Hello all – I think I can just about get away with still wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Well, here we are in another lockdown and so I won’t be poking about in churchyards or cemeteries for a while.
So I took the opportunity to look through my photos from last year just before the first lockdown when I could still be out and about in local churchyards and cemeteries which I haven’t previously posted.
The above headstone is from All Saints in Frindsbury near Strood. The church perches on top of a hill looking down on the town and its churchyard was recommended to me by an old friend. There were some spectacular views of the River Medway down below as its sapphire stream glinted in the Spring sunshine.. When I got there, the trimming of the long grass around the memorials had literally stopped in mid cut and I had to be careful where I walked. I didn’t want to trip over kerb stones hidden in the long grass.
I found this and, although the shaking hands motif is usually associated with a man and wife saying goodbye, here it looks as though a mother and son are saying goodbye. The hands are those of a man and a woman and, although, the father has been added on at the bottom, the son was the first to be buried there. William Masters died young at only 20 and his mother died 22 years later.
In the shaking hands, the deceased is traditionally holding the hand of the living as they part. It can mean goodbye or the deceased guiding the living into eternal life later. It is usually associated with marriage with the visible cuffs delineating them. The frilly hand on the right hand side is a woman and the left hand one is the man with the plainer, more formal cuff.
It was an interesting churchyard and was also in the middle of two cemeteries – the East and the West. These were mainly 19th and 20th century burials but a bright Spring carpet of primroses and foaming white Blackthorn blossom made them appear colourful and bright.
I will be discussing one of the more enigmatic symbols that I found in All Saints in the next blog.
It was a, shall we say, bracing February day in Brompton Cemetery. The snowdrops were clinging together for warmth along the main avenue and a drift of daffodils near the soon to be completed café thought better of coming out in bloom. But I, and the apps designer, local GP Simon Edwards, didn’t let this spoil our fun. We had previously worked with together on the Brompton animals app and it was good to have another pair of eyes with me.
Our aim was to devise an app that gave a good selection of symbols within the cemetery, both common ones that can also be found in other cemeteries and others that were perhaps unique to Brompton. There would be a brief comment on each one by yours truly and there was also the opportunity to see me in person. You’ll have to make up your own mind about whether I’m attempting fruitlessly to hide behind a Celtic Cross or draping myself elegantly around it.
Brompton opened in 1840 and, due to the 19th century anti-Papist movement. crosses, Christ statues or angels were not popular. Instead other cultures and civilisations and other older cultures and influences were used as inspiration. These included Classicism from ancient Greece and Rome, the Celtic and Egyptian Revivals, Biblical quotations and references, the language of flowers as well as animals and insects.
Simon was also looking for additional images for the Brompton animals app and soon found a group at the top of the Stevenson Celtic cross. These are supposedly based on Viking animal images but although, when we looked more closely, it was difficult to make out exactly what kind of animals they were. Brompton’s Celtic crosses are very interesting due to the variety of decoration on them from spirals, traditional Celtic strapwork, flowers and even a cat. I will be writing about them in next month’s Symbol of the Month.
But soon we were exploring the alpha and omega, the Chi Rho, shaking hands, downturned torches, and flowers amongst others.
Among Brompton’s more unusual symbols are the two Aladdin style lamps on the Cornwell headstone, the polar and cub on the Hills one in the modern burials section and the small stone boat tied up at the base of the cross on the McCaig monument.
So if you feel like taking a self guided Symbols tour around Brompton Cemetery then please click on this link:
In my recent post on the Pointing Finger symbol I was bemoaning that I hadn’t found an example of the downward pointing version.
Someone must have heard me because, lo and behold, as I was pottering through Brompton Cemetery I suddenly saw one. It was on a side path and set back from it in front of a thick clump of brambles which probably engulf it when they’re in high season. Winter is always a good time to look for symbols as the encroaching ivy; brambles and long grass will have died down and don’t obscure them.
