Saturday, 31 December 2011

Edward Hudson d. November 25 1907



Edward Hudson
d. November 25 1907
© Godric Godricson
 

Friday, 30 December 2011

Colchester - 1540

"At the Archbishop's Court at Colchester in 1540 it was reported that at a certain church "the hogs root up the graves and beasts lie in the porch."




From: Title: In Search Of Gravestones Old And CuriousAuthor: W.T. (William Thomas) Vincent

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Epitaph



Barnabas Clarke
d. January 9th 1881
Necton
© Godric Godricson
 This epitaph is not from Necton although it is a good excuse to add another monument from Necton in Norfolk


"Earth to earth and dust to dust,
Here lie the evil and the just,
Here the youthful and the old,
Here the fearful and the bold,
Here the matron and the maid,
In one silent bed are laid."


From:  In Search Of Gravestones Old And CuriousAuthor: W.T. (William Thomas) Vincent

Friday, 16 December 2011

James Secker d. June 3 1911

© Godric Godricson
James Seckers life in Holme Hale is well reflected in the  available 19th Century records and we start to see both the power of the state to compel individuals to surrender information about themselves and for the lives of individuals themselves  to become recordable in their diversity.  It is always easier  to follow men in the record and it is always easier to follow men with an unusual given and family name. Whilst “James” as a name is not unusual we may accept that “Secker” is easier to spot in a crowd and less likely to be confused with other names.

The first appearance of James Secker in the Census record is for “Jas Secker” who is recorded in the 1841 record for England as the 10 years old son of James and Susan. In 1851 James is seen as a 19 year old “Farm Servant”

James met Charlotte by the 1861 Census and has children Elizabeth (6), Arthur (4) and George aged 2. The increase of their family continues in 1871 when James as an “Agricultural labourer” continues to live with his dress maker wife. The census continues to record our arrival and departures in and out of the world and it continues to record our address and occupation.

The 1881 Census shows James and Charlotte with George (21), Sophia (13), Charles (10), Alice (8), and Wilhemina aged 5 although it is unusual to find the name Wilhemina in Norfolk. I wonder what the influence was for this name and at this time?

The 1891 record shows an older James and Charlotte living near the Red Lion in Holme Hale accompanied by Sophia and Charles. In 1901 James is still working on the land as a horseman (Ostler?) and Charlotte is still with him although all the children have gone.

The life of James and Charlotte is well recorded in the Census records and further research will doubtless reveal the dates for family members and their circumstances

Frederick Richard Hylton - Felmingham

© Godric Godricson

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wayside Shrine - Malta

Flowers for the Saints and the departed
© Godric Godricson




Faith and belief are well understood in Malta. This island, so deeply imbued with  Catholicism, is comfortable with the wayside shrine and Flowers for the saints and for the dead. The communities remember both the saints and their family in a joyous combination under the sunshine. This is a beautiful island and the people are marvellous.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Margaret Southcotte, Died 27th of August 1786


Margaret Southcotte, Died 27th of August 1786
Saint John The Baptist
Niton - Isle of Wight
© Godric Godricson


Beneath this stone, in sweet repose,
   The friend of all, a fair one lies:
Yet hence let Sorrow vent her woes,
   Far hence let Pity pour her sighs;
Tho’ every hour thy life approv’d,
   The muse the strain of grief forbears;
Nor wishes, tho’ by all belov’d,
   To call thee to a world of cares.
Best of thy sex, alas! farewell,
   From this dark scene remov’d to shine,
Where purest shades of mortals dwell,
   And virtue waits to welcome thine.

Margaret Southcotte, Died 27th of August 1786 Stoke Fleming Devonshire

Friday, 9 December 2011

"The Graveyard school"



Robert Blair (17 April 1699 – 4 February 1746)

While some affect the sun, and some the shade.
Some flee the city, some the hermitage;
Their aims as various, as the roads they take
In journeying thro' life;--the task be mine,
To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb;
Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
These travellers meet.--Thy succours I implore,
Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
The keys of Hell and Death.--The Grave, dread thing!
Men shiver when thou'rt named: Nature appall'd
Shakes off her wonted firmness.--Ah ! how dark
The long-extended realms, and rueful wastes!
Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was chaos, ere the infant Sun
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
Athwart the gloom profound.--The sickly taper,
By glimm'ring thro' thy low-brow'd misty vaults,
(Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime)
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,
Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
'Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
Where light-heel'd ghosts, and visionary shades,
Beneath the wan, cold moon (as fame reports)
Embodied thick, perform their mystic rounds,
No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.

See yonder hallow'd fane;--the pious work
Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
And buried midst the wreck of things which were;
There lie interr'd the more illustrious dead.
The wind is up:--hark! how it howls!--Methinks,
'Till now, I never heard a sound so dreary:
Doors creak, and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
Rook'd in the spire, screams loud; the gloomy aisles
Black plaster'd, and hung round with shreds f 'scutcheons,
And tatter'd coats of arms, send back the sund,
Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
The mansions of the dead.--Rous'd from their slumbers,
In grim array the grisly spectres rise,
Grin horrible, and, obstinately sullen,
Pass and repass, hush'd as the foot of night.
Again the screech-owl shrieks--ungracious sound!
I'll hear no more; it makes one's blood run chill.

Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
(Coeval near with that) all ragged show,
Long lash'd by the rude winds. Some rift half down
Their branchless trunks; others so thin at top,
That scarce two crows can lodge in the same tree.
Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here;
Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs;
Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;
And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.
(Such tales their cheer at wake or gossipping,
When it draws near to witching time of night.)

Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,
The sound of something purring at his heels;
Full fast he flies, and dare not look behind him,
'Till, out of breath, he overtakes his fellows,
Who gather round and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition tall and ghastly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
Evanishes at crowing of the cock.

The new-made widow, too, I've sometimes 'spy'd,
Sad sight! slow moving o'er the prostrate dead:
Listless, she crawls along in doleful black,
While bursts of sorrow gush from either eye,
Fast falling down her now untasted cheek,
Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
She drops; while busy meddling memory,
In barbarous succession, musters up
The past endearments of their softer hours,
Tenacious of its theme. Still, still she thinks
She sees him, and indulging the fond thought,
Clings yet more closely to the senseless turf,
Nor heeds the passenger who looks that way.

Invidious Grave!--how dost thou rend in sunder
Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one?
A tie more stubborn far than Nature's band.
Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul,
Sweet'ner of life, and solder of society,
I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
Oft have I prov'd the labours of thy love,
And the warm efforts of the gentle heart,
Anxious to please.--Oh! when my friend and I
In some thick wood have wander'd heedless on,
Hid from the vulgar eye, and sat us down
Upon the sloping cowslip-cover'd bank,
Where the pure limpid stream has slid along
In grateful errors thro' the underwood,
Sweet murmuring; methought the shrill-tongued thrush
Mended his song of love; the sooty blackbird
Mellow'd his pipe, and soften'd every note:
The eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the rose
Assum'd a dye more deep; whilst ev'ry flower
Vied with its fellow-plant in luxury
Of dress--Oh! then the longest summer's day
Seem'd too too much in haste; still the full heart
Had not imparted half: 'twas happiness
Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed,
Not to return, how painful the remembrance!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Burials in Churches

There is a very real time line for burials inside Churches and we acknowledge that Roman Law would not traditionally allow either burial or cremation within the city. It is fair to say that there was a fear of ghosts in the ancient world and a loathing of close proximity with the dead. In succeeding years and with the development of Christianity the wish to separate the living and the dead weakened as cremation moved to burial as a means of disposing of the body. We begin to associate Churches with a Royal burial or with the burial of a saint on the site.


A dark faith
© Godric Godricson
 Bishops and Martyrs began to be buried in the Churches, despite earlier disapproval. The cult of bones becomes not only prevalent but actually acceptable and in a strange manner the adherents of Christ became associated in what may be described as a 'death cult' whereby a faith based in hope, light and Resurrection became a faith associated with a darkness and death. It seems that many people wanted to be buried in close proximity with the 'Holy' and the 'Royal'. We see an early Christian dislike of cremation as the Resurrection required the bones to be intact rather than destroyed. It is also the case that the Roman practice of public cremation seemed disrespectful to the departed and the ferocity of the hot fire appeared harsh for the remains of the faithful departed.  The tradition of burying the occasional Holy person or the Royal Martyr became so entrenched that rich and powerful people started to be buried inside the Church. In fact, anyone with money wanted to be buried inside the Church and the rate of burials rose in the post reformation period. Bodies were buried in cloister, Church or chancel and the numbers of burials on Church sites increased. Rather than an occasional burial for a specific occasion we find that noble families actively developed their traditional vaults under the Church and this became a  practice hallowed by tradition. Anyone with money could now pay for the privilege of being buried inside the Church.

The association of the dead with Christian piety is an early association and the veneration of the relics of the saints is identified as early as the second century. In England,  the veneration of the bones of Saint Swithin is a good example of the manner in which bones and relics are acceptable and even desirable. The bones of the saints are needed in society and seen as possessing something of the actual power of the saint. In the year 971, we find that Swithin’s body was transferred from the open air to the inside of Winchester Cathedral and from that point we find his bones venerated, subdivided and glorified inside the environment of the Church building. In such an environment, it is unsurprising that Christians came to accept the dead and their remains in such  close proximity  to the living in worship and prayer.


Discarded stone coffin
© Godric Godricson
 Monuments to record the famous and the ignoble dead become evident around the UK.  Cathedrals and chapels contain both the Holy and Royal burial as well as the nobleman and his family all in search of immortality. Flagstone floors weren't common in rural churches until the 16th and 17th  Centuries and in medieval times church floors might be just compacted earth or laid with small tiles.  Raising these floors to effect a burial was relatively easy and this proved tempting and we can imagine the floor being in a state of constant upheaval. Burials move rapidly from the porch towards the East end and we perceive that the lids of stone coffins are set into the floor until they become a major part of the floor itself. The stone coffins of the 12th Century  were usually hewn out of a solid block of local sedimentary stone with a drainage hole in the base. The coffin lid, often of great thickness, was fashioned out of a slab.  The photograph to the left is a stone coffin in King's Lynn and presumable  was fixed into the floor until discarded at some point along with the disarticulated skeleton.

The research of intramural inhumation or burial in Churches is an increasingly specialist topic and well researched. This research has indicated that churches charged a fee for burials inside Churches and that this became for some parishes a major part of their income.

Chancel floors around England show signs of floor slabs even if that has been re-sited over the years. There may be several slabs set into the floor and we begin to see the names of those buried beneath as people cease to be anonymous individuals. Our ancestors become real people with names and with identities. It was also customary for the priest of the parish to be buried in the Chancel along with the Lord of the Manor.

In the march of humanity towards the East end and the holiest part of the Church, we begin to find  burials placed closest to the main altar or set apart in private chapels within the church. We find extravagantly decorated chapels that reflect the increase of wealth in society and we see the dead being placed above ground in special chapels and underground in specially built crypts and vaults.


Dance of Death

Wikipedia

 The practice of burying inside a Church was carried to such an extent that many churches became full of bodies and the Church made money from the burying of the dead inside the Church. In the urban setting and sometimes without access to a cemetery, the Church became overwhelmed with bodies decomposing in graves resting just below the floor or resting in side chapels or stored in ossuary. It is difficult for the 21st Century mind to imagine such an horrific situation developing or  for such a position becoming normal. Such places were said to have been the cause of outbreaks of plague and pestilence although the effects of such intensive burials cannot always be clearly assessed. For an idea of the extent of such practices see a brief explanation of the Cimetière des Innocents in Paris.

Many pre-reformation monuments have been found in 19th century enlargements to Churches although it is clear that many monuments and stone coffins had already been re-used by earlier masons for ordinary building purposes. So much for any claim on immortality.

Although Christianity had grown up cheek by jowl in close proximity to the dead we see that by the middle of the 19th century, the practice of burial inside churches was discontinued for reasons of hygiene. Some memorial stones continued to be laid and burials could be arranged under very strict licence.

Monuments on the Isle of Wight


Saint Boniface
© Godric Godricson

When we look at funerary monuments on the island we are inevitably drawn to the Churches themselves and particularly Saint Boniface.

Without documentary evidence we are compelled to rely on legend and myth in relation to the foundation of this magical  Church set on the quiet and often moody wooded slopes. The most accepted legend is that monks from the Abbey of Lyra, in Normandy, travelled to the Island, and built a small structure on the woody plateau where the Old Church now stands. They dedicated the Church to St. Boniface a popular saint of the period who was renowned for teaching and conversion. The legend  indicates that the monks selected the ruins of a previous Saxon Church for their new foundation and this is supported by the fact that they dedicated their Church to a Saxon Saint. The most memorable statistic from the Church is the small size of the building. The Church is  48ft in length by 12ft wide and the interior feels more like a private chapel rather than a communal building for the whole village and community. It may be that the Church was once the chapel of a local lord and became by degree a village resource although it clearly remained small and undeveloped. There are no monuments of any size in the Church and this may indicate the lack of any noble family in the area.

William Dier d 1681
© Godric Godricson

As a personal observation, I really like Saint Boniface as a Church and as an archaeological site and I commend the Church Authorities for their care and attention of the building and the Churchyard which is ‘under-conserved’ as befits such an ancient monument.

Saint Boniface Church has a number of ancient Chest tombs which are a specific sort of monument now a part of English funerary monuments and they can be seen across the UK. Table tombs are often stark and concrete in the early 20th Century and florid and baroque in the 18th Century Have a look at these links for a description of table tombs   [1] [2]    The United States has its own experience of table tombs and we can see the huge size that these monuments have aspired towards on this site American Chest tombs.


Victorian 'stele' type monuments
© Godric Godricson

In addition to table tombs in Saint Boniface we have Victorian monuments of the ‘stele’ type and this type is pretty standard for the period and for the island. We also have larger monuments from the better off citizen.The sandstone monuments are quite well preserved in the cemetery of saint Boniface and still have legible inscriptions that reverence the memories of the departed. The site of the Church on the wooded hillside protects the moss and lichen and we find a beautiful balance between accessibility for the visitor and a sense of the untouched woodland glade.

We also find the cemeteries that have been cleared and destroyed as a unified place of repose. We find the Church at Niton largely obliterated apart from some interesting monuments that stand out from the crowd.

Mary Stuart Maitland
Makgill Somerville
© Godric Godricson
 The monument of Mary Stuart Maitland Makgill Somerville (1829-1895) at Chale is an example of the person of greater affluence who came to live on the island in the 19th Century as the tourist trade increased. Mary's monument is larger than the average on the island and the size and style of the monument speaks of her wealth and the aspiration of the contemporary family even in death.

Mary married Vice-Admiral Philip Horatio Townsend Somerville. (1808 - 1881) is an example of the more expensive interment on the Isle of Wight being sited in Chale. The monument is listing heavily and we note that Mary Stuart is a person who had a 'soft spot' for the French language and her last will and testament refers to her as 'Marie Stuart'. Like many Scots away from home they perhaps hanker after the old country and a popular monarch


© Godric Godricson
Whilst the island is replete with chest tombs and stele for the individual it is also home to more modest communal monuments within the Church itself that reflect on the collective efforts of the citizenry. Such monuments speak of wars and conflict and of the communities that people were forced to leave and we find them throughout the island and the UK. They are as important to the genealogist as any individual grave and they are often a source of information for the social and economic historian. The First World war was an exercise in futility when many good men died for no purpose and there cannot be said to be any purpose for a war that saw the overturning of certainty, established monarchies and which made way for the even bloodier Second World War

This monument to the fallen pictured above is fairly typical of the type and it is evident that the monument has a 'tryptych' construction whereby the monument references the medieval style of altar found in pre-Reformation Churches. This indicates the strength of the Anglo-Catholic tradition in the Church of England in the period and of a wish to tie the monument into a sense of traditional piety. However, the location of the monument into the corner of the wall is strange and it seems squeezed into the building and its significance is marginalised although I'm sure that is not at all the sentiment of the time.


James Arnold Hearn
1810-1886
© Godric Godricson

Out of all the collective monuments, I like the stained glass that we find around the island which marks war and peace and also the 'local man makes good' sort of story as in this example. See Mr Hearn's monument at 'Find a grave' Glass is a wonderful medium that engenders hope in the reflected light that shines around the room and the message in the words inscribed or painted onto the glass. This is art as propaganda or art as a plan for eternity. In this period perhaps no-one envisioned the end of a immobile world or the end of the Church as a carrier of tradition. The glass in the Church setting contains the idea of certainty, tradition and eternity.

Parish cemetery Niton
© Godric Godricson

Perhaps my favourite monument is the rather large and intimidating slab covering this grave and I'm ashamed to say that because I was in a rush, I didn't take the name of the person under the marker. I continue to like the Isle of Wight and the monuments of the island which are rich and diverse although also at risk from the Church Authorities as they seek to have maintenance friendly cemeteries.





Mary Stuart Maitland Makgill Somerville 1829-1895



Mary Stuart Maitland
Makgill Somerville
1829-1895 
© Godric Godricson





Mary Stuart Maitland Makgill Crichton  (17 May 1829 - 1 June 1895). Mary married Vice-Admiral Philip Horatio Townsend Somerville (12 January 1808 - 12 May 1881) and this memorial is situated at Chale Church, Isle of Wight.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

"Exalt the brave, & idolize Success"



A measure of clean air in Norfolk
© Godric Godricson
 Cemeteries in England are massively important as wildlife reserves and natural corridors. This picture shows the encrustation that occurs on older monuments made from sedimentary materials such as limestone or especially sandstone. The cemetery often acts as an 'ark' where wildlife has a toehold in the City.
Ancient stonework on chapels and memorials, when undisturbed and unpolluted by chemical sprays etc, provide ideal habitats for growth and the clean air of Norfolk is wonderful for such growth.
The materials found in an English cemetery are often varied and comprised of limestone, sandstone, iron, marble, brick, mortar, slate and granite.  Granite is  one of the least changeable materials in nature and even here we find it possible for lichen to grow on Victorian monuments. Nature is a wonderful thing and  nature often conspires against  a sometimes undeveloped human idea of an unchanging immortality.
Each type of stone has its own special  lichen communities and we sometimes find that  lichens can be found on well-established trees and wooden structures such as memorial benches.
Lichens are wonderful things and we have to curb our enthusiasm when it comes to cleaning monuments. Leave the lichen in peace and see lichens as a positive comment on air purity in a beautiful county.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Robert Bennet 1811-1879



Necton
Robert Bennett 1811-1879
Sarah Bennett   1812-1892
John Bennett    1840-1864
© Godric Godricson

Robert Bennett is seen in the 1851 Census (UK) as an agricultural labourer and it is some surprise to find this designation. The reason for the surprise is the divergence between the idea of agricultural labour and the substantial gravestone in the cemetery at West Bradenham. The monument is no different from that of John Dawes who is described as a farmer.

Robert Married Sarah who originated from nearby Necton before having their family. The 1851 census shows William (17), John(11) Elizabeth (9), Phebe (7), Edward (4) and Anna (2). By 1861 we find only John and Anna are at home although we find that the couple now have James born abt 1854. It is James who is the last to leave the family home and he is still at home in the census of 1871 aged 17. By 1881 James is a butler in the home of Viscount Gort on the Isle of Wight. In 1891, he moves to Esher as a butler and he retains the role of butler in the 1901 census whilst in service in Watford.

Regrettably, John dies and we can only speculate on the reasons. John's burial along with his parents at West Bradenham is recorded on their headstone.

Henry Dawes 1788 - 1873

God's Acre Blogspot
© Godric Godricson

Henry Dawes was born in West Bradenham and left goods to the value of under £100 and a wife, Judith when he died in the same village.  The entry in the register of wills reads somewhat starkly as follows

"The will of Henry Dawes late of West Bradenham in the County of Norfolk Farmer who died 20 January 1873 at West Bradenham was proved at Norwich by Judith Dawes of West Bradenham widow. The Relict sole executrix. "

Henry married Judith in 1839. The 1851 Census shows that Henry and Judith had a son Frederick who had been born around 1841, again, in West Bradenham and it is clear that the Dawes family were locals.

Frederick H Dawes appears in the 1861 Census at West Bradenham as a "Farmers son" although the farm itself is only a small affair at 13 acres which may explain the relatively low amount left to Judith.

John Ward d January 1860

God's Acre Blogspot
© Godric Godricson

William Meybohm Rider Haggard 1817 - 1893



                                                       
God's Acre Blogspot
© Godric Godricson
The cemetery is a place where both the great and the good and also the rich and the poor meet in their journey towards eternity and here we can see the Haggard family coming into contact with the peasantry of Bradenham. Despite their wealth and occupancy of Bradenham Hall they have no option but to rest in the earth with ordinary people. Death is a leveller and one that has no respect of person. A person may have great wealth on earth and yet we are all going in the same direction. Please have a look at the 'Find a grave' entry for Sir William which is interesting and well written. I won't try to repeat this commentary  here as it would be re-writing what has already been said with eloquence and brevity.Interestingly, it may have been the case that this family would have been interred indoors (intramural inhumation) prior to 1855 although the Municipal Burials Act made that traditional option more difficult and perhaps more unfashionable.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Ella Haggard (nee Doveton) 1819 - 9th December 1889

God's Acre Blogspot
© Godric Godricson

Born to Bazett Doveton in Norwich  See this link for Ella's birth details

Alexander Doyle Peckover Penrose 1896 - 1950

God's Acre Blogspot
© Godric Godricson
West Bradenham is a rather wonderful place although the Church is somewhat lost on its plinth above the village. From this commanding location, Saint Mary’s continues both to look down on the scene, as it has for hundreds of years and also to simultaneously hide away.

The cemetery is full of the local family associated with the village which was the Haggards with Rider Haggard being the best known example. The Rider Haggard Society still exist and keep the writers memory alive and well.

Alexander Doyle Peckover Penrose is also associated with Bradenham and we find his burial here. For information and genealogy

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Earth and stone

I want to complete a sort of compare and contrast exercise today by reference to a small and apparently insignificant earthen grave at All Saints (North Barsham) near the shrine village of Walsingham with the opulence of a stone tomb in the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma on the Spanish island of Majorca.

In a certain sense, the two burials are of equal merit in that they contain the remains of a real person. They are, however, at extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to the effort required to bury the two people.


A simple earthen grave
All Saints - North Barsham
© Godric Godricson

The first burial is the simplest that can be accomplished. The earth has been dug out and the space for the body has been formed. The body has been placed in the grave and with dignity and all due ceremony the soil has been replaced and that is that. The wooden marker has been placed on the top and the site has then been returned to a sort of eternity or at least until the space is used again in the future. This re-using of grave space is becoming an issue in the UK where cemetery space is finite and we are required to re-imagineer how burials are conducted. With an enquiring mind we may reflect on the ancient practice of renting cemetery space for a limited period as is the experience as in Continental Europe.

The grave is the simple place where we wait for the trumpet call and the Resurrection. I understand that the occupant of the grave certainly did believe in the final clarion call and would await this patiently. The site is truly simple and peaceful and reflects rural Norfolk


Cathedral Santa Maria (Palma)
© Godric Godricson

The second burial is a complete opposite and speaks with an accent created by money, power and influence. The burial is treated with respect although ultimately this burial has a lot more 'umph'. The site is set aside and reserved in a way that the first burial cannot achieve although in such a prominent position within the Cathedral there is no more certainty of an eternity insitu. The carved stones create an air of reverence and the kneelers imply an air of sanctity and solemnity that cannot be created in the same manner in the open air. The tourists push their way by their passing creates an impression of life and movement. The daily services of the cathedral re-create an earlier age of piety. The occasional bird that enters the Cathedral creates an air of confusion as they shriek and cry their way in search of an exit. In effect, the scale and magnificence of the second burial overwhelms that of the first.

The two burials couldn't be further apart in terms of style and expense and even geography and I appreciate them both.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cemeteries and Gardens


An idea of Norfolk
© Godric Godricson
 This posting is something like a winter letter from Norfolk because we are settling into the colder weather and I dwell on happy recollections of warmer weather. In this time of austerity, I also want to maintain hope in the future of creation at a time when the economic system seems to snatch hope away from us all. I want to say something about the beauty of creation in this amazing county full of ruins,  monuments and cemeteries.  I came across the beauty of Norfolk and East Anglia many years ago by reference to the changing seasons and by walking around the cemeteries and archaeology of the County.

In addition to Norfolk, I also have connections with the Isle of Wight and ‘the North’ as you can see from some of the photographs used in this blog. However, my own private garden and the communal gardens comprised of the cemeteries of Norfolk continues to be a special pleasure. The landscape changes through the year and the leaves are very much now beginning to discolour and fall. The leaves really need to be swept away by the winter winds into the compost bins which will be ready for next year when they become the medium that grows next years salad crops.  We return to the idea of time and tide in this dark season and, again, we notice that seasonality through our lives. Those with an understanding of the cemetery and of history are not upset by this seasonal variation or by a recognition of our ultimate mortality.

In addition to the wider metaphors surrounding the garden and the cemetery, I re-call that that I came across the beauty of creation when walking down a very long lane in the heat of the Norfolk summer.  The lane in question is around 6 miles away from where I live and I encountered this at the end of a long walk.  On this occasion, I took a break in a churchyard and I surveyed the scene around me.  Now, I am no fan of what churches tend to do to their cemeteries especially when I have walked a long way and feel hot and mildly de-hydrated.  This particular parish had decided to turn a rural mediaeval and Georgian cemetery into an urban play park.  Magnificent headstones and monuments had been torn down and piled up at the edge of the cemetery like so much building material.  Resources needed by genealogists were left to decay and weather. You can tell I am no fan of modernism and I dislike what planners do to ancient sites. Regrettably, this cemetery was no different to many others up and down England.

Whilst contemplating the fate of ancient buildings and ancient burial sites in the heat of the day,  I also contemplated the long walk home and the frailty of the human form.  The heat was oppressive in the extreme and, as with many English villages, there was no shop where I could buy refreshment.  I had an insight into the life of the pilgrim and what it feels like when one fails to plan for the return home.  However, I could not have imagined that things would be so positive.  The journey home took me down a very long lane and on either side of the lane, the abundance of the natural world came to the fore and I had a glimpse into the life of our ancestors and into rural Norfolk.  On either side of the lane I could see a whole range of fruit and berries that had not needed mankind’s assistance and which flourished.  I came across the usual apples and greengages whilst also finding sloes and rosehips.  The hedge was utterly comprised of blackberries and elderberries and it was difficult to know where to begin in picking the fruit or a least marking the place where it grew for a return visit. 

© Godric Godricson
A few days later, after I had recovered from my very long walk, I returned to the same cemetery and the lane I had visited earlier.  I am a little ashamed to say I did take my car on this occasion because I knew that I would be burdened by the weight of fruit and the goodness that was so freely surrendered by the Earth.  I picked huge amounts of blackberries and elderberries because I knew that I would turn these into the most delicious jam and preserves.  I want to say at this point that I have never made jam before and when I went home I didn't know how to make it although I had watched older relatives and wanted to emulate their achievements.  I would not make wine because that would be ultimately far too tempting.  I took along the most unlikely receptacles for the blackberries and elderberries.  From the garden,  I had had selections of plastic buckets that had previously held composted chicken manure.  I had washed the buckets well but they looked comical when one compared their original use to the beauty of their contents.

Creation is truly marvellous and on several days I walked down the lane with my plastic buckets picking blackberries and elderberries destined for jam. My home is now full of jars where condensed sunshine has been turned into food and throughout the year I will share in the bounty of nature on a daily basis.  Each time I have my porridge I will stir into the bowl some Blackberry conserve made from fruit gathered both from the lane and in the cemetery. I will remember those days in the sun.  There is nothing so blue as a summer sky in Norfolk and nothing so wonderful as fruit from the hedgerow.  The sky in Norfolk is enormous and unfettered by buildings.  The sky is huge and the wheat fields are golden and it is hard to imagine what this scene really looks like unless one has walked along lanes and looked into the distance towards a distant Church tower.  Rabbits run down the side of the field and partridge and pheasant can be seen in abundance.  On one occasion whilst walking quietly down the lane at the end of the day I came across  a small herd of deer who walked down the side of the field before disappearing into woodland.

As we move into the winter, the blackberry and elderberry have disappeared from the hedgerow.  The fruit became bloated and began to decline as the year turned.  Still, there is no end to the abundance of that area and the hedgerow has a feeling of the supermarket in its season.  If you know where to look you can find all of the fruits that you need for immediate consumption and for preserving.  I am truly humbled by what our ancestors knew and how they managed to use this abundance to their own survival.  This Christmas I will be able to celebrate using sloe gin and I will toast the New Year in traditional fashion and in doing so I will emulate our ancestors and remember the good times.

Norfolk is an amazing county where individuals can see the abundance of nature in  the private garden and the cemetery.  The abundance of the hedgerow and the beauty of the world is something that we often take for granted but in these very simple little jars of jam I see a reflection of eternal creation and hope for the future.  Where is this lane?  Well, that is a secret that I’m keeping to myself.  Somewhere in Norfolk you may come across a person with a bucket looking very self-satisfied as he trudges along.  Look carefully and you may have found me and found where I am the happiest.

Saint Mary's - Roman Coffin

Roman Coffin
One of my favourite visits was to Saint Mary’s Church near Swaffham which is one of the oldest religious buildings in Norfolk. The Church from the 6th Century is built on the remains of a Roman temple and represents a palimpsest or a pile of buildings built on the same site.

The Church was a domestic dwelling until the 1960’s before being stripped down to the stones to reveal the inner core. The Roman coffin in the picture and was found on the site. A lot has been written about the building although I haven’t read a lot on line about the burial customs of the Romans although this coffin seems late Roman and probably from the 3rd or 4th century.

East Lexham - Saint Andrew


William and Ann Dunham
© Godric Godricson

This is one of those simple monuments that allows us to look at dates and events in the lives of real people in England although such possibilities occur throughout the United Kingdom. The moument has the honest simplicity that starts to resemble the traditional depictation of the tablets of stone brought down from the mountain by Moses.

William Dunham of East Lexham in Norfolk lived and worked and died in the same village. Ann Racking married William on 28 October 1814   in the same East Lexham. One can only imagine that they lived in close proximity to the present farm buildings that surround the Church in this fine village.

A daughter, