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

 

 

 

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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

Poignant and powerful – Beard – a fisherman’s memorial – Hastings East Sussex

Closer view of the powerful and moving photo of ‘Terry Jones aka ‘Beard. Photographer unknown.
©Carole Tyrrell

It was the striking monochrome photo that made me stop to look at this memorial on a day trip to Hastings this month. I’d admired the brand new pier and then wandered along the beach to the fishermen’s section commonly known as the Stade.

The photo was of a man whose tough outdoor life showed in his face and had obviously been a Hastings fisherman. He’d earned his livelihood from the sea in both calm and storm tossed waters with his boat as his only protection as it sailed its course, gulls shrieking overhead for any rejected catch. And then returning to the pebbled Stade at sunrise to offload the catch which would be sold at the Fishmarket later that day.

Beard died aged 68 and may have ended his days as ‘the boy on shore’ which meant that he was no longer able to go out on the boats but, instead, helped bring them ashore or sorted out the catch and nets. He looked quite a character in his photo and I felt that it really captured him.

Hastings fishermen have had the right to use the Stade free of charge for over 800 years. In fact, Stade comes from the Saxon for ‘landing place.’ There are usually 25 boats on the beach and it’s the largest beach launched fishing fleet in Britain. There’s always gulls here looking for any titbits and amidst the pebbles are the usual paraphernalia of fishing; nets, ropes and cuttlefish cages. Near the promenade and the Fishermen’s Museum are the unique tall, black tarred Grade II listed sheds used for storage.  The boats have to be hauled from the sea after each trip so cannot be longer than 10 metres and care only able to travel a few miles.  This makes for an ecologically friendly method of fishing.

But ask any fisherman and he’ll tell that, with quotas and costs,  it’s becoming more and more difficult to make a living from the sea.  In Hastings, there’s also the clash between an old established working community which occupies a large section of valuable land in the Old Town and property developers.  The fishermen strongly opposed the building of the new Jerwood Gallery on part of the Stade.  In fact, ‘No Jerwood’ was the message on one fisherman’s shed.

However, I couldn’t find out much about Beard apart from a brief obituary in the Hastings Observer dated 3 June 2016. It merely said that he’d died peacefully at home on 15 May 2016 and donations were to be given to either the RNLI or Cats Protection.  Under the online condolences was one from a breakdown recovery service who described him as

‘a very jolly, helpful man who will be missed  by the people who knew him…heartfelt condolences and sympathy to all the family.’

So he had a family and was obviously well liked but Beard may have been one of a vanishing breed.   The photo that caught my attention made me wonder about Beard and his life. Memorial benches can often feel very anonymous as there’s usually only a small plaque with a few details but Beard’s photo gave you the man as well.

RIP Beard – may you sail on calm seas forever.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell except for photo of Beard. The photographer is unknown.

http://hastings-fish.co.uk/index.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/nov/09/food.ethicalliving

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2009/may/30/fisherman-working-life

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

 

 

Symbol of the month – the wheatsheaf

Another view of the Milnes monument, Kensal Green Cemetery.
©Carole Tyrrell

I was on a summer stroll in early July of this year in Kensal Green Cemetery when I noticed this symbol.  From where I was standing it resembled a mop head which had dried out and been left on top of a grave.  I was planning to carry on stalking obliging butterflies but curiosity got the better of me and I made my way over to the monument. It was then that I realised that the supposed mop head was in fact a beautifully sculpted wheatsheaf.

‘Had the deceased been a master baker?’ was my first thought as it’s a traditional symbol associated with them or perhaps a pub owner as you do see a lot of pubs called The Wheatsheaf. The epitaphs on both side of the tomb were virtually unreadable. However, on one side I could make out ‘Sarah’ and on the other ‘Milnes’. But more of the Milnes later as this family has a strong connection to Kensal Green Cemetery

A sheaf is a tied bunch of grain stalks after they have been harvested by hand with scythes. However with the advent of agricultural mechanisation it is now a bygone image. No-one has ever known the origins of this staple crop and so it has been regarded by many cultures as a gift from God.

The wheatsheaf and resurrection

However, the wheatsheaf symbol has always had strong associations with the theme of resurrection.

This seemingly humble grain has played its part in many funeral cults and mourning rites throughout ancient cultures. For example, the ancient Greeks and Romans regarded it as life springing from death or immortality. Priests are reputed to have sprinkled wheat flour on their victim’s head prior to sacrificing them.  Ceres and Demeter, the Greek and Roman goddesses of harvest and agriculture, often carried either a wheatsheaf or a harvester’s sickle.  Ancient Egypt was seen as the breadbasket of the ancient Mediterranean due to the volume of crops that it produced and Osiris, god of the underworld, was strongly associated with wheat within the context of a representation of rebirth.

Wheat is also important to the Christian religion with the Eucharist bread which represents the body of Christ and his sacrifice and also in remembrance of the Last Supper. There is the famous biblical quotation from Luke 22:19:

‘and he took bread and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me’ King James Bible.

When wheat is harvested the ground is left to lie still during the winter and then re-sown in the spring to begin the cycle of life again. Here it represents renewal and renewal as the cycle of seasons has once more given grain for bread.  There is also the association with the harvesting of years in that Death and his scythe prepare to reap at the end of life.

So there has always been an association with the wheatsheaf of resurrection and remembrance. This is where it is at its most powerful as a funerary symbol. However, Douglas Keister has also suggested that a wheatsheaf on a tombstone can indicate someone who

‘lived a long and fruitful life of more than seventy years and one that was harvested by the Reaper when it was time’

 The wheatsheaf and the Victorian cult of mourning

This is a lovely example of a wheatsheaf motif within a piece of Victorian mourning jewellery.
I found it on Pinterest and could not find the source of the image.

According to the art of mourning website, the wheatsheaf was also a very popular motif in Victorian mourning jewellery.  In fact they have suggested that it could be seen as a memento mori in that it denotes life cut and renewal or resurrection of the soul.  Its heyday was during 1820-1860 and it also survived into early 20th century mourning jewellery just as it was going out of fashion.  The wheatsheaf was often found in mourning wreaths, brooches, lockets and rings and was an effective emblem when working with hair to create these pieces.

There is also a stained glass window featuring a wheatsheaf at St Michael & All Angels in Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire but this may be a Victorian addition by Kempe after restoration.

But who lies under the Kensal Green wheatsheaf?

Thomas Millnes and his third wife, Jessie’s grave in Kensal Green Cemetery.
©Chris Bell – a family descendant

This grave contains 2 women who were, respectively, the first and second wives of the Victorian sculptor Thomas Milnes.  He is buried with his third and final wife elsewhere within Kensal Green cemetery under a far plainer stone. He certainly lived a long life – his dates are 21 December 1810 – 6 May 1888 but there’s no wheatsheaf on top of him. Milnes completed a number of funerary monuments which can be seen in churches in Gloucestershire, Cumbria and Suffolk and also statues which still stand in Norwich and Woolwich. Milnes exhibited statues and busts at the Royal Academy after entering its schools on 21 April 1841.  He also designed another monument in Kensal Green, the horse and child on top of Alfred Cooke, which, although damaged, is still in place.

However he wasn’t destined to became a major British sculptor despite, in 1858, being invited to design and model the four lions for the base of Nelson’s column.  It would have been the commission of a lifetime but his designs were deemed ‘unsuitable’ and the commission went to Sir Edwin Landseer’s monumental symbols of Empire instead.  However, Milnes lions which are, in my opinion, more lively and playful than Landseer’s can be seen in Saltaire, near Bradford.  After that he seems to have sunk in obscurity.

The ‘Sarah’ that is still legible on one side was Milnes’ first wife: Sarah Betsey Harrad. They married in London on 19 May 1866 but it was short lived.  Sarah died a year later on 1 April 1867 of ‘apoplexy’ which is now known as a stroke or cerebral haemorrhage.  Frances Eidsforth became his second wife on 16 July 1867 at St Georges, Bloomsbury and she died on 16 July 1875. She is buried with Sarah.

Milnes married his third and final wife, Jessie Anne Fletcher, on 1 June 1876 but there were no children from any of his marriages

A closer view of the Milnes wheatsheaf – beautifully carved and assumed to be by Tomas Milnes himself but no direct evidence.
©Carole Tyrrell

Little seems to be known about either Sarah or Frances and it’s a real shame that their epitaphs, presumably on either side of the monument are now illegible.  However I would assume that the wheatsheaf placed on top of them is a symbol or resurrection and a hope that they would all meet again in eternity.

The wheatsheaf is remarkably well carved and has outlasted the epitaphs. It has been presumed  that it is by Milnes himself but no definite proof has been found to be able to attribute it to him with certainty.

 

 

 

There is another smaller wheatsheaf in Kensal Green which is on the Samuel Horsley memorial.

These two examples are from Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River, Massachusetts, USA – I don’t have any further details on them unfortunately.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell otherwise stated

I am indebted to Henry Vivian-Neal from the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery for the biographical details on Thomas Milnes.

References:

Douglas Keister, Stories in Stone: A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography, Gibbs Smith 2004

www.angelfire.com

https://friendsofoakgrovecemetery.org/category/victorian-funeral-symbolism/page/2/

http://artofmourning.com/2011/02/27/symbolism-sunday-wheat/

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

http://www.everlifememorials.com/v/headstones/cemetery-symbolism.htm

https://friendsofoakgrovecemetery.org/category/victorian-funeral-symbolism/page/2/

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

http://www.symbols.com/symbol/wheat

http://www.martin-nicholson.info/cemetery/cemeteryeatonb.htm

https://breadcakesandale.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/harvest-festival-wheat-sheaf-loaf/

http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib7_1206548550

http://biblehub.com/luke/22-19.htm

http://www.saltairevillage.info/saltaire_history_0065_Thomas_Milnes_nearly_man_British_sculpture.html

http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/milnes/chron2.html

 

Coming attractions – Brompton Restoration walk – 19 July 2017

Back view of the chapel swathed in plastic – the East and West wings can be seen flanking it on either side.
©Carole Tyrrell

As part of its major restoration project , Brompton Cemetery held a short series of free walks  around the cemetery last month to discuss future plans.  I joined one which was led by Nigel Thorne, Project Manager and Halima Khanom, Partnership and Community Engagement Officer for the Royal Parks..

The weather had been dull and overcast all day but, as we gathered at the South entrance project office, blue sky suddenly burst through the clouds and it became a lovely golden summer evening bathing the chapel and monuments in a soft glow.  A relief really as we were out in the open throughout. Nigel was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and began by revealing that Brompton had received an impressive grant of £6.2 of which £4.2 had come from the Heritage Lottery Fund (your £1 lottery ticket does something useful after all even if it doesn’t make you a millionaire) and the rest had come from Parks for People.

He added that he saw cemeteries as another form of public space which I’d not previously considered and an aspect that maybe isn’t emphasised enough.  Brompton is already well used as a cut through with joggers much in evidence and people on the edge of the group huddled in so as not to be entangled with cyclists.

South entrance.

  • This was to be updated. Apparently it hadn’t existed when Brompton had opened and had been just been land owned by British Gas. The ex -assistant cemetery manager’s accommodation and the Friends base  was now the Project Office.
  • Almost opposite was a bijou sized building which had been, of all things, a police box dating from when the Royal Parks had had their own police force. It was now hiding behind a temporary fence.

Monument restoration

  • Nigel stopped by the Robert Coombes monument. This is dedicated to a champion sculler and the upturned boat on top of it with his waterman’s coat draped across it had once had a set of oars attached. These were now long gone and so, sadly, were the heads of the four statues, one at each corner. Cemetery vandals always seem to go for the heads of statues.
  • Nigel revealed that this monument was to be restored at a cost of around £40k. However, although the HLF grant included £140k for monument restoration, a substantial legacy would instead pay for Mr Coombes.  We noticed that there was a tabletop grave very near to Coombes which was being propped up by blocks of wood.

Chapel – mysteries and surprises:

  • Nigel almost shuddered as he related stories of the horrors of 1970’s restoration. ‘They would have been better off leaving it alone!’ he said with feeling. There is a gap between the inner and outer dome which is accessible but a tight squeeze apparently.  A good opportunity I thought , to explore and record areas not normally accessible. It’s envisaged that the Chapel will be open more often once restoration is complete and visitors to a recent art exhibition were very pleased to have an additional opportunity to go inside.
  • There would be a disabled visitors’ ramp at the chapel entrance to increase access.
  • Nigel pointed up at the crumbling Bath Stone visible along the top of the East wing’s roof. ‘Very soft.’ he explained.
Crumbling Bath stone on one of the chapel’s wings.
©Carole Tyrrell
  • Two huge basements had been found under each of the East and West wings. The latter was originally the cemetery supervisor’s office. But there was a surprised in the West wing as there were no stairs making it inaccessible.
  • Another secret had been discovered when investigating the floor. It had always been assumed that it had been made from poured concrete but this was revealed to actually be lino. When that was taken up there was a lovely flagstone floor in a radial pattern – something to see when the chapel is reopened.

Nigel indicated where Brompton’s original owners had run out of money and the lonely cupola above a colonnade marked the spot.

The Western catacombs:

  • These were never used as catacombs but they form part of the boundary walls facing onto the rail and tube line. A gated and blocked entrance at either end still remains with a far grander one in the centre. Originally it had a promenade over the top on which visitors could walk and admire the fields and canal on the other side but these are obviously long gone. Parts of the promenade still remain but I wouldn’t fancy walking on it now. Some of the wall is now supported by buttresses and one end of the catacombs is now in the new Horticultural team’s area.
  • When opened the catacombs were found to full of spoil which took a year to dig out. This had to be done as it was pushing out the wall that faced onto the railway line.

Improved paths and access

  • Nigel told us that all of Brompton’s current paths are made of tarmac. This leads to a uniformity of paths that can be confusing for a visually impaired visitor. As a result, one blind woman had no idea where she was in Brompton. It was now hoped to have a hierarchy of paths to counteract this.

Cemetery maintenance:

  • We paused by a rampant area of long grass and wildflowers (or weeds depending on your point of view). Nigel commented that the area needed a tidy up and that grave owners in the area had been given Brompton’s policy and their obligations at the time of burial – no vertical tombstones or planting.
  • A perennial problem was the planting of small trees and shrubs on graves which are now huge. According to Nigel they reduce light and space as well as damaging and obscuring memorials and monuments. He indicated a somewhat spindly rose bush which looked very untended.
  • A huge laurel plant had had its lower branches lopped but regrowth had already started. There was a monument just underneath it which we could hardly see. I found others examples such as the Mary King grave by the chapel.

Wildlife:

  • There’s a debate between those who like cemetery to look messy to encourage wildlife and those who don’t. I personally like wild areas to encourage this as Brompton is known for its large crow population and I’ve disturbed the odd sunbathing fox.  The large bramble stands, in Nigel’s opinion, were of benefit only to the foxes as hiding places.

Garden of Remembrance:

  • The tall hedges surrounding it are to be reduced in size as they encourage anti-social behaviour.  Visitors can buy a 1m memorial tablet under which up to 4 urns can be buried.

Visitors café and centre:

  • Work on the visitors centre and café is well on schedule – I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the speed at which they are being built.  Nigel added that the café was intended to be a social enterprise and not another outpost of one of the chains. It would be staffed by local people and use local produce (blackberry jam anyone?).  The visitors centre opposite had all sorts of exciting plans such as allowing visitors access to Brompton’s records of the 200k people buried within it.

A fascinating walk – our thanks to Nigel and Halima – which covered not only Brompton’s ambitious restoration plans but also some of the problems of cemetery maintenance and restoration.