A wandering spirit and wandering bones in SE London

In darkest Eltham, there is a headstone dedicated to an Aborigine who came to England in the 18th century. It was the New World meeting the Old World. The English had begun to colonise New South Wales which had been his home although he called it by another name.  The country itself wasn’t called Australia when he left his home for England.  In fact, it wouldn’t be called that until 1804. It was known as New Holland.  He was a young man who died in England and never returned home. 

So who was he?

And why is he buried here? After all, Aborigines believe that, until the bones are returned to his ancestral homeland, he is destined to remain forever a wandering spirit, homeless and alone. If he’s actually still here.

I was out exploring, during the Christmas/New Year relaxation of lockdown. when I visited the churchyard of St John the Baptist in Eltham.  It has a fine old churchyard with a few 18th century memento mori.   Then I found this headstone by the boundary wall which is dedicated to Yemmerrawanyea, a native of New South Wales. The full epitaph reads:

‘In

Memory of

YEMMERRAWANYEA

a Native of

NEW SOUTH WALES

Who died the 18th of May 1794

In the 19th Year of his

AGE’

I was intrigued as the headstone is a substantial one and it isn’t everyday that you discover an Aborigine grave.

This is a silhouette portrait of Yemmarrawanyea which was created by William Wentworth who was his landlord during his time in London. Wentworth spelled the name as Yuremany

There are several spellings of the name but I will keep to the spelling on the headstone as it’s easier. 

In the 18th century, the British had begun to colonise what they called New South Wales and they wanted to establish relations with the Aborigines.   George III was very keen for this to happen and the first Governor of the colony, Arthur Phillip, resorted to kidnap to get one man, Bennelong, involved. There will be more on him later.

Yemmerrawanyea was a member of the Wangai tribe, part of the Eora nation of Aborigines.  They lived in the Port Jackson area on the south bank of the Parramatta river where Sydney is now.  He was known to the settlers and Capt Watkin Tench, as ’ a good tempered, lively lad who became a great favourite with us, and almost constantly lived at the Governor’s house.’  He had clothes made for him and he waited at the Governor’s table.  He was a servant.

In February 1791, aged 16, he was initiated according to Aboriginal custom, by having a front tooth and part of his jaw knocked out by a Kebba which was a stone or rock.  This allowed him to use the name Kebarrah which was only given to men who had undergone this ritual.  It was done according to Keith Vincent Smith:

‘…..in February 1791 at a bay in the Gamaragai territory on the north shore of Port Jackson.  It was Bennelong who officiated, removing the teeth with a specially cut womera or throwing stick. Though Yemmerrawanyea ‘suffered severely, losing apart of his jawbone, he ‘boasted the firmness and hardihood, with which he had endured it.’ wrote Capt Tench.

A portrait of Bennelong in Regency costume.which is signed on the back W.W. This may be William Wentworth, his landlord in London.

He came to England with Bennelong when Phillip returned home to England in 1792-93 after his first stint as the British Governor of the colony of New South Wales.  Apparently, they went on the very long sea journey ’voluntarily and cheerfully’.  Bennelong could speak English but I have been unable to discover if Yemmerrawanyea could also do so.  However, they did have English lessons during their visit.

This could be either Bennelong or Yemmerrawanyea at a fashionable gathering. I haven’t been able to find a credit for it but it came from this site: .http://britainforaussies.weebly.com/yes-but-what-about-yemmerrawanyea.html

In 1793, they arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall and then travelled onto London.  Mayfair to be precise and there they mixed in high society.  Fashionable Regency clothes were made for them and they were tutored in reading, writing, and English. There are still expense claims on file for their visit.  The men visited St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and even went bathing in the Serpentine.  I did wonder what Regency society made of them and vice versa. 

At a fashionable gathering, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanyea performed a native song accompanied by clapsticks and you can hear a modern recreation of it here:

http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/bennelong-and-yemmerrawanyea-singing-england

They said that the song was ‘in praise of their lovers; but the meaning of the song has been lost. Only two words have been translated and were apparently about jumping kangaroos.

Edward Jones, (1752-1824) who was in the audience, wrote down and published the words and music and called it ‘A song of the natives of New South Wales.’  It appeared in Musical Curiosities in 1811.  Jones was the composer, Welsh Harpist, folk music collector and bard to the Prince of Wales who became George IV.

However, in October 1793, disaster struck when Yemmerrawanyea fell ill and began to drastically lose weight.  After injuring his leg, his health declined even further.   He and Bennelong were taken to Eltham which was then a village and he was treated by Dr Gilbert Blane. He was the Prince of Wales’s physician.  They lodged at the house of William Kent who had been employed by the former Home Secretary, Lord Sydney. This again emphasises the circles in which the two men moved. But it was to no avail as Yemmerrawanyea died on 18 May 1794 aged roughly 19 from a lung infection.  This may have been tuberculosis but no-one’s quite sure.

Entry in St John the Evangelist parish records recording Yemmerrawanyea’s burial and death.

There are still bills preserved at the National Archives for his burial and,according to Keith Vincent Smith:

‘A gravedigger covered Yemmerrawanyea’s grave with turf at a cost of 1 shilling and 6 pence.  The headstone costs £6.16.00’,

This was a substantial cost for a headstone. 

There have  been several campaigns to have his remains returned to Australia but their current location in the churchyard is unknown.  In fact, they may no longer be there due to the practice of graves being re opened and re used for burials to reduce overcrowding. The headstone has also been moved and restored several times.

In 1982, 3 Aboriginal men made what is believed to be the first Australian Aboriginal pilgrimage to visit Yemmerrawanyea’s grave. But they were unaware that his body may have been removed and that the headstone may not even be over his grave.

Bennelong returned to what is now Sydney in 1795 and went back to the bush.  He was considered by some of Sydney’s white society to be a ‘thorough savage’ who couldn’t be tamed.  Relations between the Aborigines and the colonists were deteriorating as Keith Vincent Smith says:

‘as more and more land was cleared and fenced for farming and they were seen as savages who were unwilling to give their country and become labourers and servants to the colonists.’

Bennelong died on the 3 January 1813 and his grave has been finally been located. The New South Wales Government has announced that it has bought the house and garden in which he is buried.  It would be turned into a public memorial with a museum commemorating the impact of the European invasion on the indigenous people of the Sydney area. The site of the Sydney Opera House is located at Bennelong Point which was named after him.

These were 2 important figures in Aboriginal society and have left their traces in Australia and England.    Yemmerrawanyea’s grave is of cultural significance to the Aboriginal people and their history.   it seems sad that the stone is the only surviving trace of him in the churchyard and yet it’s it’s a reminder of the New World visiting the Old World.  So that passers-by, like me, stop and wonder who he was. how he came to Eltham and remember him.

Gwandalan Yemmerrawanyea

©Text and photos by Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/SL_autumn2014_lr.pdf – informative article on Yemmerranyea which I have quoted from.

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

http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/bennelong-and-yemmerrawanyea-singing-england

http://britainforaussies.weebly.com/yes-but-what-about-yemmerrawanyea.html

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

https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/right-back-at-us-bennelongs-song-for-1793-london-20100919-15hy3.html

Symbol of the month – The Butterfly

This is another older post about a symbol that is not common within churchyards and cemeteries and so I am always thrilled whenever I see an example.  This gorgeous example is in below is in the interior of St Nicholas’ church in Chislehurst, Kent. It’s dedicated to a woman and perfectly illustrates the use of the butterfly as a symbol of transformation and resurrection.

As the lockdown edges closer to more restrictions being relaxed, I hope to be out exploring again very soon!

Butterfly on monement, interior of St Nichols church Chislehurst, Kent, copyright Carole Tyrrell



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©Carole Tyrrell


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©Carole Tyrrell


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©Carole Tyrrell

The Gordon monument butterfly motif in all its glory. Kensal Green Cemetery. copyright Carole Tyrrell
The Gordon monument butterfly motif in all its glory. Kensal Green Cemetery.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

Cemeteries and graveyards can be happy hunting grounds for butterflies.  But not just the bright, dancing summer jewels, borne on the breeze, but also the much rarer kind which perches in them for eternity.

So far I’ve only discovered two of this particular species which were both in London.  One was in Brompton and the other was in Kensal Green.  But I have also seen others online in American cemeteries.

But I’m surprised that the butterfly symbol isn’t more widely used as it is a deep and powerful motif of resurrection and  reincarnation.  It has fluttered through many cultures which include Ancient Egypt, Greece and Mexico.

In classical myth, Psyche, which translates as ‘soul’, is represented in the form of a butterfly or as a young woman with butterfly wings.  She’s also linked with Eros the Greek God of love.   It is also a potent representation of rebirth and in this aspect, the Celts revered it.  Some of the Ancient Mexican tribes such as the Aztec and Mayans used carvings of butterflies to decorate their buildings as certain butterfly species were considered to be reincarnations of the souls of dead warriors.  The Hopi and Navaho tribes of Native American Indians performed the Butterfly Dance and viewed them as symbols of change and transformation.

The butterfly is an archetypal image of resurrection in Christianity and this meaning is derived from the 3 stages of a butterfly’s life.  These are:  1st stage = the caterpillar, 2nd stage = the chrysalis and 3rd and final stage = the butterfly.  So the sequence is life, death and resurrection.   The emergence of the butterfly from the chrysalis is likened to the soul discarding the flesh.  It has been depicted on Ancient Christian tombs and, in Christian art, Christ has been shown holding a butterfly.   It is supposed to appear chiefly on childrens memorials but the two that I’ve seen were on adult memorials.

Butterflies also feature in Victorian mourning jewellery and there is a fascinating article on this with some lovely examples at:

http://artofmourning.com/2014/10/25/butterfly-symbols-and-19th-century-jewellery/

In the 20th century, butterflies appeared in the flowing, organic lines of Art Nouveau and often featured in jewellery and silverware.

Face and butterfly on exterior of chapel. copyright Carole Tyrrell

Face and butterfly on exterior of chapel.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

This example is from the Watts Chapel in Surrey and shows the flowing lines and stylised butterfly.   They also appear in vanitas paintings, the name given to a particular category of symbolic works of art and especially those associated with the still life paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands.    In these the viewer was asked to look at various symbols within the painting such as skulls, rotting fruit etc and ponder on the worthlessness of all earthly goods and pursuits as well as admiring the artist’s skill in depicting these.  Butterflies in this context can be seen as fleeting pleasure as they have a short life of just two weeks.

Butterfly traditions

There are many superstitions and beliefs associated with butterflies.  They are often regarded as omens, good and bad, or as an advance messenger indicating that a visitor or loved one is about to arrive. In Japan, they are traditionally associated with geishas due to their associations with beauty and delicate femininity.

Butterfly & Chinese wisteria by Xu Xi Early Sing Dynasty c970. By Xü Xi (Scanned from an old Chinese book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Butterfly & Chinese wisteria by Xu Xi Early Sing Dynasty c970.
By Xü Xi (Scanned from an old Chinese book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese see them as good luck and a symbol of immortality. Sailors thought that if they saw one before going on ship it meant that they would die at sea .  In Devon it was traditional to kill the first butterfly that you saw or have a year of bad luck as a result. In Europe the butterfly was seen as the spirit of the dead and, in the Gnostic tradition, the angel of death is often shown crushing a butterfly underfoot.   In some areas in England, it’s thought that butterflies contain the souls of children who have come back to life. A butterfly’s colours can also be significant. A black one can indicate death and a white one signifies the souls or the departed. It’s also a spiritual symbol of growth in that sometimes the past has to be discarded in order to move forward as the butterfly sheds its chrysalis to emerges complete. So it can indicate a turning point or transition in life. There are also shamanistic associations with the butterfly’s shapeshifting and it has also been claimed as a spiritual animal or totem.

Brompton Cemetery, tomb unknown

This example with its wings outstretched is from Brompton Cemetery in London.   Alas, the epitaph appears to have vanished over time and the surrounding vegetation was so luxuriant  that I will have to return in the winter to investigate further.  Note the wreath of ivy that surrounds it.  Ivy is an evergreen and is a token of eternal life and memories.  The wreath’s ribbons are also nicely carved.

The Gordon monument, Kensal Green

The second one is perched on the tomb of John Gordon Esquire, a Scotsman from Aberdeenshire who died young at only 37.  As the epitaph states   ‘it was erected to his memory as the last token of sincere love and affection by his affectionate widow’.    Gordon came from an extended family of Scottish landowners who had estates in Scotland and plantations in Tobago amongst other interests.  The monument is Grade II listed and is made of Portland stone with a York stone base and canopy supported by the pillars.  There was an urn on the pedestal  between the four tapering stone pillars but this was stolen in 1997.

The butterfly also has an ouroboros encircling it so, not only a symbol or resurrection,  but also of eternity with the tail devouring snake.  It is a little hard to see but it is there.

The butterfly symbol of the roof of the Gordon monument Kensal Green Cemetery. copyright Carole Tyrrell
The butterfly symbol of the roof of the Gordon monument Kensal Green Cemetery.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

The pharaonic heads at each corner are Egyptian elements within an ostensibly  classically inspired monument. Acroteria, or acroterion as is its singular definition, are an architectural ornament.  The ones on this monument are known as acroteria angularia. The ‘angularia’ means at the corners.

The entire monument is based on an illustration of the monument of the Murainville family in Pugin’s Views of Paris of 1822 and also on Moliere’s memorial which are both at Pere Lachaise in Paris.

The Gordon memorial incorporates elements  of the Egyptian style and symbolism that influenced 19th century funerary monuments after the first Egyptian explorations. Kensal Green contains many significant examples and there are others to be found in Brompton, Highgate and Abney Park.  The Victorians regarded the Egyptians highly as it was also a cult of the dead.

So when you next see a butterfly fluttering on the breeze or even perched on a memorial for eternity remember its importance within the tradition of symbols, religions and cultures.  Who knows it might be one of your ancestors…..

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References:

http://www.gardenswithwings.com/butterfly-stories/butterfly-symbolism.html

http://www.whats-your-sign.com/butterfly-animal-symbolism.html

http://www.spiritanimal.info/butterfly-spirit-animal/

http://www.pure-spirit.com/more-animal-symbolism/611-butterfly-symbolism

http://www.shamanicjourney.com/butterfly-power-animal-symbol-of-change-the-soul-creativity-freedom-joy-and-colour

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

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html

https://stoneletters.com/blog/gravestone-symbols

https://www.reference.com/world-view/butterfly-symbolize-cf9c772f26c7fa5

https://www.reference.com/world-view/butterflies-symbolize-19a1e06c9c98351c?qo=cdpArticles

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

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

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1191024

Clare Gibson, How to Read Symbols, Herbert Press 2009

Douglas Keister, Stories in Stone, A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, Gibbs Smith, 2004

J C Cooper, Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, Thames & Hudson 1978.

Symbol of the Month – Simply To Thy Cross I Cling

In the light of the current COVID restrictions, I am reblogging this post from a previous Symbol of the Month. Enjoy!

The famous quote on the third on in West Norwood. This is to an 11 year old girl, Dorothy Boswel. ©Carole Tyrrell
The famous quote on the third on in West Norwood. This is to an 11 year old girl, Dorothy Boswel.
©Carole Tyrrell

What does a woman clinging to a cross, seemingly for dear life,   have in common with the film  ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’  and heavy metal group Def Leppard?

Strangely enough, the connection is an 18th century Protestant hymn written by a fiercely Calvinist minister which has entered the Western cultural consciousness in the same way as ‘Abide With Me’.

‘Rock of Ages’ is a hymn with an enduring message of hope and ultimate salvation.  So no wonder it inspired a potent funerary symbol which is still used today.  However, it’s the second line in the third verse, ‘Simply to Thy cross I cling.’ that has proved most inspirational to Victorian monument masons.

A variant is a pensive young  woman  leaning on a cross for support as at West Norwood.  This cemetery contained several examples and here is a selection:

They’re not angels as they don’t possess wings and angels didn’t begin to appear in Victorian cemeteries until the late 19th century.  But they are one of the few cemetery symbols inspired by a popular hymn. It’s also a Protestant motif and was the only way in which a cross would have been permitted in a Victorian cemetery until near the end of the 19th century. This was due to the religious wars that were raging at the time.

When the Victorians created their large municipal cemeteries there was still a fierce Anti-Catholic  prejudice within Britain. This dated back to Henry VIII and the Reformation and had resulted in several anti-Catholic laws being passed during the 17th and 18th centuries.    But the cry was still ‘No Popery’ in the 19th century and any symbols that were associated with Catholicism weren’t welcome in the new marble orchards.   These included crosses, figures of saints and also angels.   Instead, there was a return to Classicism using Roman and Greek motifs and architecture.  Then, as the 19th century progressed, funerary monuments reflected the tastes of the time.  So you could walk through one and see Arts & Crafts, Celtic Revival, Art Nouveau until eventually towards the end angels did being to fly in.

‘Rock of Ages’ was written by a Calvinist minister, the Reverend Augustus Toplady, in 1763 and  was first published in a religious magazine, ‘The Gospel’, in 1775.   It’s allegedly based on an incident in Toplady’s life.  He was a preacher in a village named Blagdon and was travelling along the gorge of Burrington Combe in Somerset’s Mendip Hills when he was caught in a storm.  He managed to find shelter in a gap in the gorge and was struck by the name of the crevice that had saved him. It’s still marked as ‘Rock of Ages’ both on the rock itself and maps.  He is reputed to have written the hymn’s lyrics on the back of a playing card although one wonders what a minister was doing with a deck of cards.  However, no-one’s sure if this incident actually happened or if it’s apocryphal….

Toplady wasn’t a popular man and in an article by Rupert Christensen of the Daily Telegraph he was described as ‘fanatical, in a gross Calvinism and most difficult to deal with.’ John Wesley avoided him. Toplady was also fond of writing bizarre articles, one of which proposed that a spiralling National Debt  could never be paid off due to the extent of human sinfulness.  Something for the new Chancellor to ponder on I’m sure.   Toplady died in 1776 from TB and would undoubtedly have been forgotten were it not for his rousing hymn.

‘Rock of Ages’ caught the popular imagination. Gladstone translated it into Latin and Greek and asked for it to be played at his funeral.  Prince Albert reputedly requested it on his deathbed and it has appeared in several feature films. These include ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ where it’s sung by David Bowie as Major Jack Celliers and both ‘Paper Moon’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ where it’s played at a funeral.  It’s also inspired musicians such as Def Leppard and the writer of the film score for ‘Altered States.’ John Congliano.  It’s  also the title of the long running musical stage show.

These are its lyrics:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
From L http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Rock_of_Ages/et me hide myself in Thee.

I’ve also seen the lyrics of the hymn inscribed on monuments as at Streatham Cemetery and also Brompton.

However it does also appear as a motif on tombstones as here:

This is one on a tombstone - I found it on a blog but they had found it on wikipedia. So source unknown.
This is one on a tombstone – I found it on a blog but they had found it on wikipedia. So source unknown.

It has been described as a symbol of faith, of a person lost in sin whose only hope is to cling to the cross.

Sometimes just the phrase is enough as here:

This simple memorial only has the phrase on it. This is to Eva Catherine Dorin by her husband. She died young at 48. ©Carole Tyrrell
This is to Eva Catherine Dorin by her husband. She died young at 48. West Norwood.
©Carole Tyrrell

It was also popular as a print and these are two examples:

Both seem to clinging to a cross in a raging sea – a sea of sin perhaps?

The symbol has reappeared in more recent years and there is a much smaller, modern version at Beckenham Cemetery.  This is on the grave of a 16 year old who died in 1965.

Modern version on a 16 year year old girls' grave in Beckenham Cemetery at Elmers End. ©Carole Tyrrell
Modern version on a 16 year year old girls’ grave in Beckenham Cemetery at Elmers End.
©Carole Tyrrell

A much simpler version seen on the grave of Maud and Percival Jones in Beckenham Cemetery.. He founded Twinlock files who were a large local firm  in the area until the late '80's   ©Carole Tyrrell
A much simpler version seen on the grave of Maud and Percival Jones in Beckenham Cemetery dating back to the 1940’s. He founded Twinlock files who were a large local firm in the area until the late ’80’s
©Carole Tyrrell

An inspirational hymn to the Victorians and also well into the 20th Century but what could have the same effect these days?  I’ve always fancied a video of Sid Vicious singing ‘/My Way’ on my tombstone…..

©  Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Ages_(Christian_hymn)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3668144/The-story-behind-the-hymn.html

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

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html

http://cayugaheightshistory.weebly.com/uploads/2/4/5/4/24545229/pleasant_grove_cemetery_iconography.pdf

http://owlseeyouinthecemetery.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/nothing-in-my-hand-i-bring-simply-to.html

Cannibals in a country church? The Harman monument,St John the Baptist, Burford, Oxfordshire

Detail of one of theTupinamba Indians on the Harman monument, Burford

As a ‘church crawler’, or someone who likes to poke about in churches and churchyards,  I didn’t expect to find this finely carved pair of South American Indians in an Oxfordshire church.  They decorate the monument dedicated to Edmund Harman (1509-1577) and his ‘faithful’ wife, Agnes.

Full view of the Harman monument, St John the Evangelist, Burford ©Bill Nicholls shared under Creative Commons Licence

The Indians have been identified as belonging to the Tupinamba tribe who, in the early 1500’s, lived at the mouth of the Amazon. They are assumed to be the earliest known representation of South American Indians in England.  The Tupinamba tribe were known to be cannibals and the carvings are believed to be the work of a Dutch carver, Cornelis Bos. However, no-one’s quite sure whether they’re there.  It has been assumed that they are a reference to Edmund Harman’s Brazilian trade interests. But perhaps Bos might have seen a similar design in the Spanish Netherlands and decided to ‘borrow’ it.

Edmund Harman was an influential man at Henry VIII’s court. In fact, he was one of Henry’s most important and trusted servants. From 1533-1547, he was the King’s personal barber and servant, a position that gave him enormous influence at court as he was so near to the King.  I’m sure that he didn’t spend his time asking Henry VIII if he’d been anywhere nice for his holidays……he was probably too busy bending the King’s ear with promoting his friends business schemes.   In 1538, Edmund had risen so high that he was included in a list of people at court who were:

‘…to be had in the King’s most benign remembrance…’

Benign it certainly was, as it meant that Edmund was granted several pieces of land in Oxfordshire as well as Burford Priory.  He was also one of the 15 servants who made up the Privy Chamber and their job was to attend to every aspect of the King’s comfort.

In 1546, Edmund was one of the witnesses to Henry VIII’s will which was a very important document.  According to the Burford church website,

He makes an appearance with his King in Holbein’s last painting which is kept at The Barber’s Hall in London. The artist has helpfully labelled all the assembled men and Edmund is at the front on the right hand side.

Henry VII and the Barber Surgeons – Hans Holbein (1497/1498-1543) Edmund can be seen kneeling with his name. Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

Edmund and Agnes had sixteen children (!) but only two of them, both girls, survived their parents.  There are representations of them on the lower half of the monument.   

The sons of the Harmans, St John the Evangelist, Burford ©Julian P Guffogy shared under Creative Commons Licence
The daughters of the Harmans, St John the Evangelist, Burford ©Julian P Guffogy shared under Creative Commons Licence

According to the Burford church website, Edmund’s epitaph:

‘…..is considered to be an early example of a Post-Reformation epitaph as there is no mention of Purgatory or saying prayers for the dead man’s soul to ease his way out of it.  Purgatory and other religious practices had all been swept away by Henry VIII’s determination to divorce Katherine of Aragon and set himself up as the Head of the new Church of England.’

It is a lovely monument with beautiful, crisp carving and a wonderful example of the stone carver’s skill. Sadly, despite all the expense and the effort lavished in creating the monument, Edmund and Agnes were buried in Taynton which is 7 miles away from Burford.

However, it stands as a memorial to a man who rose from humble beginnings, moved in powerful circles and brought the New World closer to home.

©Text and Photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

 References and further reading

https://www.burfordchurch.org/harman-memorial

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/003591571600901610

https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/3742667.barber-king-gentleman/

A touching epitaph to the one left behind. St John the Baptist, Burford

shadows fly away

St John the Baptist, Burford,

This was the inscription that made the most impression as it was so touching and heartfelt.  It perfectly expressed the deceased’s belief, that although they had pre-deceased their partner, they believed that they would both wake again on Judgement Day and be reunited.

The first part of the epitaph on a unknown Monument, So John te Baptist, Burford

The second part of the epitaph on an unknown monument, St John the Evangelist, Burford

Its simplicity is what makes it stand out simple and yet I have no idea on which monument the inscription was despite looking through my photos from the day. But it made a powerful impression. In many ways it was more powerful than far more ornate monuments and tombs.

However, when the Penguin Book Cover Generator was doing the rounds on social media just prior to Christmas last year it provided inspiration…

View original post 22 more words

A touching epitaph to the one left behind. St John the Baptist, Burford

St John the Baptist, Burford,


This was the inscription that made the most impression as it was so touching and heartfelt.  It perfectly expressed the deceased’s belief, that although they had pre-deceased their partner, they believed that they would both wake again on Judgement Day and be reunited.

The first part of the epitaph on a unknown Monument, So John te Baptist, Burford
The second part of the epitaph on an unknown monument, St John the Evangelist, Burford

Its simplicity is what makes it stand out simple and yet I have no idea on which monument the inscription was despite looking through my photos from the day.   But it made a powerful impression.  In many ways it was more powerful than far more ornate monuments and tombs.

However, when the Penguin Book Cover Generator was doing the rounds on social media just prior to Christmas last year it provided inspiration for one book design.

When we can actually go out again, whenever that is, I’m coming back Burford – ready or not!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow in Brompton Cemetery

Now that snow has come to Central London again how I wish I was there to see it! But I’m not and instead I thought I would show how beautiful a cemetery can look when it’s covered in the white stuff. These were taken during the last big snowfall, the so called Beast from the East, in Feb 201 and feature Brompton Cemetery looking a little mysterious as the snow fell and fell and fell……

Brompton Cemetery in snow Feb 2018 ©Carole Tyrrell
View over Brompton Cemetery from a side path Feb 2018 ©Carole Tyrrell
View of colonnades Brompton Cemetery Feb 2018 ©Carole Tyrrell
View of Brompton Cemetery chapel Feb 2018 ©Carole Tyrrell
The Italian Boy as I call him, Brompton Cemetery Feb18 ©Carole Tyrrell
Snowy view from sidepath Brompton Cemetery Feb 2018 ©Carole Tyrrell

Wildlife in Cemeteries No 8 – the dark side of the Snowdrop

As we are still in lockdown, I thought that I would repost an earlier blog about a flower that is traditionally associated with cemeteries and churchyards. This is the time of year when they start to  make a welcome appearance as signs of Spring and this year, especially, I think that we need to know that better days are coming.

Snowdrops in St George’s churchyard, Beckenham.
©Carole Tyrrell

Imagine yourself in a gloomy medieval church on the festival of Candlemass. You, and your fellow parishioners, have each brought your candles to be blessed by the priest and, after the procession which will fill the church with light, they will all be placed in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary.   Candlemass marked the end of winter and the beginning of Spring and the blessing is to ward off evil spirits.  It traditionally falls on February 2 and is shared with the Celtic festival of Imbolc.  And in the churchyard outside you can see green shoots forcing their way up through the hard winter earth.  The snowdrop’s milk-white flowers show that spring is on its way as they begin to emerge into the light.

The placing of the lit candles in front of the Virgin Mary’s statue gave the snowdrop one of its many other names – Mary’s Tapers.  But there are many others such: Dingle Dangle, Candlemas Bells, Fair Maids of February, Snow Piercer, Death’s Flower and Corpse Flower.

Snowdrops, Brompton Cemetery, January 2018
©Carole Tyrrell

 

The snowdrop’s appearance has also inspired many comments . According to the Scottish Wildlife Trusts website they have been described as resembling 3 drops of milk hanging from a stem and they are also associated with the ear drop which is an old fashioned ear ring.  Anyone who has seen a group of snowdrops nodding in the wind will understand what they mean.   The snowdrop’s colour is associated with purity and they have been described as a shy flower with their drooping flowers.  However, the eco enchantments website reveals that the flower is designed in this way due:

‘to the necessity of their dusty pollen being kept dry and sweet in order to attract the few insects flying in winter.’

Snowdrops have been known since ancient times and, in 1597, appeared in Geralde’s ‘Great Herbal where they were called by the less than catchy name of ‘Timely Flowers Bulbous Violets’.  Its Latin name is Galanthus nivalis.  Galanthus means milk white flowers and the nivalis element translates as snowy according to the great botanist, Linnaeus in 1753.   In the language of flowers they’re associated with ‘Hope’ and the coming of spring and life reawakening.

However, yet despite all these positive associations, the elegant snowdrop has a much darker side. Monks were reputed to have brought them to the UK but it was the ever enthusiastic Victorians who copiously planted them in graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries which then linked them with death.  Hence the nickname name ‘Death’s Flower.’

They were described by Margaret Baker in the 1903 ‘Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore and the Occult of the World’ as:

‘so much like a corpse in a shroud that in some counties  the people will not have it in the house, lest they bring in death.‘

Snowdrops, St George’s Beckenham.
©Carole Tyrrell

So that’s where the ‘Corpse Flower’ nickname came from.

Snowdrops are also seen as Death’s Tokens and there are several regional folk traditions of connecting death with them. For example in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was considered very unlucky to bring the flower into the house from outside as it was felt that a death would soon occur.  The most unlucky snowdrop was that with a single bloom on its stem.    Other folk traditions were described in a 1913 folklore handbook which claims that if a snowdrop was brought indoors it will make the cows milk watery and affect the colour of the butter.  Even as late as 1969 in ‘The Folklore of Plants’  it was stated that having a snowdrop indoors could affect the number of eggs that a sitting chicken might hatch.  A very powerful plant if these are all to be believed – you have been warned!

It’s amazing that this little flower has so many associations and legends connected with it but I always see it as a harbinger of spring, rebirth and an indication of warmer days to come.

But the snowdrop also has a surprise.  This came courtesy of the Urban Countryman page on Facebook – not all social media is time wasting!  If you very gently turn over a snowdrop bloom you will find that the underside is even prettier and they also vary depending on the snowdrop variety.

Here is a small selection from my local churchyard and one from Kensal Green cemetery.

So don’t underestimate the snowdrop – it’s a plant associated with life and death but watch out for your hens and the colour of your butter if you do decide to tempt fate…..

 

©Carole Tyrrell text and photos unless otherwise stated

References:

http://www.plantlore.com

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/naturestudies/bright-in-winters-depths-why-the-flawless-flower-of-candlemas-is-ajoy-forever-8483967

http://www.flowermeaning.com/snowdrop-flower-meaning

http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/mysnowdropmagicpage.html

https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/2014/03/natures-death-tokens/

 

 

 

 

Symbol of the Month – The Woman from Samaria or a Greek goddess?

The Caryer headstone in 2011 , All Saints Frindsbury Photo Kent Archaeological Society

I featured part of this symbol on the Caryer headstone in an earlier Symbol of the Month – the All seeing Eye.    The Kent Archaeological Society website had given me the epitaph and also a reference to the Woman of Samaria with a  question mark next to it.

In March 2020, I visited All Saints, Frindsbury where the Caryer headstone is and looked at it and my photos and wasn’t quite sure if they were right.   Then I looked again at their photo of it taken in 2011 and what a difference 9 years makes!

As you can see, erosion has blurred a lot of the fine detail seen in the 2011 photo and it’s now hard to make out the image of the woman with such clarity now.  It doesn’t help that the headstone is leaning over so making it quite hard to get a decent photo.    In the 2020 image some of the detail has been lost. The stone is darker but. despite the erosion, it is a wonderful example of the stone carver’s art and skill.  This would have been an expensive headstone.

So what have we got? In the 2011 photo, A glamorous, somewhat scantily clad woman who was really well carved. She wears classical style diaphanous robes and wisps of lie across her exposed leg. She has her hair up in a Classical hairstyle and is sitting side on to the viewer wearing a pensive expression. She seems to be sitting on pebbles – is she at a river or at a beach? She holds a water jug and there are clouds above her.  The all seeing eye of God is on the other side of the headstone which may have been comforting to those left behind.

The reference to the Woman from Samaria being a possible source  is. I think, that the lady is holding a water jug and seems to be near water. So does she carry the waters of eternal life that Christ promised in the Bible? Or is she just a scantily clad woman holding a water jug?

The Woman from Samaria appears in the Gospel of John 4: verses 4-26.   Here they are:

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. King James Version

The meeting between the woman and Christ has inspired many artists and here are two interpretations.   But I had my doubts.   For instance, there’s no well visible on the headstone and, although she could be seen as bathing in the water of eternal life, the living waters referred to in the Bible, with a clear reference to resurrection it just didn’t feel right.   It also felt a bit tortuous to try and fit it all in.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) Shared under Wikipedia Creative Commons
Jesus at the Samaritan Woman – Gervais Drouet Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

But there are other images of female water bearers and one of the most obvious is associated with the Zodiac sign of Aquarius.  She is often depicted holding a water jug aloft or pouring from it.  But no, I carried on looking. Sometimes researching symbols is like detective work!

But there is another symbol that involves a woman as water bearer and that is the Zodiac sign of Aquarius.  In fact it is known as the water bearer.  

However, there is also the Greek goddess, Hebe, or the cup bearer. She was the daughter of Zeus and was the cupbearer for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.  Hebe served nectar and ambrosia to them until she married Heracles.  She also had influence over eternal youth and the ability to restore youth to mortals.  In fact, Hebe comes from the Greek word meaning youth or prime of life.

Statue of Hebe Antonio Canova (1757-1822) Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

She was a popular subject in art during 1750-1880 and that would fit in with the date of the headstone. Hannah was the first to buried there and she died in 1809.   There many depictions of Hebe and in fact it was well known that all that was needed to summon her was a floaty white dress, some flowers in the hair and cup to hold. A setting in the clouds helped as well and maybe our Frindsbury lady isn’t sitting on pebbles but on puffy clouds.  In some portraits of Hebe a degree of nudity was allowed.    She was often depicted with wings which can be seen behind the figure on the headstone.  In art Hebe often appears with an eagle. Hebe also had her own personal cult and figures of her were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries for fountains.

Painting of Hebe – Jacques Louis Dubois (1768-1843) Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

So I think that the figure is a classical one and probably based on Hebe.  Our glamorous lady in the floating draperies may be a reference to the deceased always remaining eternally young in death.  Hannah was only 30 when she died but that wasn’t unusual in an age of low mortality.   She is protected by the watchful Eye of God. It’s interesting to see a pagan symbol beside a more conventionally Christian one.

We will never know the inspiration behind the image used on this headstone.   It may have been skillfully copied from a printed image or painting and may have had personal significance to her husband who is also buried there together with their young son.  It would have been the height  of Classicism and it’s interesting to find it in a country churchyard.  It is sad to see much it has eroded over the years but one see the confidence of stone masons at that time in tackling subjects such as this.

So, in my opinion, our lady may not be the Woman from Samaria but a representation of Hebe.  But of course she could just be another elegant lady showing a bit of leg as she sits for all eternity above the Caryer family.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References and further reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan_woman_at_the_well#:~:text=The%20woman%20appears%20in%20John,was%20sitting%20by%20the%20well.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%204%3A7-29&version=KJV

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebe_(mythology)

Happy New Year with another version of the Handshake symbol.

Hello all – I think I can just about get away with still wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Well, here we are in another lockdown and so I won’t be poking about in churchyards or cemeteries for a while.

So I took the opportunity to look through my photos from last year just before the first lockdown when I could still be out and about in local churchyards and cemeteries which I haven’t previously posted.

The above headstone is from All Saints in Frindsbury near Strood. The church perches on top of a hill looking down on the town and its churchyard was recommended to me by an old friend. There were some spectacular views of the River Medway down below as its sapphire stream glinted in the Spring sunshine.. When I got there, the trimming of the long grass around the memorials had literally stopped in mid cut and I had to be careful where I walked. I didn’t want to trip over kerb stones hidden in the long grass.

I found this and, although the shaking hands motif is usually associated with a man and wife saying goodbye, here it looks as though a mother and son are saying goodbye. The hands are those of a man and a woman and, although, the father has been added on at the bottom, the son was the first to be buried there. William Masters died young at only 20 and his mother died 22 years later.

In the shaking hands, the deceased is traditionally holding the hand of the living as they part. It can mean goodbye or the deceased guiding the living into eternal life later. It is usually associated with marriage with the visible cuffs delineating them. The frilly hand on the right hand side is a woman and the left hand one is the man with the plainer, more formal cuff.

It was an interesting churchyard and was also in the middle of two cemeteries – the East and the West. These were mainly 19th and 20th century burials but a bright Spring carpet of primroses and foaming white Blackthorn blossom made them appear colourful and bright.

I will be discussing one of the more enigmatic symbols that I found in All Saints in the next blog.