There is a fascinating story behind this memorial as it’s the tale of two Irish brothers who first enlisted together at the tender age of 11. They both had action packed lives in military service together until one died before the other at a young age. This confirms what I said in my previous post, that the downward pointing finger denotes an untimely, sudden or unexpected death.
The headstone announced that it was the ‘Family Grave of Thomas Anderson’ and there are six members of the family commemorated on it. The first one was to Andrew Anderson, who was a sargeant in the Coldstream Guards Band until died suddenly, aged 35, on August 11th 1856. Sadly it doesn’t give the cause of death so we can only guess at what might have happened to Andrew. The epitaph also says that his death was ‘regretted by all who knew him’ so he was obviously popular and much missed. Accident? Heart attack? Murder? We may never know but I may do some further investigating.
Underneath Andrew’s epitaph are recorded two more members of the Anderson family. These are Thomas Anderson’s ‘infant daughter’, Alice Jane, who died at 17 months on November 19th 1859 and also his wife and Alice’s mother, Euphan. She died on September 22 1888 aged 63. The quotation underneath reads ‘Sleep on dear one and take thy well earned rest.’
And then underneath is Thomas himself. He died on 15 July 1891 aged 70 with the motto ‘His end was peace.’
Initially I presumed that Thomas was Andrew’s father. But, after doing some online delving, I discovered a post on an Irish library forum by a respondent who claimed to be Thomas’s great, great, great grandson. He was trying to carry out his own research into the family history.
According to him, Thomas and Andrew Anderson were actually brothers, probably twins, who were both born in 1821 and came from Ennis, County Clare. This would fit in with Andrew’s age at death and there were other coincidences between the information on the headstone and what the great, great, great grandson was saying. The unusual name of Thomas’s wife was helpful and this led me to the Clan McFarlane website as McFarlane was her maiden name.
The brothers were very close and, aged 11, they both enlisted in the 40th Regiment of Foot on February 2 1832 and were then both discharged on 7 September 1839 aged 18.
It was the Royal Navy that beckoned next and they set off for adventure on the high seas aboard HMS Wellesley when they enlisted in 1839. They both played their part in the Opium War of 1839 – 1842 and, as a result, they both received the China War Medal. This was awarded to members of the Royal Navy who had ‘served with distinction’ between 5 July 1840 – 29 August 1842.
After that they moved on and back into the Army which is where the Coldstream Guards connection comes in. As you might expect they both signed up: Thomas on 8 May 1850 and Andrew on 8 May 1844. Thomas was discharged on 17 May 1860 after becoming a lieutenant. We know Andrew’s story but Thomas’s is less clear.
According to the family member he was living at 6 Hospital Street in Glasgow in 1845 and married Euphan McFarlane in 1863. She came from the Gorbals which always had a reputation as a really tough area and so good preparation for the life of an Army wife. She and Thomas had three more daughters; Elizabeth Euphan, Rosina Edith and Rosina Elizabeth. But there’s no mention of Alice Jane. Both Elizabeth and Rosina Edith married.
But the family member didn’t mention Alice Jane or John so one wonders where they fit in.
Thomas supposedly died in Middlesex but after his death he joined Andrew in Brompton Cemetery.
There are two more Anderson Family members recorded on the headstone; John, Thomas’s son, who died on 15 February 1925 aged 65 and John’s daughter, Isabella, but her dates were too indistinct to read.
Family stories can change over time as they’re handed down through the generations but this seemed to tally with the information on the headstone. I am trying to contact the great, great, great grandson via the County Clare forum for more information.
The Anderson brothers seemed to have led exciting lives in military service and certainly did their bit for King and Country. So rest in peace Andrew and Thomas – you have certainly earned it.
On another recent return visit to Beckenham cemetery in order to research symbols I discovered some more mosaics on memorials. They were mainly small colourful crosses, either at the corners of a memorial or, in the case of one larger cross, the centrepiece of the epitaph.
This is the simple but moving Denson memorial. It’s dedicated to Gladys Winifred and baby Mary who were ‘the well beloved wife and daughter of Percy Clifford Denson. The scarlet cross really stood out amid the other plainer granite tombstones. The verses that surround the cross read:
There is no death an angel shape
Walks over the earth with silent tread
He bears our best love thins away
And then we call them dead.
Born into that undying life
Thy leave us but to come again
And ever near us though unseen
The dear immortal spirits tread
For all the boundless universe is life
There is no dead’
This has been adapted from the well know 19th century poem ‘There is no Death’ by John Luckey McCreery (1835-1906) although it has been mistakenly credited to Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It was written in 1863 and, in 1893, McCreery wrote to an Iowa newspaper to remind readers that it was his work.
This is the poem in full with the relevant quotations from the Denson epitaph marked in bold:
There is no death! The stars go down
To rise upon some other shore
And bright in heaven’s jewelled crown
They shine for evermore
There is no death! The dust we tread
Shall change beneath the summer showers
To golden grain or mellow fruit
Or rainbow-tinted flowers
The granite rocks disorganise
To feed the hungry moss they bear:
The forest leaves drink daily life
From out the viewless air.
There is no death! The leaves may fall,
And flowers may fade and pass away –
They only wait, through wintry hours,
The coming of the May.
There is no death! An angel form
Walks o’er the earth with silent tread
He bears our best-loved things away,
And then we call them “dead”.
He leaves our hearts all desolate –
He plucks our fairest, sweetest flowers,
Transplanted into bliss, they now
Adorn immortal bowers.
The bird-like voice, whose joyous tones
Made glad this scene of sin and strife,
Sings now an everlasting song
Amid the tree of life.
Where’er He sees a smile too bright,
Or soul too pure for taint of vice,
He bears it to that world of light,
To dwell in Paradise.
Born unto that undying life,
They leave us but to come again:
With joy we welcome them –the same
Except in sin and pain.
And ever near us, though unseen,
The dear immortal sprits tread,
For all the boundless universe
Is Life –there is no dead!
This is one of a pair of gold crosses that are on either side of Harold Chenowith’s (1898-1934) tombstone.
And more golden crosses on each of the corners of Ada Gregory’s monument. She died in February 1939 but her husband, Thomas, who was killed in action in November 1917 is also commemorated here. As the final line of the epitaph states ‘ Reunited.’
Finally, this is a vase which has been incorporated into the headstone of Margery Alice, ‘beloved wife of Frank Thompson, who ‘passed peacefully away on 6 October 1934 aged 39.’
These mosaics decorations all seem to date from the 1930’s and so are pre-Second World War. So far I have been unable to discover the reason behind the vogue for this embellishment and so I will continue to look for them whenever I visit a cemetery.
NB-please click on images without an obvious caption and it should come up. Please let me know if it doesn’t.
It’s always the little bright patch of colour that catches your eye. In a sea of grey Portland stone, black, grey or, for the more adventurous, pink granite or terracotta, the sun always catches a small mosaic. They aren’t plentiful but most large Victorian cemeteries have a couple or two if you know where to look.
Most have survived very well and mostly seem to date from the 1920-1930’s. However, there is one in St Mary Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green which is on a 1950’s tombstone and is religious in nature.
Mosaics and me
When I visited Venice I explored San Michele cemetery, its Isle of the Dead, and, despite not having much time, saw some lovely examples. It was my first experience of seeing mosaics in situ since a school visit to Lullingstone Roman Villa. These are two examples from Venice;
An older mosaic on a monument dating from the 19th century. copyright Carole Tyrrell
A modern mosaic on a memorial. copyright Carole Tyrrell
In the same year I also visited Aquileia which is in Northern Italy near the Slovakia border. Once a thriving Roman port it is now 10km from the Adriatic Sea. The Romans left many artefacts including a necropolis which is now surrounded by back gardens and the celebrated mosaic floor in the Cathedral.
Visitors can admire the detailed and colourful figures of birds, fish, reptiles, women and fishermen amongst others from an elevated glass walkway over the floor. Here are a bison and an octopus from the floor:
So it was exciting to be able to go mosaic spotting in the UK and West Norwood Cemetery has a wonderful and large example in its Greek Necropolis. The delicacy and beauty of these creations must be time consuming and expensive so we should appreciate the ones that we have.
On my list to visit – Rudolf Nureyev’s tomb.
I am indebted to Rod Humby from the Joy of Shards website for kindly giving me a link to one of the most spectacular mosaic memorials of all – Rudolf Nureyev’s tomb in Sainte Genevieve des Bois Russian Cemetery, Sainte Genevieve des Bois France. It has a mosaic Oriental carpet draped across it. Nureyev was an enthusiastic collector of beautiful carpets and antique textiles and so it seems fitting that one protects him in his eternal sleep. It was designed by the sculptor Ezio Frigerio who had worked with Nureyev for many years on designing ballet sets.
‘The word ‘mosaic’ is as you might expect, Italian in origin. It derives from the Latin ‘mosaicus’ which in turn comes from the Greek ‘mouserus’ or belonging to the Muses and so artistic.’ (reproduced by kind permission)
According to Wikipedia mosaics are:
‘a piece of art or image made from assembling small pieces of coloured glass, stone
or other materials. They are usually made of small flat, roughly square, pieces of
stone or glass of different colours, known as tesserae.’
Again from The Joy of Shards
‘Mosaics were first created roughly 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia which included what are now Iraq, Syria and Kuwait. At first they were simple and consisted of pushing terracotta cones point first into a background as decoration. In the 8th century pebble pavements appeared which incorporated differently coloured stones to create patterns. But it was the Ancient Greeks, flowed by the Romans who began to incorporate pictures and patterns into their designs. ‘
(reproduced by kind permission)
Irano-Romano floor mosaic detail from Palace of Shapur 1 at Bishapur. In public domain in USA – shared under Wiki Creative Commons
Cone mosaic Uruk Mesopotamia 3000 BC. Pergamon Museum. Shared under Wiki Creative Commons licence.
Mosaic making flourished throughout the Byzantine Empire from the 6th-15th century and soon spread throughout East and Western Europe. Ravenna in Italy was its centre of mosaic making from the 6th century and pieces still survive in place such as The Great Palace in Constantinople, now Istanbul.
The Christian and Islamic faiths have also used mosaics extensively in their basilicas and mosques. These include the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Great Mosque in Cordoba. Ely Cathedral also boasts a mosaic floor in one of its chapels. There are also notable examples in Venice’s St Mark’s and also on the islands of Torcello and Murano. The Jewish faith also used mosaics to embellish their synagogues.
Mosaics fell out of favour and were replaced by paintings around the time of the Renaissance. But they enjoyed a revival in the 19th century as the Victorians re-discovered them. Westminster Cathedral is a fine example and is decorated in the Byzantine style.
This one is from St Saviour and St John Baptist and Evangelist Roman Catholic church in Lewisham High Street and dates from 1919. It’s over the entrance but I was unable to find out the name of its creator.
This lovely one is from Salisbury Cathedral and features an exquisite border of passionflowers around an 1894 memorial.
The Bettinelli grave in St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery features the colourful head of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns and is very striking.
Most of the mosaics that I’ve seen appear to have worn very well with only a few tesserae missing here and there. However, there is one in West Norwood’s Greek section in which the tesserae have completely vanished leaving only a ghostly outline of the figures. There is however, a plain blue mosaic slab beneath it.
This is another from the Greek Necropolis; the Maria Michalinos monument and is based on a stele discovered at a site near Athens and displayed at the British Museum. It features a seated woman dressed in classical dress looking at a jewellery casket held by a servant.
I am compiling a gallery of these little jewels whenever and wherever I find them and here is a selection so far: