A mother and daughter’s last good-bye?

Welcome to 2019! and we begin with an unusual variation on a common funerary symbol which I recently discovered in Brompton Cemetery

 

The shaking hands symbol on the Chesterton memorial in Brompton Cemetery. Note the male/female cuffs.
©Carole Tyrrell

One of the most common symbols in a large Victorian cemetery is that of the shaking or clasped  hands.

Usually, most of the hands illustrate the right hand in a grasp with fingers overlapping the other hand while the left hand is open. This is often interpreted as a man holding a woman’s hand which could indicate marriage or a close bond between two individuals. Clasped hands are also symbolic of a farewell or last good-bye. If you look at the cuffs of each hand you can soon guess who is the man and who is the woman as the latter usually has a frilly cuff.

There are also several other explanations of this image: the clasped hands may mean ‘Farewell’, marriage, or the that first one to die holds the surviving spouse’s hand guiding them to heaven. If on a family tomb they can mean either hope or reunification in the next life or simply ‘see you soon’ which may not be as comforting as it sounds with the Victorians high mortality rate.

But, while pottering about in Brompton Cemetery over Christmas and New Year, I found this variation on the theme.  It’s undoubtedly two women shaking hands in farewell as each has a frilly cuff and is remarkably well carved.

The cross and hands in full.
©Carole Tyrrell

At the base of the cross there is an inscription saying ‘In Loving Memory of our Beloved Mother.’  Beneath that at the very base of the monument there is a date, a name and the age at death.

It was such a cold day that I didn’t loiter too long except to take photos but I am intrigued enough to plan to do further research.  Brompton Cemetery’s burial records have been digitised which is very helpful and once I have the name and date of death I should know more.

Watch this space….

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell

 

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A Victorian mourning custom returns……

From the BBC news website today….

Woman seeks designer to make dress of dead mother’s hair

Top of the dress sketchImage copyrightHAIR DRESS DESIGN
Image captionThe woman wants the sleeves, trim, collar and bodice of the dress to feature her mother’s hair

A woman is searching for a dressmaker who can create a garment featuring her dead mother’s hair.

She says she had been collecting the hair for four years before her mother died in August and will pay £15k for a replica of her mother’s wedding dress.

The 61-year-old from Bristol, who wants to remain anonymous, posted the request on the fashion manufacturing website Sewport.

So far, no designer has volunteered to take on the task.

‘Special memento’

In her post, the woman writes: “I’m looking for someone to recreate my mother’s wedding dress from 1953, which she wore when she married my father.

“My mother passed away recently and I’d like to create a special memento of her life.

She wrote: “I found out my mother was ill in 2014 and from that point onward I began to collect her hair.

“At the time I wasn’t sure why I was collecting it, however, now I think I do.”

She acknowledges the task is “admittedly quite weird” but says she is keen to have the finished piece ready in time for the anniversary of her mother’s death next August.

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Mourning fashion – a Victorian tradition

It was usual for Victorian mourners to wear lockets and rings containing a lock of hair from a dead person.

Queen Victoria is said to have regularly worn a locket of Prince Albert’s hair from his death in 1861, up until her own 40 years later.

The preparation of hair for mourning jewellery was a professional occupation in the 19th Century.

At the same time in the US there was a trend for making wreaths out of loved ones’ hair.

Wreaths intertwining the hair of dead and living relatives were viewed as objects to signify the family tree.

Details of how to shape and create a hair wreath are included in the Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work published in 1867, and a catalogue from the National Artistic Hairwork Company.

Leila Cohoon’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, displays more than 400 wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of jewellery made out of human hair.

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Fringe of the hair dressImage copyrightSEWPORT

The ideal design she says, would feature hair sewn into the sleeves, trim, collar and bodice of the ballroom-style dress.

She has sketched out a design and says she would like it to be as “authentic” as possible and feature the box of hair she started collecting in 2014.

Boris Hodakel, founder of the Sewport website, said most design requests were typically snapped up by manufacturers within six hours.

He said: “We deal with quirky and wonderful designs every day – that’s fashion.”

©BBC News