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.

Angels watch over Us

As a long time student of funerary architecture, I have long been fascinated by the wide variety of Angels to be found in cemeteries and graveyards that I have visited. Any that caught my eye, were captured by my camera. I am always most sad when I see they are broken or damaged, often by age, the effects of years of exposure to the weather or, more frequently today, by vandals. I will share a few of my angels with you. I'd love to hear from you and your views on angels.

Cemetery Avenue

This avenue of trees stands in the centre of what used to be my local graveyard which dates from Victorian times. It leads uphill and around the bend, but to where I do not know. I can't remember reaching the end. Has anyone seen a similar avenue in their local cemetery or graveyard?

Sunday 2 November 2014

A Young Boy's Grave

An impromptu visit to Lancashire's Darwen Cemetery allowed me to make a visit to a young boy's grave. It's the third time I have visited it but this time the light conditions were just right for photography. The inscription states: 'Sweet memories of James, beloved son of John and Lily Ann Young. Died 13 November 1935 aged 5 years 11 months'. His father died in 1955 aged 57 and his mother died in 1969 aged 69.

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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