a return visit especially as my research had enabled me to put names to some of those buried there and their poignant, often heart-breaking stories.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

 Apologies for the quality of the colour photos of the cemetery.These were scans taken from hard copy film prints.

References and further reading:

London Orbital, Iain Sinclair, Penguin 2003

Rodinsky’s Room, Rachel Weinstein & Iain Sinclair, Granta Books, 2000

http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/10494304.Campaign_victory_after_cemetery_with_war_dead_finally_cleared/

https://billiongraves.com/cemetery/Netherne-Asylum-Cemetery/292853

http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/hosp/n/e140106/1.htm the urban explorer site on which I found Netherne Cemetery.

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/indepth/nostalgia/8392020.Forgotten_graves_of_the_war_dead/

http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/8437328.Diaries_of_Catholic_nun_reveal_tale_of_child_buried_at_Netherne_asylum/

http://beyondthetrenches.co.uk/the-other-war-dead-asylum-patients-during-the-first-world-war/

http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/8421298.Developer_s_broken_promise_over_asylum_cemetery/

http://www.mendiphospitalcemetery.org.uk/

Part 2: Betty, Jean, Gunner William, Jessica and a German POW – a return visit to Nethene Hospital Cemetery August 2017.

Symbol of the Month – The Agnus Dei

Close-up of Agnus Dei symbol on tombstone. Sadly the epitaph is no longer visible so I can’t confirm if it’is to a child or young person.
©Carole Tyrrell

This month’s symbol is the Agnus Dei, which is a Latin term and can be translated as The Lamb of God.  The Lamb is usually portrayed sideways on and is often depicted with a variety of accoutrements such as a cross, a banner and a halo or a combination of these elements.  In the example above, the Lamb is carrying a cross which represents the Crucifixion as well as a banner which, according to J C Cooper, is an emblem of the Resurrection.  It has also be depicted with other motifs such as a shepherd’s crook, Chi-Rho crosses and the alpha/omega.

I have seen The Lamb several times as it is common throughout Christian art and I saw a fine example within a stained glass window in Augustus Pugin’s private chapel at his former home at Ramsgate, Kent.  William Morris also created a memorable one, now sadly faded, in a window at St Martin’s church, Scarborough.  The Agnus Dei is known as a Paschal Lamb within heraldry and is the regimental emblem of the Queens Royal Surrey Regiment.  I found this example in the military war graves section of Brompton Cemetery.

But the origins of the Lamb go back much further into antiquity. In John 1:29, it’s seen as a direct allusion to Jesus:

‘The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’

This verse emphasises Christ’s sacrifice for humanity’s sins and there are several references in the Old Testament to lambs as sacrificial objects.  For example, the Israelites sacrificed one as a representation of a human sinner.  In this way, its death signified the absorbing of original sin. This  painting, The Sacrificial Lamb, is by the 16th century artist, Francisco Zurbaran.

Francesco Zurbaran (1598 – 1664) The Lamb of God, Prado Museum, Madrid
shared under Wiki Commons

Sheep have been also been worshipped as deities by several ancient civilisations the Sumerians and throughout the Bible there are numerous references to sheep with God as the shepherd of a vast flock of sheep representing humanity.

But as a funerary symbol within cemeteries and graveyards the Lamb represents gentleness, innocence and the unblemished life of the deceased.  In this context, it is supposed to mark the grave of an infant or child.  However, the epitaph on the example that I found in Brompton Cemetery had completely vanished which made it difficult to disprove or support this theory. However, I particularly like this one with its black background emphasising the light rays emanating from the Lamb.  These highlight its divinity within the unusual lozenge shaped tombstone.  But it’s a real shame that we don’t know whose buried there.

However. as the Lamb is also associated with resurrection, I feel that it appears in this perspective at the back of the Doulton mausoleum in West Norwood Cemetery.

Doulton – damaged relief panel on back roof but Lamb of God is still visible.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

 

I’m surprised that it doesn’t appear more often within cemeteries and graveyards and I will be looking out for more examples.  Although I was aware that the symbol was called the Lamb of God I didn’t know of its association within major religions  and civilisations and it has been fascinating to research this.

 

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

 

References:

 

Stories in Stone; A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism & Iconogrpahy, Douglas Keister, 2004, Gibbs Smith

 

An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, J C Cooper, Thames & Hudson 1979 reprinted 1983.

https://www.verywell.com/headstone-symbols-lamb-sheep-or-agnus-dei-4006520

http://www.religionfacts.com/agnus-dei

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamb_of_God

https://symbolsproject.eu/explore/animals/real-insects-birds–saved-soul-the-soul-leaving-the-body-water-animals-terrestrial/lamb-agnus-dei.aspx

http://www.lsew.org.uk/funerary-symbolism/

http://www.jesuswalk.com/lamb/lamb-agnus-dei-artwork.htm

http://www.druidic.org/camchurch/churches/croydon.htm

https://wordsonstone.wordpress.com/category/symbolism/page/4/

http://friendsofstmartins.co.uk/images/ChapelWindows/AgnusDeiSymbol.html

http://www.masonic-lodge-of-education.com/masonic-lamb.html

 

Madam, have you pad the correct fare for that coffin? The Necropolis Railway rides again!

Eager listeners to the conductor’s spooky tales at the London Dungeon.
No photographer stated. Used without permission.

This Halloween the London Dungeon’s offering a new temporary attraction based on a long defunct Victorian mode of funerary transport – the Necropolis Railway!  The London Dungeon’s renamed I their version The Death Express and has promised that it will be their ‘scariest attraction yet’.  It features a tormented train conductor (nothing unusual there especially if they work on Southern Railway….) and visitors will be on a train carriage with the dead people, coffins and mourners.’   Characters will be on board to tell scary stories and you are advised not to look at the windows…

The actual Necropolis Railway lasted for 87 years from 1854 to 1941 and transported  mourners and their dearly departed  from a dedicated station at Waterloo station in London to Brookwood cemetery near Woking.

With the usual heady mixture of Victorian enthusiasm and optimism the London Necropolis Company (LNC) envisaged that Brookwood Cemetery would be able to accommodate all of London’s dead for centuries to come and they were also very keen to achieve a monopoly on the capitals’ burial business. However, although the LNC had planned for the Railway to carry between 10,000 and 50,000 bodies per year it never achieved that and it slowly began to decline.

However the true horror of the Necropolis Railway was,  that even in death, the Victorian class system was strictly observed with first, second and third class fares, segregated waiting rooms and carriages and even the coffins were also kept rigidly apart.   There was even a fare charged for coffins.  Although the London Dungeon may have their own way of punishing fare dodgers – perhaps  for eternity……

The trains were also divided by class and religion with separate Anglican and non-conformist (effectively non-Anglicans) with separate First, Second and Third class compartments within each.  I doubt that the London Dungeon will be offering this particular form of heritage memorabilia  but you never know……

However, it was the Luftwaffe that dealt the final blow on the night of 16-17 April 1941 when an air raid permanently damaged the London terminus and the service effectively ceased.  After the end of the Second World War what remained of the railway was sold off for office space with the track being removed during 1947-19.48.  However there is one Necropolis Railway building still standing and it’s located at 121 Westminster Bridge Road. This was the first class entrance to the 1902 terminus.

121 Westminster Bridge Road – the only surviving building of the London Necropolis Railway. Originally it was the First class entrance to the 1902 terminus.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:©Davidmpye~commonswiki&action=edit&redlink=1

And yet the Necropolis Railway refuses to be shunted into oblivion.  Andrew Martin wrote a best selling novel called strangely enough, The Necropolis Railway, in 2015 a theatre company mounted a production based on it in the Waterloo Vaults and it also appeared in  a dramatic train crash in an episode of TV’s Ripper Street.

 

Brookwood Cemetery is well worth a visit and traces of the railway track bed can still be seen within the grounds and the Friends of Brookwood Cemetery run tours of the railway route during the year.   The two stations North and South are both now long gone

The Death Express runs until November 8 2017.

However, despite the London Dungeon’s reputation for spine-chilling scares there was one distinct advantage of the Railway in its heyday – you were always assured of a quiet carriage…….

©Text  Carole Tyrrell

http://www.baselessfabric.co.uk/previous-productions/

https://londonist.com/london/things-to-do/the-necropolis-railway-shrieks-into-the-london-dungeon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Necropolis_Railway

http://www.tbcs.org.uk/cemetery_railway.html

https://www.thedungeons.com/london/en

 

 

 

 

 

Symbol of the Month – Mizpah

A close-up view of the MIZPAH on Emma Williams headstone.
©Carole Tyrrell

This month’s symbol features a single word, MIZPAH, but it is a term and an emblem of an emotional bond that goes beyond the grave. However, it doesn’t appear to be a common symbol and so far I have only discovered three instances of in in nearby cemeteries.

I often used to see Mizpah inscribed on old fashioned jewellery such as brooches during the 1970’s and ‘80’s when browsing  in charity shops and jumble sales. At that time I thought that it might have been Hebrew, or a similar language, and might have stood for Mother.

However, during this year’s Open House I visited St Nicholas church in Chislehurst as I’d read somewhere that Napoleon III was buried there.  Alas, it was the wrong church and he has long since been re-interred elsewhere. However, on a churchyard tour that afternoon, led by Peter Appleby, I finally learned what it actually signified as he indicated Mizpah on the Campbell monument.  He said that it came from an Old Testament phrase ‘I will set around you a mountain which will keep you and protect you.’ I haven’t been able to find this particular Biblical quotation although Psalm 27.5 seems to be the likeliest source.

The word appears in the Old Testament in Genesis 31:49 :

‘And Mizpah, for he said, the Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of another’s sight.’  King James Bible

In other words the one left behind is still protected and watched over even though their loved one has gone.  The touching link between two people or an entire family who have been separated by death or another force.

But there is another version, according to Wikipedia, in which it’s claimed that Mizpah stands for ’Lord watch over me’ and relates to the story of Jacob and Laban. Jacob fled with from Laban’s house in the middle of the night with all of his earthly possessions including animals, wives and children and Laban was soon in pursuit.  But the two men came to an agreement and built a watchtower or Mizpah.  This would be a border between their respective territories and neither would pass the watchtower, which was reputed to be merely a pile of stones, to visit the other to do evil. God would be the only witness to their pact and would protect one from the other.  Today a modern village stands on the supposed site called Metullah which means lookout.

However I prefer the more poignant reference to the affectionate ties between the departed and the bereaved and the wish to leave them with the feeling that they were still being supported and protected as exemplified by the one simple word.

MIZPAH jewellery is still available and is often in the form of a coin shaped pendant, cut in two, with a zig-zag line bearing the words that I quoted in the first paragraph.

Here are two examples that I found online; one is vintage and the other is contemporary.

This first example is from Beckenham Cemetery and the Victorian epitaph is an affectionate tribute to a much loved and missed wife, Emma.

The second is from the Campbell monument in St Nicholas churchyard.  The Celtic cross above the grave has strapwork made from entwined snakes, themselves symbols of eternity and mortality.  The Campbells had two famous sons; Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald.  Note the small motif of a bluebird in one corner above the epitaph.  This was the name of the vehicles on which both Sir Malcolm and Donald achieved several world speed records during their lifetimes. Donald was tragically killed in 1967 when another world speed record breaking attempt on Coniston Water went tragically wrong and both he and Bluebird sank the bottom of the lake.  It wasn’t until 2001 that his remains were discovered and buried in Coniston cemetery.  Nick Wales, his son, maintains the grave and also holds the world record for the fastest lawnmower. He has also tested a new Bluebird over Bewl Water.

The final one is a modern version, again from Beckenham Cemetery, and is edicated to a Kathleen Sabine and dates from 2000.

A modern version dating from 2000, the Sabine memorial, from Beckenham Cemetery/ Note that it’s on a Book of Life.
©Carole Tyrrell

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

http://biblehub.com/genesis/31-49.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizpah_(emotional_bond)

http://www.helenalind.com/mizpah.htmlhttp://mizpah.biz/what-does-word-mizpah-mean

http://mizpah.biz/what-does-word-mizpah-mean

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/mizpah/

 

Symbol of the Month – the square and compass

This example is from Brompton Cemetery and is dedicated to a woman.
©Carole Tyrrell

The Square and the Compass is a symbol which is traditionally associated with the Freemasons and appears on their insignia. It’s also an important part of their teachings.  The two elements together form a hexagram which often has the capital letter G inside it to denote God.  However, the ones that I found didn’t have this so perhaps it is a regional or international variation.  But there is a another interpretation of the motif which may be more appropriate to a funerary emblem and let’s not forget that these are also an architect’s tools of the trade

The Freemason association is the most obvious and common.  They’re often seen as quite a secretive and shadowy organisation. ‘It’s all leather aprons and funny handshakes.’ seems to be the opinion of many people.  But according the Freemasons UK website they define themselves as’

‘the world’s largest and oldest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations…rooted in the traditions of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles.’

 They also claim to ‘make good men better’ by encouraging to live their lives according to the Freemasons Five Values of Integrity, Kindness, Honesty, Fairness and Tolerance.’

They use the Square and Compass in Masonic rituals to teach symbolic lessons.  Wikipedia says ‘

‘they have been defined as lessons in conduct  as in Duncan’s Masonic Monitor of 1866

 in which he defines ‘The square to square our actions and the compass to define boundaries and to circumscribe and keep us within the bounds of mankind.’

 There is also a further, somewhat florid definition on the Masonic Lodge of education website which may make for further reading. As they point out, the square is often used in everyday language such as in ‘getting a square deal and, possibly a mason’s comment, ‘squaring off.’ It also appears in earlier texts such as Confucius. However, the square and the compass aren’t exclusive to the Freemasons as they are also used by several other fraternal organisations both in the UK and abroad.

But I prefer the definition of the symbols project in which they point out that both the square and the compass are measuring instruments and so represent judgement and discernment. The compass draws circles which are a symbol of eternity and also infinity. However the square can be viewed as being material and representing ‘fairness, balance, firmness’ and also:

something that is stable and a firm foundation to build upon’

They are a union of the material and of the spirit represented by the hexagram that they form.  So perhaps this is the spirit leaving the earthly plane and going into eternity i.e. from earth into heaven. It’s certainly another way to look at it.

But who knows? The people who chose to use the Square and the Compass on their tombstone may have been Freemasons or maybe not.  There was only one that I felt might have been one because of the quotation above the motif on his cross but this turned out to be a quotation from an 18th century hymn. With the others it was impossible to say.

You don’t see this symbol all that often although I discovered one in Brompton Cemetery and a sprinkling of them in Beckenham Cemetery recently. Interestingly, this is also a cemetery with several Salvation Army burials as well. Here is a gallery of the ones I found within Beckenham Cemetery:

I enjoyed researching this symbol as, although it seemed to be have an obvious association, it was also fascinating to find out other suggestions.

 ©Text and photos unless otherwise stated Carole Tyrell

Further reading and references:

http://www.graveaddiction.com/symbol.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2005/05/10/victorian_memorial_symbols_feature.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_and_Compasses

https://symbolsproject.eu/explore/human/hobby-/-leisure-/-affiliation-/-membership/compass-and-carpenters-square.aspx

http://www.masonic-lodge-of-education.com/square-and-compasses.html

 

http://www.richardcassaro.com/square-compasses-unveiled

Long-winded but worth a look

 

Wildlife in cemeteries No 7 – dragonflies and damselflies

With gossamer wings which turn into tiny rainbows under the sun’s rays as they pose on trees and tombstones and incredible acrobatic flying displays dragonflies and damselflies are regular visitors to my local churchyard.  And 2017 has been an incredible year for spotting them.

I don’t think that a chucrwarden in St George’s, Beckenham, believed me when, in 2016, she found me trying to capture a Southern Hawker  which was conveniently posing on a  lofty yew branch..   But this year, I have seen so many in there that it did become a regular part of my day to walk through and look for them.

I would watch in amazement at their aerodynamics and speed as their 4 wings whirled furiously like helicopter blades as they flew at speed.   However, they would also fly at a more leisurely pace around and around before, tantalisingly, they would veer off into the foliage of trees to vanish from sight.  It would often be the bigger dragonflies such as Southern Hawkers that I would see on the wing but also as the summer moved on, Common Darters began to appear.

Often a dragonfly would obligingly land on a tombstone or lower branch and I noticed that they were particularly attracted to evergreens such as yews.  This might account for their attraction to cemeteries and graveyards.

Here’s a selection of my favourite images of dragonflies and damselflies from both cemeteries and churchyards:

This is a Southern Hawker from 2016 and was seen it in St George’s churchyard, Beckenham.

Southern Hawker on yew, St George’s churchyard Beckenham August 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

This is a male Emperor from Kensal Green cemetery, London in July 2017. I spotted him/her flying around above The Meadow section which is left uncut around the monuments and tombstones during the summer to encourage wildlife such as butterflies, In some parts it’s very damp underfoot hence the dragonfly I thought. It evaded my attempts to photograph it until, near the entrance as I was leaving, it landed temporarily on an ivy clad monument.

Male Emperor, Kensal Green cemetery July 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

These are two damselflies from Beckenham Cemetery’s Garden of Remembrance pool from July 2017. From July –August it is a magnet for red and azure damselflies.  They look almost like tiny, coloured sticks floating on the breeze and I caught these two ovipositing i.e. laying eggs.  The upright one is laying the eggs and the other is holding it steady.

Damselfiles ovipositing (laying eggs) Beckenham cemetery June 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

Again from St George’s but from 2017, I waited patiently until this beautiful male Southern Hawker landed and helpfully rested on a tombstone.  It stayed there for a few minutes until it got fed up and flew off again.

Male Southern Hawker on tombstone, St George’s churchyard, Beckenham August 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

This is a Common Darter and I saw several over the summer this year in the churchyard. For some reason they were particularly attracted to the pink granite monuments – a cool surface on a hot summer’s day?

Common Darter on pink granite monument, St George’s churchyard Beckenham August 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

I enjoy looking out for them and on one occasion last year the angle at which the dragonfly was perched on a yew branch and the way in which the sun shone through its wings made them look as if they were made from burnished copper.

So do look up when you’re next visiting a cemetery or churchyard on a warm summer’s day and you might be surprised.  I’m looking forward to what the summer of 2018 might bring already!

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell