Symbol of the Month – The Winged Soul

A lovely example from St Peter & St Paul, Shoreham, Kent.
©Carole Tyrrell

The skull and crossbones. One of the central motifs of 18th century Memento Mori and intended to be a stark and macabre  reminder of the viewer’s inevitable destination.  This would be all that would remain of you after death.

However it wasn’t a very comforting message to either the loved ones left behind or to the living.

But fashions and tastes change, even in funerary symbolism, and the skull and crossbones had served their purpose.

Instead they were replaced by the winged soul. This consisted of a small child’s head flanked by a pair of wings or a garland of leaves.  They have the faces of babies with big, round eyes, plump cheeks and pouting lips and resemble Renaissance putti which are child-like.  Putti represent the sacred cherub as they are known in England.

The winged soul may have been intended to be a more comforting image as the wings represented the soul of the deceased ascending to heaven.  This could also give hope of a resurrection to those left behind.  According to headstone symbols:

‘In the USA the winged soul is known as a soul effigy.’

It was immensely popular and in my explorations of medieval Kent churches and their churchyards I found many examples. In fact, in one or two churchyards they outnumbered the skull and crossbones symbol. They mainly had one winged soul on a headstone but there were sometimes  two or three clustered together as in these examples:

They can also appear in several combinations with other classic memento mori symbols as here:

In addition, every mason seemed to have his own interpretation of feathers as they can be carved as typical fluffy feathers, resemble broad leaves or be very stylised.

With wings in general they are an important symbol of spirituality.  They express the possibility of flying and rising upwards to heaven.  For example, in the Hindu faith, they are:

the expression of freedom to leave earthly things behind…..to reach Paradise.’

New Acropolis

 

However, as the full flowering of the Victorian language of death in the 19th century began to appear the emblems of memento mori were retired. Although a couple, such as the hourglass and ouroboros, were revived.   But I did find two modern examples of the winged soul in the churchyard of St Martin of Tours in Eynsford, Kent.

I had always previously thought of the winged soul as being a more general symbol and just a decorative feature.  I called them winged cherub heads or death heads and never considered that they might have had a specific meaning or purpose.  It was exciting to see so many variations and interpretations sometimes within the same churchyard.  But it depended on the skills of the mason as to how well they were carved and whether they were 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional.

But as a message of comfort it is one of the most poignant in memento mori. The other central motifs emphasise time running out, think about your life now and this is all that will be left. The winged soul suggests an eternal life and a more uplifting message.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html

https://headstonesymbols.co.uk/headstone-meanings-and-symbols/deathheads/

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

https://www.boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/iconography-gravestones-burying-grounds

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

https://library.acropolis.org/the-symbolism-of-wings/

http://www.speel.me.uk/gp/wingedcherubhead.htm

https://gravelyspeaking.com/2012/12/29/winged-cherubs-head/

https://www.sacred-texts.com/lcr/fsca/fsca11.htm

 

 

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Symbol of the Month – Angel with trumpet

This month’s Symbol of the Month is later than planned due to the Coronavirus snapping at my heels.   I was determined to have a Spring saunter through three local churches while I still could.  They have now all inevitably closed.

I hope all of you can stay well during this difficult time.

 

Full view of the du Bois headstone, West Norwood Cemetery
© Carole Tyrrell

 

It wasn’t until late in the 19th century that angels fluttered into large Victorian cemeteries and there is undoubtedly a story to be written as to how they changed sex once they had perched themselves on top of monuments.  There is a hierarchy of angels and they can be identified by what they hold in their hands; a sword, shield, a book or, in this case, a trumpet.   The angel holding a trumpet is the one that features as this month’s Symbol.

I have seen several examples and this one comes from West Norwood Cemetery.  It’s on the headstone dedicated to Edward who died aged only 13 years.  As the epitaph states,

‘Edward

THE ONLY SON

E. du Bois Esq

BARRISTER OF LAW’

 

I’ve always considered it to be a very striking, almost 3D image, with the detail on the angels wings, clothes and the clouds that surround her.  It depicts an angel blowing on a trumpet with a Biblical quotation surrounding her.  The angelic figure is definitely a woman. and it’s always intrigued me how angels which are traditionally male in the Bible became pretty, pensive young women when they appeared in cemeteries and churchyards.  The quotation reads:

WAITING

THE LAST TRUMPET (words unreadable)………

ALL SHALL RAISE AGAIN

In this case, the angel trumpeter on this headstone is a representation of the Last Judgement Day as she is the herald of the resurrection.

There are many references to angels blowing trumpets in the Bible and their association with the dead rising on the Day of Resurrection. For example in Corinthians 15:32, it says:

‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,

At the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound, and the

Dead will be raised imperishable,

And we shall be changed.’

 

There are also references in the Book of Revelation and Matthew 24:32.

However, it is the archangel, Gabriel, who is most associated with blowing a trumpet to announce the resurrection of the dead and images of this began to appear in the 14th century.  There is a very stern and definitely male angel figure holding a trumpet at the entrance to Queen Victoria’s mausoleum at Frogmore.  There is also a geometric figure known as Gabriel’s horn or Torricelli’s trumpet. It has infinite surface area but finite volume. According to Wikipedia:

‘The name refers to the Abrahamic tradition identifying the archangel Gabriel as the angel who blows the horn to announce Judgment Day, associating the divine, or infinite, with the finite. The properties of this figure were first studied by Italian physicist and mathematician Evangelista Torricelli in the 17th century.’

Angels appear in most religions and it’s appropriate that one of the most well-known is associated with communication. In fact angels are usually seen as messengers as the word ‘angel’ is derived from the Greek word, ‘angelos’, which means ‘messengers.’    They also appear in Islam as the word for messenger, Mala’ika, is the Islamic term for angel.  The Koran, like the Bible, also has references to angels especially Djibril or Gabriel nd Mikhail or Michael. According to Douglas Keister:

‘Angels appeared to grow wings in a 5th century mosaic in Rome. After all they are seen as messengers between heaven and earth.’

Gabriel is is also associated with the Annunciation.  He is, with his trumpet blowing, an obvious choice for announcing the departure of a soul and its arrival in Heaven.

I have seen an example of an angel blowing a trumpet in Tower Hamlets Cemetery and this lovely example comes from St Mary’s Catholic cemetery which nestles next to its larger neighbour, Kensal Green. She is on top of the Abreu monument.

While exploring Kent churchyards prior to the Coronavirus outbreak I found 17th headstones with angel heads on them with trumpets surrounding them.  In this one the trumpets are crossed like long bones beneath the angel head.

 

So, in many ways this is a very ancient symbol which has come down through the centuries as a message of comfort to those left behind.  The one dedicated to Edward du Bois has an epitaph that expresses his father’s grief as well as his anger at his son’s untimely death.

 

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

 References and further reading:

 

Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister, Gibbs Smith, 2004

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel%27s_Horn

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

https://www.cityofgroveok.gov/building/page/angel-blowing-trumpet

https://www.openbible.info/topics/angels_trumpets

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

Wildlife in cemeteries No 7 – dragonflies and damselflies

With gossamer wings which turn into tiny rainbows under the sun’s rays as they pose on trees and tombstones and incredible acrobatic flying displays dragonflies and damselflies are regular visitors to my local churchyard.  And 2017 has been an incredible year for spotting them.

I don’t think that a chucrwarden in St George’s, Beckenham, believed me when, in 2016, she found me trying to capture a Southern Hawker  which was conveniently posing on a  lofty yew branch..   But this year, I have seen so many in there that it did become a regular part of my day to walk through and look for them.

I would watch in amazement at their aerodynamics and speed as their 4 wings whirled furiously like helicopter blades as they flew at speed.   However, they would also fly at a more leisurely pace around and around before, tantalisingly, they would veer off into the foliage of trees to vanish from sight.  It would often be the bigger dragonflies such as Southern Hawkers that I would see on the wing but also as the summer moved on, Common Darters began to appear.

Often a dragonfly would obligingly land on a tombstone or lower branch and I noticed that they were particularly attracted to evergreens such as yews.  This might account for their attraction to cemeteries and graveyards.

Here’s a selection of my favourite images of dragonflies and damselflies from both cemeteries and churchyards:

This is a Southern Hawker from 2016 and was seen it in St George’s churchyard, Beckenham.

Southern Hawker on yew, St George’s churchyard Beckenham August 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

This is a male Emperor from Kensal Green cemetery, London in July 2017. I spotted him/her flying around above The Meadow section which is left uncut around the monuments and tombstones during the summer to encourage wildlife such as butterflies, In some parts it’s very damp underfoot hence the dragonfly I thought. It evaded my attempts to photograph it until, near the entrance as I was leaving, it landed temporarily on an ivy clad monument.

Male Emperor, Kensal Green cemetery July 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

These are two damselflies from Beckenham Cemetery’s Garden of Remembrance pool from July 2017. From July –August it is a magnet for red and azure damselflies.  They look almost like tiny, coloured sticks floating on the breeze and I caught these two ovipositing i.e. laying eggs.  The upright one is laying the eggs and the other is holding it steady.

Damselfiles ovipositing (laying eggs) Beckenham cemetery June 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

Again from St George’s but from 2017, I waited patiently until this beautiful male Southern Hawker landed and helpfully rested on a tombstone.  It stayed there for a few minutes until it got fed up and flew off again.

Male Southern Hawker on tombstone, St George’s churchyard, Beckenham August 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

This is a Common Darter and I saw several over the summer this year in the churchyard. For some reason they were particularly attracted to the pink granite monuments – a cool surface on a hot summer’s day?

Common Darter on pink granite monument, St George’s churchyard Beckenham August 2017
©Carole Tyrrell

I enjoy looking out for them and on one occasion last year the angle at which the dragonfly was perched on a yew branch and the way in which the sun shone through its wings made them look as if they were made from burnished copper.

So do look up when you’re next visiting a cemetery or churchyard on a warm summer’s day and you might be surprised.  I’m looking forward to what the summer of 2018 might bring already!

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell

Symbol(s) of the Month – the exuberant 18th century symbols of St George’s churchyard

One of the skulls at base of blank cartouche on one side of large chest tomb, St George’s.
©Carole Tyrrell

It’s often on a winter’s night, just as dusk begins to fall and the lamp lights in St Georges churchyard come up, that  the fine selection of 18th century tombstones are at their best. Carved skulls leer at you, an hourglass emphasises time passing and the gravedigger’s tools stand ready for the next interment.  And perhaps there is still a phantom schoolteacher using his sculpted globe to teach geography to his spectral students.

There has been a church on this site since the 14th century and in one place in the graveyard  the number of burials over the centuries has made the ground rise up on both sides.  But, as well as 18th century examples of funerary symbolism, there are also some wonderful 19th century ones as well.  Inside the church there’s also a good selection of impressive wall monuments dedicated to prominent local families dating back to the 1600’s.  They are  buried in the vaults beneath the church.  St George’s also has the country’s oldest lych gate in that the current one incorporates elements from  a far older one. The churchyard is a pretty one for a short walk through to the bustling High Street  especially when the spring flowers begin to appear, carpeting the grass between the stones with bluebells and flitting butterflies.

 

However for this month’s Symbols post I will concentrate on the 18th century memorials within the churchyard. These  tombstones  are topped with classic memento mori symbols.  This is Latin for ‘remember me.’  They are the visual accompaniment to the immortal epitaph from Dundee’s Howff graveyeard:

Remember Man as you pass by

As you are now so once was I

As I am now so must you be

Remember man that you must die.’

 

Graveyard symbolism, according to Douglas Keister, began when the well to do  could no longer be buried with in their local church due to lack of space. Instead, they took up their eternal residence in the newly consecrated burial grounds outside and surrounding the church walls. These were often known as’God’s Acres’ and gave the wealthy the opportunity to erect a lasting memorial or tombstone in their memory.

 

St George’s churchyard became the last resting place of prominent local familes, some of whose descendants still live in the area. The oldest tombstone dates from 1668 and the 18th century ones  are nearest to the church walls which in effect meant that they were  ‘‘Nearer my God to Thee.’

 

I’ve always enjoyed walking through the churchyard as it can feel like walking through a gallery of funerary symbols.  There’s something very exuberant about these 18th Century motifs of mortality even though some have eroded and only one epitaph is still fully readable.  However, the skull and crossbones, the Death’s Heads and others have, in several cases, lasted better than the epitaph below them.

 

The skull and crossbones are an effective, if macabre, reminder of what is left of a body after it decomposes and there are several good examples in St Georges.

 

This one is near the church entrance and features a skull and crossbones with what appear to be protruding palm fronds.  It also seesm to be resting on something whch may be a shield.  All that can now be read on the epitaph is…who dep….’

 

The skull and crossbones, a winged hourglass and a set of sexton’s tool on the left hand side.
©Carole Tyrrell

Nearby is another skull and crossbones with a winged hourglass above it.  This is a reminder that ‘Time flies’ or ‘Tempus Fugit’ and that the onlooker will soon be bones and dust and it’s important to make the most of their time on earth. On the left hand side is a pick and shovel.  These are a sexton’s tools which made me wonder if this was a sexton’s grave but the epitaph is now illegible.  The sexton’s role not only encompassed maintaining and looking after the church but also the churchyard.  In larger graveyards the sexton would have been more of a manager but in smaller ones he would have had sole responsibility for preparing the ground, digging and closing the grave, mowing the lawn and also maintaining the lawn and paths.

Skulls also feature prominently on two other tombstones on the other side of the church very near the wall. One seems to have a very sharp pair of horns and a  definite smirk.  On each side of it there appear to be small trumpets but it’s too weathered to see if anyone’s blowing them.  Maybe he’s keenly anticipating the Last Day of Judgement.

 

Somersaulting skulls and hourglass
©Carole Tyrrell

 

Nearby is a large tombstone with what seem to be two somersaulting skulls on them although one is more eroded than the other.  Below them is a small worn hourglass.  I believe that these two examples of skulls may be unique to St Georges as I’ve haven’t yet seen them anywhere else.

 

Douglas Keister has suggested that the skull and crossbones slowly began to be replaced by the much less stark and macabre  ‘Death’s Head.’  This is a human face with wings on either side of it.  I’ve always known it as the ‘winged cherub’ and there are also several good examples within the churchyard.

A closer view of the Saxby Angel with what appears to be a faded open book on one side and a stylised flower on the other side.
©Carole Tyrrell

I am also a huge fan of calligraphy having studied it for two years at evening classes and it has undergone a revival on late 20th and early 21st century tombstones.  However 18th century calligraphy has a style all of its own and is instantly recognisable.  The only legible 18th century epitaph in St Georges is the one dedicated to a John Saxby.  It reads:

 

‘               ‘Here lyeth the body of John Saxby of the Parish who Departed this life…year of May 1731 aged 41 years. ‘

 

A fine example of a Death’s Head is on top with an open book beside it which may be the Bible or the Book of Life and there’s a stylised flower on the other side.  The open book may be a depiction of the incumbent offering their life to God for judgement as an ‘open book’. People are sometimes described as an ‘open book’ as they have their feelings and thoughts open to the world with no attempt to hide them.

Crown in clouds with small faces, presumably angels, peeping out from either side.
©Carole Tyrrell

On another memorial two small faces, presumably from the angelic host, peer out from either side of the clouds surrounding a crown.  It’s a representation of the reward that awaits the faithful in heaven.  This verse from the Bible refers to it:

 

James 1:12 New International Version (NIV)

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James%201:12

 

A very plum faced Death’s Head with an open book on one side and a skull and a long bone on the other side.
©Carole Tyrrell

A plump faced death’s head is surrounded by another open book and what I think maybe a small skull in the far corner of the stone.

 

 

 

 

But one of the most unique and impressive tombstones in St George’s, or perhaps anywhere, is that of John Kay.  He was an 18th century schoolmaster and his life and talents are recorded by the tools of his trade that have been carved on his stone. There’s a globe on a stand, a trumpet, what appears to be a cornet, an artists palette, a pair of compasses and other items which are now too indistinct to read.  He was obviously very erudite and much appreciated by his students.  Sadly his fulsome epitaph is now virtually unreadable. He lies near Mr Saxby under a spreading yew tree.

On the other side of the graveyard is a large chest tomb.  There is a dedication and an armorial on its top and I feel that some patient research in St George’s burial registers may reveal the incumbent’s identity.  There are blank cartouches on each side with death’s heads on top and two skulls beneath each one.  At one end are palm fronds which are a Roman symbol of victory which were then adapted by the Christians as a martyr’s triumph of death.  The palm as a symbol originated in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean region  and is a powerful motif of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life.  It’s traditionally associated with Easter and Palm Sunday and Christs’ resurrection and victory over death. On the other end of the tomb are what appear to be olive flowers.  The olive’s association with wisdom and peace originally came from Greek mythology when the goddess, Athena, presented an olive tree to the city that was to become Athens.  Successive Greek ambassadors then continued the tradtion by offering an olive branch of peace to indicate their goiod intentions. The olive tree is also associated with longevity, fertility, maturity, fruitfulness and prosperity.  In the Bible, Noah sent the dove out after the Flood to see if the floodwaters had receded and when it returned with an olive leaf in its beak Noah knew that the Flood had ended.  Even today the phrase ‘ offering an olive branch’ means the someone wants to make peace. But in this context the olive branch may mwean that the soul has departed with the peace of God. So one memorial incorporates powerful  motifs of mortality and resurrection.

 

St George’s has also used old tombstones to pave two of the pathways within the churchyard of which some are still readable.  It always feels as if I’m walking over someone’s grave although they are buried elsewhere in the graveyard.  However, although the 19th and 20th century memorials are rather more restrained and far more legible I prefer the more ‘in your face’  18th century symbols.  But in the case of the horned skull I can only frustratingly only guess at its meaning and the person who lies beneath…..

 

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell otherwise stated.

References

Stories in Stone; A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, Douglas Keister, Gibbs M Smith, 2008

St George’s Churchyard, St George’s Parish Church, Beckenham, Revised June 2005

St George’s Parish Church, Beckenham, information leaflet,, October 2003

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html

http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/signs4.htm

http://www.planetgast.net/symbols/plants/plants.html

https://www.thoughtco.com/photo-gallery-of-cemetery-symbolism-4123061

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

http://www.graveaddiction.com/symbol.html

 

OLIVE: The olive is a true Biblical tree, a tree ‘full of fatness’ w

Symbol of the Month – And With The Morn Those Angel Faces Smile

 

This is the other version which is sited on the main road through the cemetery. The epitaph was difficult to read as worn but it was also to much missed children. ©Carole Tyrrell
This is the first one that I saw on a guided tour of Beckenham Cemetery.  The Foster family monument which is sited on the main road through the cemetery.
©Carole Tyrrell

Five child angels, their faces turned to each other, framed by small wings, except for one that was staring out at me, I wanted to reach out and touch them but didn’t want to damage them.   They formed a roundel at the centre of a tall cross with the phrase ‘And with the morn those angel faces smile’ inscribed at the base of its stem.  I was on a tour of Beckenham Cemetery when I first saw them.

The line that led me on my quest to find out the origin of this symbol. ''And with the morn Those Angel Faces Smile.'. ;©Carole Tyrrell
The line that led me on my quest to find out the origin of this symbol. ”And with the morn Those Angel Faces Smile.’. ;©Carole Tyrrell

Our guide didn’t comment on them but the monument is in a prominent place on the main road through the cemetery and I often wondered about this pretty and poignant memorial.

On a visit to Highgate East in 2014 I found another example but on a smaller scale on a tombstone in the name of Alfred Hack and dated 1956.  There is a distinctly 1930’s look about the angels from  their hairstyles.

I also found another version which featured cherubs faces instead of childrens on a visit to Knebworth this summer.

Then , on a more recent visit to Beckenham Cemetery,  I found another similar one which was only a short distance away from the first.  In this the child angels seem to have more definite, individual faces and the one that has her head towards the viewer is looking down instead of outwards.  Now I wanted to find out more about the quotation and the angels and my research led me to a Victorian hymn that was sung on the Titanic at its final service on board and by the inmates of Ravensbruck concentration camp as the S.S led them in.   The ‘angel faces’ is a quotation from ‘Lead, kindly Light’,  in fact it’s the penultimate line and like ‘Rock of Ages’ it caught the mood of its time.

These are the lyrics:

‘Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not for ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead thou me on,
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.’

 

However, the writer John Henry Newman (1801-90), always refused to reveal the meaning of the ‘angels faces’ or what the ‘kindly light’ actually was.

Originally a poem, it was written by Newman in 1833.  He was then a young theologian and Anglican vicar and was going through a challenging time in his life. Struck down by a fever which nearly killed him while travelling in the Mediterranean, Newman’s  servant was so convinced that he would die that he asked him for his last orders.  But in his autobiography, Newman told him ‘I shall not die, for I have not sinned against light’.

Newman recovered but that wasn’t the end of his troubles.  Desperate to return to England he then took a boat from Palermo to Marseilles only to end up stranded and becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio. Exhausted and frustrated Newman wrote the poem, ‘The Pillar of the Cloud’ that, in 1845, became ‘Lead, Kindly Light’.  Newman was not happy about this as by then he’d converted to Catholicism and hymn singing wasn’t included as part of divine service.  He went onto become Cardinal Newman, one of the most important figures in English Catholicism, and also an important writer. In 1900 Elgar set Newman’s poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ to music.

Cardinal Newman as John Newman eventually became after his conversion to Catholicism. This celebrated portrait is by Sir John Everett Millais. In the public domain in UK - from the National Portrait Gallery wkipedia
Cardinal Newman as John Newman eventually became after his conversion to Catholicism.
This celebrated portrait is by Sir John Everett Millais.
In the public domain in UK – from the National Portrait Gallery wkipedia

 

‘Lead, Kindly Light’ has struck a chord with those in danger or about to enter the endless dark realm and needed the comfort of a light leading their way through it.  Miners awaiting rescue from deep underground  during the 1909 Durham mining disaster sang it  as did the  passengers on one of Titanic’s lifeboats  when the rescue ship, Carpathia,  was sighted the morning after.  It caught the Victorian mood perfectly as did ‘Rock of Ages’ and Queen Victoria asked for it to be read as she lay dying.  It also inspired a celebrated painting by the Scottish artist, Sir Joseph Noel Paton in 1894 in which the angels are pensive young woman.

 

But why did one line from this song inspire two monuments in Beckenham Cemetery and one in Highgate East?  I noticed that both of the Beckenham monuments were on children’s graves and that the carved angels were also children. Perhaps the mourning relatives left behind may have wanted the consolation that their beloved children would be waiting for them when their time came.

 

The first one is the Foster family monument.  The epitaph is now virtually unreadable but I could make out the name ‘Francis Frederick’ carved along the base.    There are two inscribed ‘Books of Life’ placed on top of the grave.  One is dedicated to John Francis Foster and Alice Gladys Alice Chapman and the other is dedicated to John Francis Foster and Alice Emma Foster.

The Pace monument in Beckenham Cemetery. ©Carole Tyrrell
The Pace monument in Beckenham Cemetery.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

The second one is the Pace family monument and is to the two daughters of Henry William and Elizabeth Pace.  These were Lilian Alice who died in 1888 and Grace Irene who died in 1903.  Strangely enough they both died at the same age and Elizabeth herself is commemorated here as she died at 33 in 1912.

The epitaph on the Page monument. It's dedicated to the 2 daughters of Henry and Elizabeth Page., Lilian died in 1888 and Gr ace in 1903 and at the same age. ©Carole Tyrrell
The epitaph on the Page monument. It’s dedicated to the 2 daughters of Henry and Elizabeth Page., Lilian died in 1888 and Gr ace in 1903 and at the same age.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

This is the one in Highgate East dedicated to Alfred Hack and dated 1956.

This is a much smaller version on a tombstone in Highgate East Cemetery. ©Carole Tyrrell
This is a much smaller version on a tombstone in Highgate East Cemetery.
©Carole Tyrrell

So, a line from a hymn that even its writer was unsure of its meaning, became a symbol of comfort to sorrowing families.

However the symbol has been adapted to feature cherubs as in St Mary’s, Knebworth’s churchyard. These are on the tombstone of the Lutyens family’s nanny, Alice Sleath.

But I am indebted to Douglas Keister’s Stories in Stone for the possible origins on the image of the angels.

The composition of the five heads may have been adapted from  a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA entitled ‘Heads of Angels Miss Frances Gordon’ which was painted during July 1786 – March 1787.  The sitter was the then 5 year old Frances Isabella Keir Gordon (1782-1831) who was the only daughter of illustrious parents. They were Lord William Gordon (1744-1823) and his wife Frances Ingram (1761-1841), second daughter of Charles, 9th Viscount Irvine (1727-78), who were married on 6 March 1781. Her uncle was Lord George Gordon (1751-93), whose political activities had sparked the anti-Catholic riots of 1780.

'Heads of Angels Miss Frances Gordon' by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA 1786-1787. . This is in public domain wilki creative commons
‘Heads of Angels Miss Frances Gordon’ by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA 1786-1787. . This is in public domain wiki creative commons

Frances’ mother outlived her by 10 years and the painting was then presented to the National Gallery.  It was enormously popular and was reproduced on numerous decorative items and photographic reproductions such as ‘The Cherub Choir.’

And so a poignant and powerful symbol was created from the combination of a great painting, an inspirational hymn and Victorian taste and led to these three lovely memorials to much missed children.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3668066/The-story-behind-the-hymn.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead,_Kindly_Light

http://www.thebeautybag.net/videos/angel-faces-smile/

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/reynolds-a-childs-portrait-in-different-views-angels-heads-n00182

Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister,  2006, Gibbs Smith