The much loved and never forgotten pets of the de Grey family – a visit to Wrest Park’s dog cemetery

The Dog Monument  Made from Ketton Stone and erected by Earl Grantham in 1829. Copyright Carole Tyrrell
The Dog Monument Made from Ketton Stone and erected by Earl Grantham in 1829.
Copyright Carole Tyrrell

 

I visited Wrest Park on a beautiful summers’ day and it is one of the most beautiful stately homes and gardens that I’ve visited.  Located at Silsoe, near Luton in Bedfordshire, its 90 acres of formal gardens are impressive and contain features such as the elegant Long Water and the Chinese Bridge.

For over 600 years it belonged to the de Grey family.  It was Edward IV (1461-83) who made Edmund Grey the first Earl of Kent.  The formal gardens and Long Water were created during the 18th century by Annabel Benn with the 11th Earl of Kent, her son Anthony, and his wife Mary.  These were all the rage at the time and the celebrated Capability Brown, amongst others, helped design them.

In the 1830’s, Thomas Earl de Grey, a keen amateur architect decided to rebuild the house in the fashionable French style but retained the garden layout instead of replacing it with the style of the day.  He later became the first President of the Royal Institute of British Architects or RIBA. Since 1900, like most stately homes and country houses, Wrest has had mixed fortunes.  It was sold in 1917 and in 1948 became the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering and later the Silsoe Research Institute. Historic England, previously English Heritage, now own Wrest Park and have embarked on a 20 year restoration programme of the house and grounds.

The de Grey family’s dogs’ cemetery is a distance from the house and near the Long Water. A grassed pathway bordered on each side by saplings leads you to a secluded glade.  A statue of a dog, the Dog Monument, made from Ketton stone rests on a stone pedestal surrounded by 16 headstones.  They are no longer in their original positions and the cemetery was officially Grade II listed on 10 January 1985.

View of Dog cemetery from path. copyright Carole Tyrrell
View of Dog cemetery from path.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

According to the guidebook, the area was first recorded on a 1735 surveyor’s plan of the gardens.  It was a square clearing at the end of a straight path leading from the Lady Duchess’s Walk.  The cemetery itself dates from 1829 when Earl Grantham, later to become Earl de Grey, erected the Dog Monument.  The headstones date from 1830-1860 and the dogs commemorated are:

Douban who died 24/11/1876 aged 17

Freuah who died in 1878 aged 10 and belonged to Countess Cowper

Una who died in 1891 and was the favourite dog of Lady Florence Cowper

Little Dick – the favourite dog of Lady Amabel Cowper

Lancey  who died in 1875

Busy

Fury

Dorrock

Phedra

Tiger

Nissy who died in 1816

Kelpie

Tottie who was a favourite dog

Dandy

Petsy

Pet – a favourite dog

The de Grey family’s love of their dogs can be seen in an 1865 photograph in the guide book.  Lady Amabel Cowper, the youngest daughter of Anne Florence, dowager Countess Cowper is standing on the terrace at Wrest with three of the family’s dogs who look like terriers.  One dog is obediently posing, lying at her feet, another is on his hind legs with his back to the camera looking up at her and a third, a small dog, is perched on her shoulder.  I did wonder if the one on her shoulder was Little Dick whose headstone records that he was her favourite dog.  Some of the stones are now partly illegible but the cemetery is still a poignant place to visit.   Two of the dogs, Dandy and Little Dick, are further commemorated as statues on two sculptures of the de Grey children.

 

However, dog cemeteries weren’t a Victorian invention. Instead they date back to the ancient Egyptians who created vast cemeteries containing 1000’s of mummified dogs.  These were linked to the cult of the jackal headed deity Anubis.  He was the god of embalming and the guide of the dead.  The City of Dogs was known as Hardai or Cynopolis to the Greeks.  The early Chinese emperors also established a palatial canine necropolis near Beijing in which the marble tombs were lavishly decorated with precious stones and metals such as gold and lapis lazuli.  It makes the Victorian version look very modest in comparison.  However, dog cemeteries were also seen as symbols of oppression by Russian Communists who denounced them. According to them, the ruling classes were lavishing money on these while their workers starved.

 

Dog cemeteries were most popular during the 19th century once Queen Victoria had established one at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.   You can still find them at these houses:

 

Glamis Castle, Scotland

Haddo House, Aberdeenshire

Himley Hall, Stourton

Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, Surrey

Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire

Sandringham, Norfolk (where the Queen buries her corgis)

 

There may be others out there – I’ll have fun looking for them – but this is what I found on a quick look round the web.

 

Whatever your opinion of dog or pet cemeteries, I’ve always found them very touching.  The incumbents were obviously much loved and someone missed them enough to erect a stone in their memory and to record their passing.  RIP little ones you are not forgotten.

 

Sources:

 

http://www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk/Secluded-Stourton-woodland-unleashes-canine-secrets/story-20120404-detail/story.html

Wrest Park guidebook, English Heritage, 2011

http://www.georgianindex.net/dogs/dogs.html

https://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Autumn04/dogs.cfm

https://uk.pinterest.com/gravedetective/pet-cemetery/

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM9DM0_Dog_Cemetery_Wrest_Park_Silsoe_Bedfordshire_UK

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM9CC0_De_Grey_Children_with_Dandy_and_Little_Dick_Wrest_Park_Silsoe_Bedfordshire_UK

 

 copyright and photos Carole Tyrrell

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Nine symbols for the price of one! – The Daniel Vault, Nunhead, London,

 

The Henry Daniel vault at Nunhead Cemetery, UK. He was a monumental mason who worked at the cemetery. copyright Carole Tyrrell

The Henry Daniel vault at Nunhead Cemetery, UK. He was a monumental mason who worked at the cemetery.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

This month instead of Symbol of the month I will be discussing a monument which is a gift to anyone interested in symbols and their meaning. Not one symbol but nine!

When you first look at the Daniel vault you may well be impressed by its extravagant decoration.  It’s absolutely studded with symbols and, due to its advantageous location close to the chapel and thus nearer to God, you can’t miss it.   In fact some of the larger monuments are in this area and the idea appeared to be that, even if you couldn’t take your money with you, at least you’d had it while you were alive and could prove it.

But there’s an interesting story behind each of the symbols and also of Henry Daniel himself.  He founded a dynasty of monumental masons who were closely associated with Nunhead Cemetery until its closure.  He established the first mason’s yard at Nunhead and two other firms followed.  These were Preston & Company and A Stogden.  Henry and his family lived opposite Nunhead’s imposing Linden Grove entrance gates in the imposing and rambling Gothic style residence that he built surrounded by his workshops and lived in it with his family until he died in 1867 aged 62.

The newly established large Victorian cemeteries meant that masons were kept busy and had a steady income.  They not only created monuments and memorials but also maintained graves and constructed vaults.    If you look along the edges and the bottom of graves and monuments in Nunhead and Highgate cemeteries you may well find the Daniel name.

Henry also had a workshop in Swains Lane at Highgate and according to an inscription on one of the monuments that his workmen helped to create, he was at one time the London Cemetery Company’s mason.  They owned both Nunhead and Highgate Cemeteries.

Daniel’s was in business until Nunhead closed, or was abandoned depending on your point of view, in 1969.  Afterwards, Henry’s  family home and yard was demolished after being a local landmark for over 100 years. It’s interesting to speculate if it would be preserved today after the fight to preserve the attractive and historic Lander monumental masons showroom near Kensal Green Cemetery’s imposing entrance.   It too was destined to be replaced by another bland apartment block.

It has been suggested that the vault is an advert for Daniel’s masons and I haven’t been able to find any proof of this.  However, to anyone interested in symbols it is a wonderful teaching aid as it has so many.

We begin at the top of the memorial with a woman swathed in draperies with her head looking down.  This is a mourning woman and a return to classical, especially Roman, themes.    They are often portrayed as leaning on an urn or a cross but as you can see this one stands alone.  The Historic England, formerly English Heritage, describes her as ‘a heavily swathed vestal figure.’

A classical Roman mourning figure swathed in robes on top of Daniel vault.. copyright Carole Tyrrell
A classical Roman mourning figure swathed in robes on top of Daniel vault..
copyright Carole Tyrrell

Now look beneath her feet.  There are winged cherubs or putti, one at each corner.  They have wings and so that makes them putti. They too are of classical origin and represent Eros or Cupid.   The flower garland than surround the base of the mourning woman features roses.

This is one of the four cherubs - one at each corner of the base on which the mourning woman stands.. Note flower garland. copyright Carole Tyrrell
This is one of the four cherubs – one at each corner of the base on which the mourning woman stands.. Note flower garland. copyright Carole Tyrrell

Garlands are a symbol of victory over death.

Roses:  This is one of the most popular flowers and means love, beauty and hope.  It has been said that they are associated with the rose without thorns – the Virgin Mary.  A rose is also known as the queen of flowers due to its fragrance and beauty.  Unopened roses still in their bud form often appear on children’s graves.  The longer a person lived, the more full blown the rose would be.  However I think that roses are used more as decoration these days.

Another view of the mourning woman, cherubs and garland. copyright Carole Tyrrell
Another view of the mourning woman, cherubs and garland.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

Now look at the two torches on either side of the epitaph.  These are downturned torches and you will also see cast-iron version on Nun head’s Linden Grove entrance pillars.  This is a common symbol and, when the flame which would normally go out when torch is inverted, it symbolises the eternal flame of life and the resurrection.  There is a variant with a torch that remains upright on a memorial in Kensal Green cemetery which I assume means eternal life.

Close-up of one of the downturned torches. copyright Carole Tyrrell
Close-up of one of the downturned torches.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

Now look down at the elegant Grecian style scrolled decoration and in particular the two very stylised wreaths.  I see them as laurel wreaths and they are again a return to classical symbols.  They symbolise eternal life as they are circular with no beginning or end and also made of evergreens which never die.   A symbol of victory over death and also military or intellectual glory. The word ‘laureate’ come from these and meant poetical or musical achievements.

Note the wreaths at the centre of the scrolling - stylised laurel wreaths. copyright Carole Tyrrell
Note the wreaths at the centre of the scrolling – stylised laurel wreaths.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

At each corner is an Eternal Flame which stands for everlasting life.

The Eternal Flame - originally there were 4 - one at each corner but now there are only 2. copyright Carole Tyrrell

Then we come to the snake wrapped around the anchor. A snake is a symbol of immortality and as such appears in many cultures over thousands of years. .  It’s not an ouroboros as are the ones on Nunhead cemetery’s  entrance pillars.  It has various associations including tattoos in which snakes are seen as potent symbols.

The Grecian scrolling along the sides. copyright Carole Tyrrell
The Grecian scrolling along the sides and the snake and anchor.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

Anchor:  This is a Biblical symbol and is a Christian one of hope.  The early Christians were reputed to have used the anchor as a disguised cross. It’s often set against a rock and so people often assume that it has a sea-faring connection but this isn’t always true.  The Hope and Anchor is a common pub name in the UK.  An anchor with a broken chain represents the end of life.

It’s rare to find so many symbols on one monument and also extremely well carved as well. Although the epitaph is now wearing thin the sentiments of eternal life, love, mortality and victory over death still remain for all to see.

Text and photos copyright Carole Tyrrell

 

Sources:

How to read Symbols, Clare Gibson, Herbert Press, 2008

Nunhead’s Monumental Masons, Ron Woollacott, Nunhead Cemetery An Illustrated Guide, FONC 1988

Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister, Gibbs Smith, 2004

http://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list-entry/1385649

http://www.lsew.org.uk/funerarysymbolism

http://www.oakdalecemetery.org/funerary-art-symbolism.asp

http://tchevelier.com/fallingangels/bckgrnd/cemeteries

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com  – useful resource, currently being updated (Feb 20160

http://www.whats-you-sign.com/snake-meaning-and-snake-tattoo-ideas.html    – tattoo site