On another recent return visit to Beckenham cemetery in order to research symbols I discovered some more mosaics on memorials. They were mainly small colourful crosses, either at the corners of a memorial or, in the case of one larger cross, the centrepiece of the epitaph.
This is the simple but moving Denson memorial. It’s dedicated to Gladys Winifred and baby Mary who were ‘the well beloved wife and daughter of Percy Clifford Denson. The scarlet cross really stood out amid the other plainer granite tombstones. The verses that surround the cross read:
There is no death an angel shape
Walks over the earth with silent tread
He bears our best love thins away
And then we call them dead.
Born into that undying life
Thy leave us but to come again
And ever near us though unseen
The dear immortal spirits tread
For all the boundless universe is life
There is no dead’
This has been adapted from the well know 19th century poem ‘There is no Death’ by John Luckey McCreery (1835-1906) although it has been mistakenly credited to Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It was written in 1863 and, in 1893, McCreery wrote to an Iowa newspaper to remind readers that it was his work.
This is the poem in full with the relevant quotations from the Denson epitaph marked in bold:
There is no death! The stars go down
To rise upon some other shore
And bright in heaven’s jewelled crown
They shine for evermore
There is no death! The dust we tread
Shall change beneath the summer showers
To golden grain or mellow fruit
Or rainbow-tinted flowers
The granite rocks disorganise
To feed the hungry moss they bear:
The forest leaves drink daily life
From out the viewless air.
There is no death! The leaves may fall,
And flowers may fade and pass away –
They only wait, through wintry hours,
The coming of the May.
There is no death! An angel form
Walks o’er the earth with silent tread
He bears our best-loved things away,
And then we call them “dead”.
He leaves our hearts all desolate –
He plucks our fairest, sweetest flowers,
Transplanted into bliss, they now
Adorn immortal bowers.
The bird-like voice, whose joyous tones
Made glad this scene of sin and strife,
Sings now an everlasting song
Amid the tree of life.
Where’er He sees a smile too bright,
Or soul too pure for taint of vice,
He bears it to that world of light,
To dwell in Paradise.
Born unto that undying life,
They leave us but to come again:
With joy we welcome them –the same
Except in sin and pain.
And ever near us, though unseen,
The dear immortal sprits tread,
For all the boundless universe
Is Life –there is no dead!
This is one of a pair of gold crosses that are on either side of Harold Chenowith’s (1898-1934) tombstone.
And more golden crosses on each of the corners of Ada Gregory’s monument. She died in February 1939 but her husband, Thomas, who was killed in action in November 1917 is also commemorated here. As the final line of the epitaph states ‘ Reunited.’
Finally, this is a vase which has been incorporated into the headstone of Margery Alice, ‘beloved wife of Frank Thompson, who ‘passed peacefully away on 6 October 1934 aged 39.’
These mosaics decorations all seem to date from the 1930’s and so are pre-Second World War. So far I have been unable to discover the reason behind the vogue for this embellishment and so I will continue to look for them whenever I visit a cemetery.
© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell