Tuesday 30 December 2014

Couldn't live without Her!

A grave in the Parish Church of St Mary theVirgin, Goosnargh hides a sad tale. The cross marks the grave of Henry James Prescott who died of sickness during the First World War. Pte Prescott is listed as having been a member of the 5th Battalion, The King's Liverpool Regiment. The second son of Joseph and Alice Prescott, he died in Oswestry on 10 May 1918 aged 19 years. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that he was a member of the 60th Training Reserve Battalion, before transferring to the 535th Home Service Company, Labour Corps.

 Two further panels on the memorial, record the death of his parents. Alice Prescott died March 11, 1951 aged 78 years. John Prescott died a few weeks later on May 16, 1951 aged 79. It seems that John, who had been a Mental Nurse at the nearby Whittingham County Asylum, couldn't live without his beloved wife. His memorial panel bears the words:

She first deceased - he, for a little while tried to live without her, liked it not and died.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Headless Angels

A beautiful cross in St Helens Cemetery is flanked by angels. Both have had their heads removed. I often wonder whether there is a room at each cemetery where the missing heads have been collected together?

Tuesday 23 December 2014

New York Mystery

I was fortunate enough to obtain a box of 1897 Main family glass plate negatives from the US in 2012 and thought I should now scan and post the images. The relatively easy bit was finding out about the three graves in the first image. Thomas T Main (centre) died 12 Jan 1836 aged 81 years. He was born in 1755 and married Polly (left) in Willington, Tolland Connecticut in 1796. Polly was born in North Stonington, New London in 1774 and died 28 Dec 1837 aged 64.  The third stone (right) is for Sylvia Butcher. Find-A-Grave has modern day images for the grave. Polly's lies flat on the ground, while Thomas' is broken in half. They are listed as being in Root Cemetery but an additional image shows a sign bearing the words 'Cook Cemetery'. Polly is listed as having died in Clarendon, Orleans County, New York. The second photograph shows the grave of a George J Killian who died 3 Feb 1898. Find-A-Grave indicates he is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Owosso, Shiawassee County, Michigan. The memorial shown on F-A-G is different to that shown here. I cannot find a connection between him and the Main family. The other photos show a coffin and I presume the widow, along with some shots of what might be the family mill?

Friday 19 December 2014

Sad Momento

During a recent visit to a small Lancashire churchyard, I came across this sad momento of a small dog cuddling a slipper on the grave of someone remembered fondly as a loving Grandad. Spot the snail!

Wartime Tragedy

TA few miles from where I live is a memorial of a tragic wartime accident that cost the lives of two teachers, 38 schoolchildren and seven other civilians when an American B-24 Liberator bomber crashed in the Lancashire coastal village of Freckleton.

The aircraft was one of two taking part in a test flight from the then RAF airbase at Warton. A ferocious thunderstorm started and the two aircraft were recalled. One pilot decided to the fly away from the storm, while the other - Lieutenant John Bloemendal attempted to land. A witness saw lighting strike the aircraft and it ended up partially destroying some house and a local cafe. Part of the bomber collided with a classroom packed with infants, its fuel tanks catching alight. All three members of the plane's crew also died.

At the rear of the churchyard of Holy Trinity, the memorial is a poignant sight and it is very moving to read the names of all the children who died.

Molesworth Pet Cemetery

It has been quite a while since I posted a photograph of the headstones in the Molesworth Pet Cemetery in Huntingdon. I found another this afternoon and was struck by the statue of a small dog at the top of a column. Then I looked at the angel with raised arm on the left of a nearer grave. On the opposite side of the cross, I can just make out another small dog statue, but cannot make out its name. I have had another look and almost thought I can see two dog heads - siamese twins? There is, however, only one pair of front paws dangling over the front of the name plaque. What do you make of it?

Animals interred in Hallowed Ground

This is not the sort of image you expect to find in a secluded country churchyard. I photographed it yesterday after finding a mention of it in a book on animal graves and memorials.

 There once was a poodle. Its name was Azor and it was said to have been presented by Frederick, King of Prussia to Sir Thomas Swymmer Champneys in 1790. After the dog died in 1796, a statue and plaque was raised above its grave at Wood Lodge, Orchardleigh.Thomas died in 1839 and his home - Orchardleigh House passed out of the family.

Almost forty years later, the Champney chapel in the St Mary's church was being restored when the remains of his dog were found buried inside the church.  A check of the poodle's grave at Wood Lodge found it empty.

In the late 1890s, the English poet Sir Henry Newbolt who was courting the daughter of the landowner, heard of the story and wrote Fiedele's Grassy Tomb. In it, he recounted how the dog had been buried at its master's feet. The local Bishop was incensed and demanded that the dog must be removed. According to author Jan Toms:

 " The sexton was of the opinion that the dog had behaved in a more than Christian fashion by saving his master from drowning and a deception was carried out. Fidele (or Azor) remained with his master while a false grave was erected outside. Thus, the legend of Azor was preserved in Newbolt's poem. Later, the statue believed to cover Azor's original resting place was moved into the churchyard of St Mary's being there for all to see." 
The  statue is remarkable, bearing the representation of a number of animal skulls on an urn. No inscription is visible, but the weathering of the stone just adds to the presence of the memorial. If you are ever in the vicinity, please take the time to visit the remarkable moated church with its small but historical churchyard.

Jan Toms' book  is Animal Graves and Memorials (Shire Books 2006)

A Dog Cemetery in Jersey

This card is a recent acquisition. The original purchaser has written August 1955 on the reverse.

The memorial records the following:

The Haven of Rest
The Abode of Love
Opened 1928

Here rest the relics of our friends below
Blessed with more sense that half the folks we know
Fond of their ease, and to no parties prone.
They damn'd no sect but calmly gnawed their bone
Performed their functions well in every act

Blush Christians if you can and copy them

The More Mummy

 The More Little Mummy on the World

This macabre postcard was sent from Guanajuato, Mexico by a guy named Steve in August 1980 to the Samson Family in Hawaii. He bemoaned the fact he couldn't find his friend from Florida. He told the Samson's to check out the translation in English. I can't read Spanish, but guess it refers to the 'smallest' mummy in the world. Am I right?

Who killed Cock-Robin?

I felt very, very sad when I discovered a dead robin in the undergrowth. There was, however, a certain beauty in its stillness and I was moved to take a post mortem photograph. Later, I remembered the old English folk song:

"Who killed Cock Robin?" "I," said the Sparrow,
"With my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin."
"Who saw him die?" "I," said the Fly,
"With my little eye, I saw him die."
"Who caught his blood?" "I," said the Fish,
"With my little dish, I caught his blood."
"Who'll make the shroud?" "I," said the Beetle,
"With my thread and needle, I'll make the shroud."
"Who'll dig his grave?" "I," said the Owl,
"With my pick and shovel, I'll dig his grave."
"Who'll be the parson?" "I," said the Rook,
"With my little book, I'll be the parson."
"Who'll be the clerk?" "I," said the Lark,
"If it's not in the dark, I'll be the clerk."
"Who'll carry the link?" "I," said the Linnet,
"I'll fetch it in a minute, I'll carry the link."
"Who'll be chief mourner?" "I," said the Dove,
"I mourn for my love, I'll be chief mourner."
"Who'll carry the coffin?" "I," said the Kite,
"If it's not through the night, I'll carry the coffin."
"Who'll bear the pall? "We," said the Wren,
"Both the cock and the hen, we'll bear the pall."
"Who'll sing a psalm?" "I," said the Thrush,
"As she sat on a bush, I'll sing a psalm."
"Who'll toll the bell?" "I," said the bull,
"Because I can pull, I'll toll the bell."
All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll for poor Cock Robin

A Christmas Visit to the Pet Cemetery

I obtained these four photographs, from America, some years ago . They document a couple's visit to the Pet Haven Cemetery and Crematory. I am guessing that the photographs date from the 1950s.adly, I am told the automobile is a Cadillac. Here the woman poses next to car with the cemetery sign in the background.

Then she is photographed, I presume next to the grave of her much loved pet. I am now starting to suspect that something unusual is going on, certainly by today's standards.

The woman is joined by her husband for a plotside photograph. Was it taken by a passing visitor or a relative? I just don't know.

The final photograph shows a view of the cemetery. Click on the image and you will be suprised. Everywhere you look is a Christmas tree, some very ornately decorated with hanging baubles etc. I presume it was the custom to allow the beloved animals, who have passed over to the other side, to share in the custome of celebrating Christmas. Was this the norm back then and does this quaint custom of decorating Christmas trees in pet cemeteries still continue. It would be interesting to know. I looked up the Pet Haven cemetery, and it is in Gardena, CA. It opened in 1948.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Great Mitton Headstone 1812

I was drawn to the Church of All Hallows, Great Mitton by a photograph of an early headstone I saw recently on the internet. Seeing it in person, confirmed my thoughts that this was a very striking stone. It commemorates David Sanderson who died on October 25, 1812 aged 24 years.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Macabre Photographs feed Public Frenzy for News - do things ever change?

UPDATED February 20, 2016
In the first twenty years of the last century, public curiousity fed photographers imagination for picture opportunities that would sell. So, what has changed? Little! If there was an accident or disaster somewhere, an enterprising local photographer would haul his camera equipment to the scene and capture images that they would often produce as postcards for sale to the public.

Here is a photograph of a rail crash - I imagine it is in America - which shows the bodies of the Engineer and Fireman lying in the wreckage. Note, it is photograph No. 7 so there are at least six others. Have any of you seen similar photographs or can hazard a guess at where it might be?

Certainly, today, the producers of souvenir postcards show a little more taste - more than can be said of today's tabloid newspapers, although, now, there seems a fondness for pixilating the faces of the deceased.. That said, if you ever get the chance to look at copies of the Daily Mirror before the First World War, you will find them packed with gory photographs of disasters. Nothing was left to imagination, especially the words and it must have been distressing for the relatives of those killed and maimed in such incidents. What do you think?

Skulls in the Wilderness

Here is a slightly more macabre photograph which has no identifying marks. I have a theory it was taken on a battlefield some years after a war. So why? Well, I think the discarded tins contained soldiers rations.

Identifying the location is problematic. I suspect it might be Gallipoli. What confuses me is the cacti. Does this Turkish peninsular have the terrain to support the growth of cactus? If not, then I am baffled. Would any of you care to offer an explanation, please?

Post Mortem Photograph

id and found it contained a couple of hundred very ornate In Memoriam cards dating from the 1850s to the 1950s. I will share a photograph with you of the box and its contents so you can appreciate the scale of the find, but that can wait for a later date. What was interesting was a large photograph that lay at the bottom of the box. It stirred a memory of a stall holder at a car boot sale - years ago - asking me if I was the person who collected funeral postcards? I said, yes and he offered me the photograph published here.

Some of you may have previously come across the Victorian custom of having photographs taken of their recently departed family members. Often, a family realised that they had no photographic record of the person who had passed on and sought out a professional photographer who specialised in the art of post mortem portrait photography. To have these photographs taken was quite expensive as it often involved the adult loved one, for example, being fixed to a supporting frame in the standing position or seated, surrounded by family members. The results were sometimes awful with open eyes being inked in by the photographer - on occasion, very amateurishly.

One photographer who did a consistently good job was the Australian portrait photographer, John Charles Garrood who had a studio in Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria. He took the photograph of this recently dead young girl, surrounded by flowers and lying in bed. The eye is remarkably clear, but it might be that Garrood cut out and inserted an open eye from someone else's portrait and re-took the shot? It is certainly a more tasteful portrait than some I have seen.

A Dog at the Grave of its Mistress

Now, this is an exceedly rare item - a family snapshot, probably pre-1900, of a dog being taken to see the grave of its mistress and the flowers that cover it. I find it immensely sad and very, very moving. I have never seen another like it and think it is a very unusual example of social history. What do you think? Have you ever seen the like?

Another Bone Yard

Sent to me from New Zealand, this grainy postcard [circa 1900] shows bones and skulls in the bone yard of Paco Cemetery in Manila, Philippines. The cemetery was opened in 1820 for victims of Cholera and was closed to burials in 1913. A short term rental system for burials operated here, too, and I imagine these bones are the remains of those who relatives failed to renew the lease. The cemetery became a national park in 1966 and is a popular location for weddings!. I don't believe the bones are on display today.

Move along there, Sir!

Of course, before the First World War, humorous postcards were very popular in Britain. Sometimes there was a graveyard theme as in the card below where a drunken toff is being moved on by a policeman. The drunk's response is quite interesting. He has a point, you know!

Fen Funeral - Carting the deceased off to the Cemetery

Another find in the creaking attic was this wonderful postcard of a Fenland funeral. Circa 1900, it shows family members on a cart that was taking them and the deceased for burial. The clergyman posing majestically with his stick just has to be a Catholic priest - any thoughts on my identification are welcomed. I wonder if the deceased was a 1900s celebrity to have such a magnificent send off? Click on the image for a closer look.

A Little Girl at the Graveside

Another of the finds in the albums just rediscovered. There is a certain poignancy in this photograph of a young girl at the graveside of - I presume - an elder brother? It is quite unusual to find such a personal photograph like this. The grave is of Frederick Charles Brown who died on August 31, 1919 aged 22 years. Would he have died as a result of the Influenza epidemic that took the lives of millions of people during 1918-1919, I wonder?

Friday 7 November 2014

Martian Burial Site

Here is a photograph of a Dogs Cemetery at Molesworth in Huntingdon. Some of the dogs' names are visible. They include: Jinnie, Fitz, Viper, Joan and Mackie. In the case of the latter, Mackie's large headstone [front, left] bears the following description:
"In Memory of Mackie [Martian Wee MacGregor)
Died in India September 7, 1912
Aged 7 years
Clever and Affectionate, this little Scottie was a great companion and never failing delight to his Mistress who bitterly regrets him.
His place can never be filled"

Why does his headstone bear the word 'Martian?' What does this mean?

A Roman Soldier's Grave and a Teapot

This is a postcard sent to Miss Bennett at 25 Kingsley Avenue, West Ealing, London. The sender records: "This is one of the old Roman Soldiers just found here, There are 9 of them altogether all buried with their various arms and faces to the East". The postage stamp has been removed and the partial postmark that remains gives no clue to date or place of posting. The scribble on the top right of the card reads: "I have got a lovely little Tea Pot" The purchase of the teapot was evidently just cause for defacing the postcard!

Dressed in Mourning White

This woman, dressed in white, is standing on a long avenue between the graves of a very large cemetery. It is probably somewhere in Europe, possibly France. The shape of the couple of wooden crosses in the far background may be French, but I do not recognise the style of headstone, but one of you may. Please let me know. It must be very hot and I think the black collar worn round the neck of the woman may represent that she is in mourning.

Tending the Grave

This photograph is quite unusual as it shows a widow rearranging a floral display on a grave that has yet to have a headstone raised on it. Note the extraordinary detail (click on the photo to enlarge) of her mourning dress and hat. The earth of the grave has been heaped into a mound and grassed. The wooden cross to the left is quite sharp and I can read some of the detail - Amelia (?)easdale Died March 22 190(?). Sadly, it is not possible to identify the churchyard where it was taken, unless of course I can trace the burial details of Amelia . . .

Fox Terriers in Funeral Tableau

It has to be said, but sometimes the Victorian and Edwardian attitude to Death was pretty distasteful - by today's standards I guess. Johnny Watson toured the country at the turn of the last century with his troupe of Fox terriers. What strikes me as distinctly odd is that the deceased terrier is lying on the ground next to the funeral bier and that next to him is the grieving widow - another terrier dressing in black mourning clothes! Some may find this funny, but it makes me uneasy. What do others think?

The reverse of the postcard records the following publicity statement:
"Watson's Fox Terriers
(Everybody's Favourites)
Who Through 'Dogged' Determination and Perseverence
Have Become A 'Howling' Success Everywhere.

Presented by
Johnny Watson
(Born Newcastle-on-Tyne, February 7th, 1844.)

Monumental Mason's Trade Card

Monumental Masons and Funeral Directors often produced trade cards to advertise their services. This card for J F Keely and Sons, a monumental sculptor in Southport records that they employ a competent staff of carvers, masons, letter cutters and polishers. For such a formal occasion, I am suprised at the colourful portrait of a young woman accompanying the words. She looks quite unlike a widow and is smiling . . . What particularly interests me is the small note to her left which states 'Made in the United States of America' - the card and or portrait?

In Memoriam Cards

In memoriam cards are sometimes printed at family request as a momento to mark the passing and the funeral of a loved one. Some are very ornate, especially from the Victorian and Edwardian period. They can often be found in junk shops and at antique fairs, priced at just a few pence. Most collectors ignore them, but the odd surprise can be found. I picked up one in Hampshire and it commemorated a young man killed in a railway accident. I have yet to research the story. Another marked the passing of an entire family who were killed in an air raid during the London Blitz in 1941. I did find an account of the raid, but have still to track down the newspaper report of the time.

The death of young children is especially sad as they have not had the chance to live their lives. I can remember my late father telling me how, in 1917, he was among a group of children struck by a car (and there cannot have been many about in that time, one of whom was killed. He also mentioned having a sister who died as a baby. Years later, I was passing the site of the car accident and noticed a small cemetery opposite. I stopped and went in and immediately came across a cast iron cross that marked the grave of his sister. By way of coincidence, when I looked up, I saw the grave of a young boy who had been killed in an automobile accident in 1917.

The in memoriam card illustrated above marks the death of a young girl - Claudia Mabel Mahy - who died in St Sampsons in Guernsey in 1920. I am curious about the details for mourners attending the funeral which records the phrase 'Men and Women'. I can only presume that it means that both sexes may take part?

In Memoriam - a series of glimpses into attitudes to death and how it is marked

As an occasional student of funerary architecture, I often visit cemeteries and graveyards. It is surprising what interesting stories arise by just reading the words on the headstones. Not so many years ago, I found a headstone that marked the grave of an Edwardian gentleman and his wife. After her name was inscribed the words 'The escaped Nun'. Now that's a story to think about.

Some of the larger London Cemeteries have open days where guided tours take place. In one case, the catacombs were opened and it was fascinating to see how the Victorians commemorated Death. Often while visiting junk shops and bric-a-brac fairs, I would find postcards and photographs of tombs and funerals filed under the heading of Social History. They cost just a few pence and I would put them in a postcard album. Recently, I found two of the albums which contain several hundred cards. I thought you might appreciate my sharing a few of the more unusual images with you.

What's in a Name?

I came across this cross in our local churchyard. I was interested in the Christian name, Arthurina. When I did some research, it was listed as the female version of Arthur. This got me thinking. Was she referred to as Arthur for short? I thought this was pretty unique, but as I started writing this, I thought of Fredericka which must be the female version of Frederick. I guess there must be others, but I can't think of any. Does anyone know of other examples of cross-naming?

This Angel is Sleeping

A closer look at the previous angel. Her angelic expression as she sleeps head on hands never fails to captivate me. I hope I have an angel like her to watch over my grave when I am gone.

Some people say they have a guardian angel. I am sure others do, but do not like to admit it. Do you have a guardian angel.

Welcome to the Graveyard Detective

An illustrated look at the World of Graveyards and Cemeteries. There are many Stories behind the Stones that Stand in them. Who knows what we might find?


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