Another afternoon with the dead and famous – a visit to St Pancras Old Church and churchyard Part 3

Part 3 The Man Who Never Was, Bach, Beatles and a man (or woman) ahead of their time)

he Coroner;s Court behind the churchyard under which 7000 bodies were interred.
©Carole Tyrrell

The Coroner’s Court is situated at the rear of the churchyard and, according to Lester,  7000 bodies had been re-interred beneath it. He hinted at a connection between it and The Man Who Never Was.

This was a Second World War ruse called Operation Mincemeat.  A cadaver was obtained and dressed up to become a Major William Martin, R N and put into the sea near Huelva, Spain.  A briefcase was attached to the body which contained fake papers which falsely stated that the Allied attack would be against Sardinia and Greece instead of Sicily which was the actual point of invasion. When the body was found, the Spanish Intelligence service passed copies of the papers to their German counterparts who in  turn passed them onto their High Command. It was  very successful  as the Germans still believed that Sardinia and Greece were the targets weeks after the landings in Sicily had begun. But the true identity of The Man Who Never Was has never been revealed although there have been several theories. BBC Radio’s The Goon Show which was hugely popular in the 1950’s were fascinated by it and The Man Who Never Was featured in several episodes.

In 1968 The Beatles needed some new publicity photos and so they embarked on a Mad Day Out in London.  Don, now Sir, McCullin accompanied them as photographer.  St Pancras church and churchyard were one of the locations they visited much to the delight of local residents. There are many photos of the day online and this is the very bench on which they sat in these photos.  It’s amazing to look at the photos now as they look so spontaneous and not part of a publicity machine. It’s a step back in time when stars were more accessible.

Nearby is the memorial stone to the English Bach, Johann Christian Bach(1735-1762).

He is also known as the  ‘London’ Bach and was the eighteenth (!) child of Johann Sebastian Bach and the youngest of his eleven sons. He moved to London in 1762and premiered 2 operas at The Kinds Theatre which established his reputation.  Queen Charlotte employed him as her music master and  in 1766 he married a much younger singer, Cecelia Grassi,  but the union was childless.  Bach’s symphonies and concertos were very popular in fashionable London circles but by the late 1770’s his fortunes had reversed. After his death on New Year’s Day 1782, Queen Charlotte had to cover his estate’s expenses and to provide a pension for his widow after his steward had embezzled his money.

Lester said that the memorial stone moves around a lot but not whether it was of its own volition…..

But towering over it is the Burdett-Coutts Memorial sundial. This impressive and attractive, in my opinion, structure was built during 1877-79.  It’s very High Victorian Gothic and could be seen in some people’s eyes as a Marmite construction in that you either loathe or love it.  The sundial is also known as an obelisk and it was created as a memorial to the people buried near the church whose graves were disturbed by the Midland rail works. It comprises of a tall square tower in a Gothic style with a tall Portland stone pinnacle bearing a sundial. Columns of pink and grey granite support it and are on either side of four inscribed marble plaques, These are topped by a Gothic arch and relief sculptures of St Giles and St Pancras.  The steps are decorated with mosaic panels featuring flowers, butterflies and the sun.  There are also animal sculptures at each of the four corners of the enclosure surrounding the sundial.

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (1814 -1906) was a wealthy philanthropist who inherited her grandfather’s huge fortune. It was £1.8 million at the time but in modern terms is now roughly £160,000,000.

Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett Coutts (1814-1906)
Painter unknown. Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

The Baroness was always unconventional. She fended off fortune hunters and instead gave practical help to the East End’s poor. It has been said that Coutts is Cockney slang for ‘boots.’  Angela worked with Dickens to set up a home and rescue centre for prostitutes and ‘fallen women’ in London’s Shepherds Bush. A significant patron to artists and actors, the RSPCA and many other causes.

After inheriting Holly Lodge in Highgate, her grandfather’s mansion, she created the nearby Holly Village in 1865 for her staff. These are Gothic style houses set around a village green and are now very sought after. In 1881, the Baroness married her 29 year old American secretary, William Ashmead, when she was 67.   The Baroness was buried in Westminster Abbey after dying aged 92 in 102.  As the saying goes, her works live on in her name.

But there is a name on one of the plaques who also defied conventional and was ahead of his, or her, time.

This was the Chevalier d’Eon (1728-1810) a transgender person who moved in high circles in France and Britain during the 18th century.  The Chevelier’s full name was Charles Genevieve Louis Auguste Andre Timothee d’Eon de Beaumont but Chevelier d’Eon for short. She was born a male and obtained a law degree, published books on the French tax system, was knighted and was also a celebrated fencer. What could come next?  A double life.

In public the Chevalier was a diplomat to Russia and England but in private he was employed by the most secret spy service in France.  This was the Le Secret Du Roi or the King’s Secret.  He reported directly to Louis XV and became, as a result, the temporary liaison to the English court in 1763.  When denied the permanent position he then published a book of French state secrets  which he’d collected during his spy’s life but ensuring that he kept back the most controversial.  This ensured that he remained on Louis XV’s payroll.  A tricky tactician as well and as a result he accepted political exile in England.  He became a celebrated public figure  but in 1770 a controversy began.  It was suggested that she had been born a woman but had been raised as a man in order to collect a family inheritance.  Bets were placed on the London Stock Exchange and it was suggested that she had placed some herself.  However in 1777 she was officially declared to be a woman at the age of 49. Chevalier then negotiated her return to France with the French government. She gave them the remaining incriminating documents still in her possession and agreed to publicly present as a woman for the rest of her life.

But life was dull after being a spy and diplomat and she returned to London never to leave again. But after the French Revolution she lost her pension from her days as a spy.  Despite continuing to write she lived the rest of her life in poverty.   But on her death it was finally discovered that she had been a man all along.

A final, fascinating tale of another unconventional St Pancras resident who left behind a reputation and flamboyance.

And here she lies in a London churchyard with many others who made up part of the capital’s cosmopolitan inhabitants. People who were not afraid to take risks, to go against the grain, to set in motion changes to society even though they would not live to see them.

It was quite a shock to leave St Pancras and walk up to the Euston Road and enter the teeming, bustling modern world again.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

A Walk in the Past – a churchyard tour Of St Pancras Old Church – St Pancras Old church guidebook

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

 http://casterbridge.blogspot.com/2009/05/levelled-churchyard.html

https://www.theflyawayamerican.com/st-pancras-old-church-london/

http://thelondondead.blogspot.com/2014/06/polly-peachum-and-black-hole-of.html

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Burdett-Coutts,_1st_Baroness_Burdett-Coutts

https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/angela-burdett-coutts-born-london

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-incredible-chevalier-deon-who-left-france-as-a-male-spy-and-returned-as-a-christian-woman

https://www.them.us/story/chevalier-d-eon-trans-woman

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

 

 

Another afternoon with the dead and famous – a visit to St Pancras Old Church and churchyard Part 2  

The Mills headstone showing the fateful words ‘Black Hole.’ Nowadays we think of Black Holes differently.
©Carole Tyrrell

Escape from the Black Hole, the inspiration for a British icon and Frankenstein

A worn and damaged headstone, with a missing top half marks the last resting place of Captain John Mills who escaped from the Black Hole of Calcutta. He was buried with his wife Isabella and her epitaph was n the missing half.  They were an interesting couple.

She was born in 1735 and became a singer of some renown. In 1760 David Garrick persuaded her to take the part of Polly Peachum in ‘The Beggar’s Opera’. But she gave up the stage to marry Capt Mills after the death of her first husband.  They spent several years in India before returning to England. She died aged 92 in London in 1802.

Lester invited us to take a closer look so we all drew closer and yes, the words Black Hole were inscribed on the remaining half of the tombstone. But what was the Black Hole?

According to The London Dead blog:

‘the Black Hole of Calcutta’ is a controversial incident of 1756 where troops of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, allegedly placed  146 British and Anglo-Indian prisoners overnight in conditions  so cramped that 123 of them died. John Zephaniah Holwell, later Governor of Bengal, was included among the prisoners….Mr Holwell, though alive, was now unconscious…carried towards a window so tha the air there, being less foul, might revive him. But each man near the window refused to give up his place, for that meant possiby giving up his life. Only one, Captain Mills, was brave enough, unselfish enough, to give way to Mr Howell.’

John Zephaniah Howell (1711-1796)
shared under Wiki Creative Commons

 

Capt Mills was obviously a courageous and compassionate man who died aged 89 on 29 July 1811.  The Scots Magazine gave him a fulsome obituary but sadly I have been unable to find a picture of him.

However, today the words ‘Black Hole’ have a somewhat different connotation and I did find myself looking for any hovering wormholes or portals.

 

 

William Jones, one of Charles Dickens schoolteachers, has a headstone here with a little plaque commemorating this fact. However, Dickens didn’t  remember Mr Jones fondly at all and based the character, Mr Creakle, from David Copperfield on him.  Dicken recalled Mr Jones as:

‘by far the most ignorant man I have ever had the pleasure to know…one of the worst tempered men that ever lived.’

 

Sir John Soane’s monument within its little enclosure is one of only 2 Grade 1 listed monument within London cemeteries. The other is Karl Marx in Highgate. Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was an architect who designed in the Neo-Classical style and his monument was heavily influenced by it.  He was the architect of the Bank of England, although little of his work there exists now, and Dulwich Picture Gallery.  However, it’s his museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields that has proved to be his lasting legacy.  It’s well worth a visit as it’s very idiosyncrastic and gives you a glimpse into Soane’s influences.

The mausoleum was erected after Soane’s wife’s death in 1815.  It contains him, one of his sons and his wife.  He was estranged from his other son.  The information board states:

‘Classical design. The central marble cube has four faces for dedicatory inscriptions, enclosed by a marble canopy suppoted on four Ionic columns, Enclosing this central structure is a small balustrade with a flight of steps down into the vault. The central domed structure influenced sIr Giles Gilbert Scott’s design of the telephone kiosk.’

The phonebox is another British institution and, although it may now be an endangered species due to mobile phones, it’s still instantly recognisable. I often see tourists posing by one. At their height there were approx 90,000 in use but this has now dropped to roughly 10,000. But redundant phone boxes can still have their uses: I have seen them used to house libraries or defibrilators.

Mary Shelley (1797-1851) author of Frankenstein
Painting by Richard Rothwell. Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

 

Mary Shelley, the writer of Frankenstein, used to walk through the churchyard with her future husband, Percy, as they discussed their elopement.  The fateful night at the Villa Diodata in Italy in 1816 not only produced Mary’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ but also ‘The Vampyr’. Its writer, John Polidori, is also buried in St Pancras. Mary’s parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft have memorials here but their remains were transferred to Bournemouth as a result of the railway works during the 19th century. We noticed the offerings placed on top of William’s monument.

Mary Wollstonecraft died 10 days after giving birth to Mary on 10 September 1797 aged 38.  This echoes one of Frankenstein’s central themes which is life from death. She was the author of one of the first feminist works, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in 1792. The Godwins led an unconventional life and Mary had an affair with the painter Henry Fuseli. She was rediscovered as one of the great feminist icons at the turn of the 20th century.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

A Walk in the Past – a churchyard tour Of St Pancras Old Church – St Pancras Old church guidebook

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

http://casterbridge.blogspot.com/2009/05/levelled-churchyard.html

https://www.theflyawayamerican.com/st-pancras-old-church-london/

http://thelondondead.blogspot.com/2014/06/polly-peachum-and-black-hole-of.html

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Burdett-Coutts,_1st_Baroness_Burdett-Coutts

https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/angela-burdett-coutts-born-london

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-incredible-chevalier-deon-who-left-france-as-a-male-spy-and-returned-as-a-christian-woman

https://www.them.us/story/chevalier-d-eon-trans-woman

 

Another afternoon with the dead and famous – a visit to St Pancras Old Church and churchyard Part 1

 

 

Old St Pancras church – note Victorian ‘improvement’ of additional tower.
©Carole Tyrrell

Part 1 The Church and the Hardy Tree

Despite their transformation into swish new, trendy areas of London,  Kings Cross and St Pancras still retain their historical origins if you know where to look.

However, I can remember when St Pancras was the station that time forgot. In fact if Stephenson’s Rocket had puffed its way along a platform at one time I wouldn’t have been surprised, The MIdland Grand, an enormous rabbit warren of a building was still awaiting its Cinderella like transformation in 2003/4.  Now, reborn as St Pancras Renaissance, it’s always a magnificent sight to see as you perambulate along the Euston Road.

But behind St Pancras International, as it’s now known,  there is still a part of London that has welcomed  visitors and immigrants from all over the world and is testament to the capital’s ever-changing history.

In this quiet part of North London, if you listen hard enough you can still hear the running feet of The Beatles or Mary and Percy Shelley discussing their elopement as they take a Sunday afternoon stroll. But, even more gruesomely, you might also hear body snatchers plying their trade.

This is St Pancras Old Church and churchyard.  But it’s not to be confused with St Pancras New Church which is the one with the weirdly proportioned caryatids that face the Euston Road.

The Research History Group of Brompton Cemetery visited on an overcast September afternoon when the churchyard, or park, as it’s now known seemed sombre and silent under the canopy of the 160 year old tress.  But it wasn’t always like this. Our knowledgeable guide, Lester Hillman, told us that during the 19th century, instead of the elegant iron railings that border the front of the churchyard , there had been pubs and adjacent to the church there had been a terrace of houses.

The famous music hall star Dan Leno had been born in one of them.  During the 1850‘s there had been balloon ascents as well and I did wonder how the permanent residents of St Pancras had ever got any of their eternal rest.

Charles Dickens who lived opposite the churchyard as a child described it as:

‘ a desolate place surrounded by little else but fields and ditches’

This seems incredible now as the area is so built up. Dickens featured St Pancras in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in which one of the characters, Jerry Cruncher and his son, Jerry Jnr, visit the churchyard in order to ‘fishing’. This was a euphemism for body snatching which was rife at the time.

Jerry Cruncher’;s friends going fishing from A Tale of Two Cities.
©Goodreads

Although the churchyard is now much smaller, during 1689-1845 88,000 burials took place in it and It’s estimated that 1.5%  of the 66 million Londoners who have lived in the capital over the centuries have been buried here. It closed to burials in 1850 and was acquired by parish authorities becoming a public park in June 1877.

We first visited the church which is very attractive and to walk through its door is to walk into London’s past. Roman, Norman and Tudor brickwork are almost cheek by jowl with each other and the memorial of the very first burial is preserved on a wall near the altar.  This is to a Mary Berisford who was interred on a very auspicious day, 21 August 1588, which was the day of the Spanish Armada. On the opposite wall is the memorial to Daniel Clark (died 1613) and his wife, Katherine (died 1627) and he was cook to Elizabeth 1st.    This large monument is dedicated to William Platt and his wife and they look as if they’re sitting in a box at the theatre.

The memorial to William Platt and his wife inside the church
©Carole Tyrrell

A piece of a Roman altar is embedded in the top of the present one. It was found nearby and seems appropriate as St Pancras was a Roman saint.

According to the guidebook, the church:

‘may possibly date back to the 4th century…..the present building has been here since the 11th or 12th century  close to the River Fleet.’

A picture of the church in 1827 taken from an information board.
©Carole Tyrrell

The river now runs underground but continues to supply Highgate Ponds.  Lester informed us that the 17th generation descendant of Richard III swam in them daily. However, little remains of the medieval church.

A memorial to a bygone occupation that of pew opener
©Carole Tyrrell

As we left the church to enter the churchyard I spotted a wall memorial to a Amelia Rogers whose occupation was given as ‘pew-opener’. This undoubtedly referred to the days when there were box pews with doors and she was obviously greatly valued.

 

One of the features for which the churchyard is renowned is The Hardy Tree.  This is an ash tree which has grown in and around the headstones placed around it.  Sadly, the tree isn’t looking very healthy these days and an exclusion fence has had to be placed around it as branches have fallen from it. Fungus is clearly visible.  The Hardy connection comes from the novelist Thomas Hardy.

Thomas Hardy (1840-19280
Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

During 1862-67, as a young man, he studied architecture under Arthur Blomfield, in London. At this time, the Midland Railway was being built over part of the churchyard and Hardy was given the task of supervising the proper exhumation of human remains and the dismantling of tombs.

In The Early Life, Hardy recounts being involved with the overseeing of churchyards that were being cut through by railroad companies. His employer, Arthur Blomfield, described “returning from visiting the site on which all the bodies were said by the railway companies to be reinterred; but there appeared to be nothing deposited, the surface of the ground quite level as before” In order to make sure the bodies were actually buried properly, Hardy was asked to check one such job at irregular intervals. One evening, accompanied by Blomfield, he watched as a coffin fell apart. Out dropped a skeleton and two skulls. When years later he met Arthur Blomfield again, “among the latter’s first words were: ‘Do you remember how we found the man with two heads at St. Pancras?'” http://casterbridge.blogspot.com/2009/05/levelled-churchyard.html

In 1882, 20 years later, he wrote the poem ‘The Levelled Churchyard’ which may refer to this period.

‘O passenger, pray list and catch
Our sighs and piteous groans,
Half stifled in this jumbled patch
Of wrenched memorial stones!

“We late-lamented, resting here,
Are mixed to human jam,
And each to each exclaims in fear,
‘I know not which I am!’

The wicked people have annexed
The verses on the good;
A roaring drunkard sports the text
Teetotal Tommy should!

“Where we are huddled none can trace,
And if our names remain,
They pave some path or p-ing place
Where we have never lain!

“There’s not a modest maiden elf
But dreads the final Trumpet,
Lest half of her should rise herself,
And half some local strumpet!

“From restorations of Thy fane,
From smoothings of Thy sward,
From zealous Churchmen’s pick and plane
Deliver us O Lord! Amen!”

 

The Hardy Tree is a London legend but no-one’s quite sure if Hardy himself placed the headstones there. However, it was certainly created at the right time. With the Eurostar coming to St Pancras in 2007, another part of the churchyard was lost and there has been a Hardy Homage.  A graceful swirl or half circle of headstones marks the spot

The homage to the Hardy Tree when Eurostar took a piece of the churchyard away.
©Carole Tyrrell

Part 2: Escape from the Black Hole, the inspiration for a British icon and Frankenstein

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

A Walk in the Past – a churchyard tour Of St Pancras Old Church – St Pancras Old church guidebook

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

 http://casterbridge.blogspot.com/2009/05/levelled-churchyard.html

https://www.theflyawayamerican.com/st-pancras-old-church-london/

http://thelondondead.blogspot.com/2014/06/polly-peachum-and-black-hole-of.html

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Burdett-Coutts,_1st_Baroness_Burdett-Coutts

https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/angela-burdett-coutts-born-london

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-incredible-chevalier-deon-who-left-france-as-a-male-spy-and-returned-as-a-christian-woman

https://www.them.us/story/chevalier-d-eon-trans-woman

 

 

Madam, have you paid the correct fare for that coffin? Part 3 of exploring Brookwood Cemetery and the Necropolis Railway

US war rave section, Brookwood Cemetery
©Carole Tyrrell

I hadn’t visited Brookwood Cemetery for over 20 years and remembered it being sprawling, vast and with large empty sections. It was the largest cemetery in the world at the time of the creation of the Necropolis Railway and, at 500 acres, is still the largest in Europe.   Under azure skies  during the 2018 hot spell we alighted at Brookwood station and found that the entrance into the cemetery was closed.

So we took a longer route into the cemetery and wended our way through the village  The pub that had been by the station when I last visited was now offices.  I always thought that it should have been called The Coffin’s Rest but it was probably something a lot less amusing.  The cemetery was once privately owned but is now in the safe keeping of Woking Council.  Its first burial was the still born twins of a Mrs Hore who lie in an unmarked grave.  There is an actors section not far from the train station and amongst Brookwood’s permanent residents are Evelyn De Morgan, painter John Singer Sargent, novelist Rebecca West and more recently, the architect of the Olympic Velodrome Zena Hadid. After walking through undergrowth we came upon the War Graves section of Brookwood.

According to the War Graves information board:

‘Brookwood has the largest section of Commonwealth war graves in the UK. It contains over 5000 Commonwealth war graves as well as 800 war graves of other nationalities.’

 As we walked through the different sections with their lines of dazzling white crosses we all felt a real sense of how it must feel to see endless lines of them in France and Belgium.

We got an idea of how dramatic the huge French and Belgian war grave cemeteries would look in size.
©Carole Tyrrell

‘The military cemetery was established just after the end of the First World War and then extended after the Second World War.  It has the Cross of Sacrifice designed by Blomfield and Lutyens Stone of Remembrance as seen in European military cemeteries.

There are also two memorials; the 1914-18 on which is recorded 260 service personnel whose graves are unknown and also the 1939-1945 which records over 3400 men and women of the Commonwealth and forces who dies at sea, in raids on Occupied Europe and also special agents who lost their lives in enemy territory.’

 

We walked through the American, Canadian and RAF sections and saw that the Chelsea Pensioners were also represented. In fact it was in the American section that the final scenes of the original Omen were filmed. In the distance we could hear gunfire which was presumably from nearby Pirbright army barracks and added to to the scene.

After leaving the military section, a path called Pine Walk led us through the Muslim burial section.  A Muslim has to be buried within 24 hours and when I’d last visited there had only been a handful of memorials. Now it is a large, rambling section and Zena Hadid is interred here.  Minarets and domes held sway here instead of crosses, solemn angels and doves.  However, It was plain to see from one grave that the incumbent was a fan of a certain sport.

 

By the entrance from the station there is a preserved piece of the original track and Mr Clarke explained that the original rail station was named Necropolis Junction.  Then we set off to follow the Railway’s tracks.

 

The North station buildings are now long gone although a small sign saying Railway Walk marks the spot. The area is fenced off and was sold off to a group that specialised in above ground burials.  But the platform edge could still be seen through the chain-link fencing.

We then continued the scenic walk along the avenue of towering redwoods for which the cemetery is rightly celebrated.  The shade was very welcome and flitting butterflies accompanied us..  I saw one of the largest Comma butterflies I’ve ever seen gratefully basking on a tall, thick Redwood tree trunk before summoning up the energy to fly on.   Butterflies were everywhere and often air dancing in pairs.  A member of the party briefly saw a rabbit hopping across a path and into bushes.  I said ‘You know you’re in the country now.’

Instead of the vast empty spaces that I recalled,  there are now several religions and sects that have taken over vacant sub-plots and so you will find Catholic, Zorastrian, Muslim and Persian sects nestling next to a Swedish religion’s permanent religions amongst others. A far cry from the Victorian view of never shall they meet even in death from the Bishop of London in the 19th century.

Eventually the large rambling Victorian South station chapel buildings came into view.  The station buildings fell prey to arsonists in the 1970’s and were subsequently demolished.  But the platform has been left in place and a small yew hedge marks what was once the track bed. The station chapel and mortuary chapel are now the home of the Brotherhood of St Edward.  This is a sect which has an Orthodox background and when I last visited had had a healthy number of young members. However, times change and now there are only 4.

Someone’s got a sense of humour in the Brotherhood, Brookwood Cemetery
©Carole Tyrrell

We were very fortunate as an elderly Brother, dressed in Orthodox style costume, came out to invite us inside and to show us round their chapel which had been converted from what was the old mortuary chapel. There is a small museum on Brookwood and the Railway housed under the stairs. The chapel interior was far more ornate than I remembered and the Brother indicated the side benches which were in place of pews. They weren’t designed to sit on but rather to perch on. He explained that they usually stand or prostrate themselves during services.  Paintings of icons lined the walls and he explained that modern day icon painters used acrylic paints instead of egg tempura as it was cheaper.  The Brothers produce beeswax candles which they sell from their chapel.

I glanced over at the adjacent building as we entered the chapel as I  could see the lawn where ,on a Brookwood Open Day during the 1990’s, I had bought marzipan chocolate covered coffins from Jean Pateman of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

Under the unforgiving sun, we all met at the lodge by the main entrance and enjoyed some welcome shade under trees as well as tea and biscuits. But I noticed a group gathering around something on the ground.  Another Brookwood surprise.   It was the novelist, Dennis Wheatley’s, memorial tablet. The Prince of Thriller Writers as the inscription read.

Dennis Wheatley’s memorial plaque. Hr wrote classics such as The Devil Rides Out.
©Carole Tyrrell

If you are planning to visit Brookwood allow at least a day to get round it and you may be alone for most of it.  There is a Brookwood Society group : https://www.tbcs.org.uk/ and they hold monthly guided tours.  If you come by train and the cemetery entrance is closed then ensure that you have directions from the station to the main entrance. Brookwood is impressive and well worth the trip!

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

 

References:

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

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

http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20161018-the-passenger-train-that-carried-the-dead

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/secret-london/london-necropolis-railway.htm

https://www.john-clarke.co.uk/brookwoodnecropolis.html

https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-cemeteries-and-memorials/44400/brookwood-military-cemetery

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

 

 

 

 

 

Madam, have you paid the correct fare for that coffin Part 2 – exploring Brookwood Cemetery and the Necropolis Railway

Vintage photo showing Necropolis Railway in action, Brookwood Museum/
©Carole Tyrrell

If I wanted to be flippant I could have subtitled this post ‘The Tracks of my tears’ as 1, and a group of members of The Dracula Society, enjoyed a guided tour along the fragments of the Necropolis Railway in deepest Surrey.   Our guide, John Clarke, had given a fascinating talk on the Railway after discovering the abandoned North station buildings at Brookwood in the 1970’s.

The Necropolis Railway was commonly known as The Stiffs Express and ran from a dedicated platform at Waterloo station to Brookwood station or Necropolis Junction as it was originally known.  It was created by Victorian enterprise and entrepreneurship in 1854 as its owners eagerly anticipated a lucrative trade from transporting up to 10,000 bodies a year to the new Brookwood Cemetery.   This was approximately 23 miles out of London and was envisaged as relieving the pressure on overcrowded city churchyards.  The Railway had two stations; North and South. One was for Anglicans and the other was for Non-Conformists which was basically anyone who wasn’t an Anglican.

The Victorian class system was rigidly enforced on the Railway even in death. Charles Blomfield, the Bishop of London, declared that it was completely unacceptable for the families of people from different social classes, living or dead, to be forced to share the same train on the journey to the cemetery. After all, no-one wanted people who had led ‘decent and wholesome’ lives to be placed in the hearse car beside those who had led ‘less moral’ lives.  You might think that once someone’s dead what does it matter…..

The Railway wasn’t cheap. Here are the fares with their modern equivalent:

1st  class  6s       = £92

2nd class  3s 6d  = £23

3rd class  2s 6d   = £12

Coffin tickets were priced for 1st/2nd/3rd     class according to the type of funeral booked.

A train left Waterloo at 11.40am and there was a return one to Waterloo at 3.30pm so mourners could be out in the countryside most of the day. This meant that, unless the funeral was on a Sunday, a working person would have to lose a day’s pay.  However refreshments were available at both stations and consisted of home cooked ham sandwiches and fairy cakes. At the talk, Mr Clarke revealed that there had been a sign over the counter announcing ‘Spirits served here.’  There were only two accidents during its 90 years of existence and neither involved fatalities.

But the anticipated trade didn’t take off.  Instead of 10,000 burials per year it was at best roughly 2000 and by the 1930’s the train journeys had tailed off to 1 or 2 a week.  It was the Luftwaffe that finally killed off the Necropolis Railway and it closed forever on 11 May 1941.  After the end of Second World War its surviving parts were sold off as office space.

But we still found its traces around Waterloo. On Westminster Bridge Road the magnificent booking hall still stands with most of the original features intact although the London Necropolis Railway sign has long since gone.  The booking hall dates from 1902 and used to be the HQ of the British Haemophilia Society but is now the offices of a Maritime broker.

Then we walked up Lower Marsh and into Hercules Street to see what remained of one of the 3rd class platforms.  These were meant for working people and, as we looked along the underneath of the platform from ground level, someone in our group pointed out the metal posts on the pavement beneath. These were inscribed with the word ‘LIFE’ whereas the platform up above had been concerned with Death. A hotel is now in place of where the cortege dramatically swept through Waterloo station as they entered.

The Railway was revived in 2017 by the London Dungeon as a Halloween attraction called The Death Express.

Then onto Brookwood Cemetery which I had last visited 20 years ago.  I was looking forward to seeing if it had changed….

Part 2 Brookwood Cemetery, its link with the Omen and a last surprise.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References:

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

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

http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20161018-the-passenger-train-that-carried-the-dead

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/secret-london/london-necropolis-railway.htm

https://www.john-clarke.co.uk/brookwoodnecropolis.html

https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-cemeteries-and-memorials/44400/brookwood-military-cemetery

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

 

How a piece of glittering Venice came to SE18 – a  visit to St Georges Garrison Church, Woolwich

The Victoria Cross memorial in full.
©Carole Tyrrell

For years a romantic ruined church fascinated me whenever I saw it from the bus as we sped along Grand Depot Road in Woolwich.   There seemed to be no reason for it to be there, standing quietly under spreading trees with an unlovely corrugated roof over part of it and no sign nearby. Sometimes I could see what I thought was a large mural at the very back of it and always meant to get off and have a closer look.  Then the bus would move on and I would forget about it again.

Exterior view of St George’s which doesn’t indicate of the riches inside
Shared under wiki Creative Commons

 

So it wasn’t until 2017, on an Open House weekend, that I finally visited it and discovered what makes this church, or what’s left of it, unique.  The mural was actually a mosaic and one of the glittering, restored mosaics which is assumed to have been made by a famous workshop in Venice.   They are the survivors of an interior which was once richly decorated with them.  But why are they here in SE18?

The marching feet of the parade ground may have now become the marching feet of commuters on their way to the DLR but there’s still many reminders of Woolwich’s military past to be found. The church’s official name is St George’s Garrison Church and it was built to serve the Royal Artillery. Once an important and landmark building that could hold 1700 people inside, it didn’t always sit in solitude. When it was originally built in 1862-63 in the Italian-Romanesque style it was part of the Royal Artillery barracks with the parade ground before it.

St George’s was built as many other garrison churches, hospitals and barracks in response to the outcry about soldiers living conditions after the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and to improve the ‘moral wellbeing’ of the soldiers.

However, St George’s decline began in the First World War when it was bombed and its rose window destroyed. But, on 13 July 1944, a flying bomb started a fire that gutted the interior.    During the 1950’s there were suggestions about it being rebuilt but these came to nothing.  The widening of the Grand Depot Road in the 1960’s finally separated St George’s from the parade ground and it has sat marooned ever since.

Exterior view of St George’s which doesn’t indicate of the riches inside
Shared under wiki Creative Commons

The upper levels were demolished during the 1970’s and the church became a memorial garden. This is when the functional corrugated roof was placed over the mosaics. The Royal Artillery moved to Wiltshire in 2007 and so they will forever be apart.

The corrugated roof has been replaced by a much more attractive canopy. However The Friends of St George’s Trust information leaflet warns visitors:

‘not to stand beyond the altar, the apse and to be ‘careful of fragile/falling fabric as you explore the sanctuary and chapel.’

That sounded scary but I was careful as I didn’t want to become one of the residents of the memorial garden just yet.

View of St George’s from the entrance showing the rather more aesthetically pleasing canopy roof – even from here St George gleams.
©Carole Tyrrell

But it was the large central mosaic of St George and the Dragon that attracted me. I’ve always been fascinated by mosaics and have seen many in cemeteries.  After years of glimpsing it from a bus it was wonderful to be able to see it close up and to admire the quality of its workmanship. According to the Friends of St George’s Trust website:

‘the mosaics are thought to be based on the Roman and Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, Italy. St George and the Dragon and those around the chancel arches are assumed to have been made in Antonio Salviati’s workshops in Venice.’

But who is Antonio Salviati?  The St George and Dragon mosaic form the centrepiece of the impressive Victoria Cross memorial behind the altar.  This was funded by subscriptions in 1915 with no expense spared.  The importance of this monument, dedicated to the 62 Royal Artillery men who received the prestigious VC, is emphasised by the fact that they went to one of the 19th century’s leading Italian glassmakers to create it.

Antonio Salviati shared under wiki Creative Commons.
Th is is in the public domain in the USA.

Antonio Salviati (1816-1890) is considered to be one of the leading figures in 19th century glassmaking.  Originally a lawyer, he became involved in the restoration of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.  This led to him becoming interested in glassmaking and establishing his own factory. Salviati also re-established the island of Murano, near Venice, as a major centre of glassmaking and it still has that reputation today. He also created a European interest in brightly coloured pieces of Italian glass as decorative objects.  Salviati’s factory soon began receiving commissions from France and England and it’s credited with creating the mosaic glass on the altar glass of Westminster Abbey and part of the Albert Memorial.  There are also other surviving works in many churches and cathedrals in the UK.

Restoration work on St George’s mosaics was carried out in 2015 and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Although some of the tesserae from the mosaic – these are the small blocks of stone, tile, glass or other material used in its the construction  – are missing, the conservators made the decision not to replace them

The chancel mosaics feature birds and vines. The lovely peacocks are appropriate symbols of immortality and rebirth and vines for abundance and as reminders of Christ and his followers. (see Symbol of the Month – the vine for more information.) There are also phoenixes which are traditionally associated with rising from a raging fire and are an ancient symbol of Christian resurrection.  It felt appropriate as St George’s is a remarkable survivor of Woolwich’s military past and has risen again.  But it’s still a building at risk.

There are pieces of the church on site such as the capitals to two of the broken columns.  These feature winged lions and winged griffins.  I walked around the memorial garden and thought how lucky we were that its mosaics had survived for us to still enjoy.

St George’s remains consecrated and holds 4 services each year.  It’s now open on Sundays and you can admire  the newly installed iron entrance gates. Archive photos show what an imposing building it once was but imagine it when newly built as the sun shone through the rose window illuminating the beautifully decorated interior making St George and the Dragon dazzle.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References and further reading:

https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2018/10/03/go-inside-the-ruined-st-georges-garrison-church-in-woolwich/

https://www.stgeorgeswoolwich.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_George%27s_Garrison_Church,_Woolwich

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Antonio-Salviati

 

Epitaph Exploring in East Anglia! Part 2 The Great Churchyard, Bury St Edmunds

And now the good and the bad….(although that can be debatable.)

 

Dedicated to Capt Gosnold and is self-explanatory – it looks quite recent as well.
©Carole Tyrrell

An unacknowledged  Founding Father who may have changed history 

Captain Bartholomew Gosnold(1571 – 1607) 

Although the memorial stone and epitaph is largely self-explanatory there is a lot more to Gosnold’s story.  The explorer and colonist isn’t buried here. Instead he is reputed to lie in Jamestown, Virginia.  This was the colony that he helped found and, where. according to Presevation Virgina he is regarded as being …’the prime mover of the colonisation of Virginia.’

Gosnold was originally a Suffolk man who studied law at Middle Temple after graduating from Cambridge.  He made an influential marriage and had seven children. But the sea and adventure were in his blood and he sailed with Sir Walter Raleigh whom he was soon to outstrip.

In 1602  Gosnold. on the ship Concord. made his first attempt to found a colony in Southern New England. Along the way they named Cape Cod after the large number of the fish they found there and then he continued to sail on along the coast to a place with an abundance of wild grapes.  He called the place Martha’s Vineyard because of the grapes and also in memory of his infant daughter who had died in 1598.  However the colony was abandoned when its settlers decided to return to England.

There was big money and fame to be made from exploring and colonising in the 17th century.  These were usually private ventures and so profit driven. But for Gosnold and his ambitions there was only one snag; Raleigh held the patent for Virginia.   But Queen Elizabeth I, who was on the throne at the time, was very interested in revenue and Raleigh’s star was descending.  He’d already lost £40k on the Roanoke disaster which was a huge sum at the time.  Soon Gosnold held an exclusive charter for a Virginia charter to settle there and this eventually became what is now Jamestown.

Sadly Gosnold wasn’t destined to enjoy his acheivements for long.  He died, aged only 36, on 22 August 1607 as the result of a 3 week illness after only 4 months after landing in the New World.  The burial was an honourable one ‘with many volleys of small shot’ fired over his coffin.

This is believed to be Gosnold’s grave in Virginia.
shared under Wiki Creative Commons
©Ser Amanho di Nicolao

He was one of the prime movers in Virginia’s colonisation and it has since been speculated that without him it might have been Spain that ended up colonising the Atlantic coast.  Elizabeth I’s successor, James 1, was extremely keen to maintain peace with Spain in the 1600’s and Spain was equally enthusiastic to explore the New World.  Without Gosnold who knows what might have happened?

For centuries the location of Gosnold’s grave was unknown.  But, in 2002, a body was excavated in Jamestown which has been presumed to be his.  Preservation Virginia  revealed that it appeared to be a person of high status as a captain’s staff had been placed in the coffin with the body and the coffin had an unusual gabled lid.  DNA was taken and compared with that from a distant descendant of Gosnold’s interred in a Suffolk church but the tests were inconclusive.

I note that his wife is recorded on this memorial plaque so either she didn’t go with him or returned after his death.

And the bad…..or unfortunate…….

Sarah LLoyd – a warning to the passer-by. Charnel House, The Great Churchyard.
©Carole Tyrrell

This epitaph is meant to be a cautionary tale for the passer-by.  The inscription tells Sarah Lloyd’s sad story and again the mason has earned his money if he was paid by the letter.   It’s almost like reading a penny dreadful written in stone.

Reader

Pause at this Humble Stone

a Record

The fall of unguarded Youth

By the allurements of vice

and the treacherous snares

of Seduction

SARAH LLOYD

on the 23d of April 1800

in the 22d Year of her Age

Suffered a Just but ignominous

Death

for admitting her abandoned seducer

into the Dwelling House of her Minstrefs

in the Night of 3rd Oct

1799

and becoming the Instrument

in his Hands of the crimes

of Robbery and Houseburning

These were her last Words

May my example be a

warning to Thousands.

 

This seemed to tell all of Sarah Lloyd’s story but did it?  I did further research and found that there was more to it than the epitaph states. I am indebted to Naomi Clifford’s excellent blog post for this.

The facts are that Sarah Lloyd was employed as a maidservant for Mrs Syer at her house in Hadleigh near Ipswich and had begun an illicit relationship with Joseph Clarke, a local man. On the night of the burglary, she let him into Mrs Syer’s house while Mrs Syer and her live-in companion slept.  The pair then stole various items from the house including a watch and 10 guineas in cash. They also managed to steal Mrs Syer’s pockets, which were small bags, from their hiding place under her pillow.  These contained cash and jewellery worth 40s (£2.00).  According to the court transcript, Clarke then set fire to the curtains in one of the rooms although other accounts state that they started a fire in a stairwell.   Both of them then fled the scene, hoping to have covered up their crime,  but unluckily for them neighbours managed to quickly put out the fire and the house was saved.  Clarke advised Sarah to leave him out of it and, instead, to say that two other men had been involved.

They lay low until Sarah was recognised as she ran across a field and she was eventually arrested by the local constable. She confessed and the stolen goods were recovered from her family home.  The cash was never found and soon Clarke was also arrested.

However, according to the account of the trial Clarke was found not guilty and acquitted whereas, Sarah, although found not guilty of the burglary was found guilty of stealing.  The strongest penalty was awarded.  This seemed harsh to say the least. According to Naomi Clifford  when Sarah appeared at the local Assizes on 20 March 1800 all she said in her defence was:

‘ It was not me, my lord, but Clarke that did it.

Here is a link to a contemporary account of the trial:    (However, be warned that it’s in 16th century phrasing where the ‘s’ has been replaced by a long ‘f’ which renders, for example, ‘passing’ as ‘paffing’.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Wb1jAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=sarah+lloyd+the+great+churchyard&source=bl&ots=VStZFRhEFa&sig=ykdosMHb6URQb08QcxF9IFel7RE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihhOSVgN3YAhUHIsAKHc7JAEAQ6AEISjAH#v=onepage&q=sarah%20lloyd%20the%20great%20churchyard&f=false

The charges against Clarke were dropped which may have been because he hadn’t confessed to his part in the crime whereas Lloyd had.  Also it was only her word that placed him at the scene as there was no other evidence.

The Assizes judge, Judge Grose, made several remarks which condemned Sarah:

A servant robbing a mistress is a very heinous crime; but your crime is greatly heightened; your mistress placed implicit confidence in your; you slept near her, in the same room, and you ought to have protected her… and though this crime was bad, yet it was innocence, compared with what followed: you were not content with robbing her mistress, but you conspired to set her house on fire, thereby adding to your crime death and destruction not only to the unfortunate Lady, but to all those whose houses were near by.  I have to announce to you that your last hour is approaching; and for the great and aggravated offence that you have committed, the law dooms you to die.’

There was a further twist to the case in that Sarah told the Rev Hay Drummond, the local vicar, when he visited her, that Clarke had seduced her and regularly visited for sex. She’d regarded him as her husband and on the night of the crime she had revealed that she was pregnant and he’d promised to marry her.  Rev Drummond felt that she’d been used and immediately set about organising a petition together with Capel Lofft, a lawyer and magistrate. to try to obtain a Royal Pardon.    Lofft moved in influential circles but the Home Secretary, the Duke of Portland refused any clemency as he considered that Sarah should be made an example as her alleged final words on the epitaph state. Although I think it more likely that she might have said ‘How did Joseph Clarke get off with not guilty?’

The pregnancy wasn’t mentioned again and she was executed on 22 April 1800 after it had been delayed for 14 days by the attempts to obtain a Royal Pardon.  Sarah was buried in the abbey churchyard  that evening with a crowd of 1000 people in attendance.  Mrs Lloyd. Sarah’s mother, had tried to commit suicide when she had heard that the execution was to proceed.

Although Sarah’s age is started as 22 on the epitaph she was unaware of her true age and was illiterate.

The epitaph also seems to have commented on Sarah;s morality although her ‘abandoned seducer’ isn’t named.However, her case has been seen as being part of a slow movement of change with capital punishment.  The first decades of the 1800’s brought significant reductions in the numbers of crimes punishable by death with other less harsh methods of punishment.  Sarah Lloyd was one of 7 women hanged in 1800. There were 6 in England and I in Ireland.  Only 3 more were to hang for stealing in a dwelling house and it ceased to be a capital offence after August 1834.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

Further reading and references:

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

https://historicjamestowne.org/history/captain-bartholomew-gosnold-gosnoll/

https://britishheritage.com/bartholomew-gosnold-the-man-who-was-responsible-for-englands-settling-the-new-world/

http://anthropology.si.edu/writteninbone/unusual_case.html

https://www.buryfreepress.co.uk/news/hidden-treasures-brought-into-view-1-399134

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Wb1jAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=sarah+lloyd+the+great+churchyard&source=bl&ots=VStZFRhEFa&sig=ykdosMHb6URQb08QcxF9IFel7RE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihhOSVgN3YAhUHIsAKHc7JAEAQ6AEISjAH#v=onepage&q=sarah%20lloyd%20the%20great%20churchyard&f=false

http://www.naomiclifford.com/sarah-lloyd/

http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/lloyd.html

http://www.eadt.co.uk/ea-life/bury-st-edmunds-and-sudbury-how-tragic-sarah-paid-a-terrible-price-for-seduction-1-3452212

 

Epitaph Exploring in East Anglia! The Great Churchyard in Bury St Edmunds

The Great Churchyard in Bury St Edmunds is big. Very big and forms a useful shortcut for the locals from an uninspiring car park (aren’t they all I hear you say) to Honey Hill. But the Great Churchyard is steeped in history and, according to a volunteer in nearby St Mary’s church, some of its pathways date back to Saxon times.  The church sits perched further up the hill and so looks  down and over the churchyard’s permanent residents.

St Mary’s and its elongated shape overlooking its part of the Great Churchyard.
©Carole Tyrrell

I came upon the Great Churchyard by chance on a day trip in 2006 while exploring the extensive Abbey ruins.  The Abbey’s ruins have eroded into strange shapes over the centuries and now look like lumpy fingers pointing accusingly at the sky.  But after Henry VIII dissolved the Abbey in 1539, much of its flint and mortar has been ‘recycled’  by the locals and can be seen in walls and nearby houses.   But it was the Churchyard’s memorable epitaphs that stayed  with me and so on a bright December day last year I returned.

There is a plethora of 18th century symbols on display: skull and crossbones, winged angels, open books and one memorial had its own duvet of moss on the coffin lid shaped top.

As I explored, I found this tombstone  and remembered that M R James had written  a book on the Abbey’s history. Ann Clarke is the name of the unfortunate character in his story ‘Martin’s Close. I did wonder if this was his inspiration……

An M R James connection? The Great Churchyard.
©Carole Tyrrell

But the real jewel of the Churchyard is undoubtedly the 13th century roofless Charnel House.  A rare survivor and its flint walls were lucky not to have suffered the same fate as the Abbey’s.  The Charnel House was where all the disinterred bones from the Churchyard were stored.  It’s empty now and is protected by iron railings.   The Charnel House  now acts as a roost for birds and also as a backdrop or gallery for the epitaphs that I remembered from 2006.

 

 

 

Amongst the collection are two 17th century tombstones placed on the walls. One is illegible although the symbols are still clear and the other is to a Sarah Worton, wife of Edward.  Under the epitaph is the verse:

Good people all as you

Pas by looked round

See how Corpes de lye

For as you are from time ware we

And as we were f(s)o must you be.

If you take a closer look you can see how the mason had to slightly squash the letters to get all the words in.

But there  are 4 significant epitaphs on the Charnel House walls and these are  dedicated to the good, the bad and the just plain unlucky.

Firstly, the unlucky……..

Henry Cockton (1807 – 1853)

Engraving of Henry Cockton from 1841 by James Warren Childe (1780 – 1862)
Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

No. I’d never heard of him either until I started researching this post.  This is not a name widely known today although his first and most successful novel, ‘The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist ‘ is still available from various online booksellers.  Note the symbol of a blank scroll of paper and  quill pen above the epitaph which is the sign of a writer.

According to Wikipedia. Cockton was born in Shoreditch but ended up working in Bury St Edmunds where he married a local girl whose family were involved in the local pub trade. They had two children, Eleanor and Edward.  As we shall see alliteration was a theme of Henry’s life.  Valentine Vox  was a largely comic novel about a man who teaches himslef ventriloquism  and the jolly japes that ensue from this. It also involved social issues as, at one point,  the hero is incarcerated  in a private lunatic asylum and in the book’s preface Cockton rails against these places. Valentine Vox was a huge success and sold over 400, 000 copies and was published, like Dickens, in serial form.  After this Cockton should have gone onto greater things but he was destined never to make any money from his writing. Editors cheated him, publishers went out of business and  he was imprisoned for debt after being declared bankrupt.  In 1843 he wrote ‘Sylvester Sound, the Sonanambulist’ which was about a sleepwalker who performed daring feats during his sleep but it didn’t enjoy the success of its predecessor – see what I mean about alliteration?

But he kept on writing until 1845 when he announced to his readers that The Love Match would be his final novel.  Unfortunately bad luck continued to dog him – he was like King Midas in reverse as the song goes –  everything he touched turned to mud. He stood surety for his brother who thanked him by fleeing to Australia and a speculative malting venture collapsed and ruined him.  He and his family moved into his mother-in-law’s house and he wrote a further 3 unsuccessful novels.  Sadly, aged 46, he died of consumption and 4 days later was buried in an unmarked grave in the town churchyard without any obituaries.  Its exact location is still unknown.  The plaque was put up by admirers and friends.

Henry’s widow petitioned the Royal Literary Fund for financial assistance and in 1856 a local paper printed another appeal for his family. But Valentine Vox, his most successful novel. has enjoyed a life beyond its creator. Jack Riley, a performer and writer on ventriloquism uses it as his stage name and Chris Jagger’s 1974 album also borrowed it.   So a tragedy all round?  It certainly was for Henry but not so much for his family…….

While researching online  I found a blog on which there was a lively dialogue between the blogger and respondents who claimed to be Henry’s descendants.  According to them, Henry’s widow remarried, Eleanor became a teacher and Edward eventually became Professor of Music at the Greenwich Royal Naval College.

And the the victim of a somewhat unkind Act of God……

Mary Haselton (1776-1785)

This fulsome eptaph is dedeicated to the unfortunate Mary Haselton who, in 1785, was struck by lightning while saying her prayers. There was virtually nothing about her online but I may contact the town’s Local Studies department. The epitaph reads:

Here lies interred the Body

MARY HASELTON

A Young Maiden of this Town

Born of Roman Catholic Parents

And Virtuously brought up

Who being in the Act of Prayer

Repeating her Vespers

Was instantaneously killed by a flash

Of lightning August the 16 1785

Aged 9 years

Not Silom’ (?) ruinous tower the Vicoms slew

Because above the many sinn’d  the few

Nor here the fated lightning wreak its rage

Its Vengeance sent for crimes manned by age

For while the Thunder’s awful voice was heard

The little supplicant with its hand upraised

Answered her God in prayers the Priest had taught

His mercy (?) and his protection sought

The last 4 lines are unreadable even on Zoom view.  But it’s an amazing piece of verse and the mason who carved it really earned his money if he was paid by the letter.

It’s interesting that Mary’s parents religion is so openly stated. There had been a relaxing of attitudes towards Catholics in the 18th century despite the 1780 anti-Catholic Gordon Riots.

However there’s no way of knowing Mary’s actual burial place within the Great Cemetery but her memorial is in safekeeping on the wall of the Charnel House.

 

Part 2: The good and the bad…a Founding Father and a notorious crime.

 ©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated. 

 Further reading and references.

 

 https://bradspurgeon.com/brads-rejected-writings/impeccable-intuition-robertson-davies-on-henry-cockton/

 

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

https://www.buryfreepress.co.uk/news/hidden-treasures-brought-into-view-1-399134

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Adamson
Shared under Wikipedia Creative Commons licence.

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

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

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

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

Further Reading:

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

Art as Healing, Edward Adamson, Coventure 1984

https://wellcomecollection.org/adamson-collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the children are:

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

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

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

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

 and these two:

Both of her parents, Dorothya m

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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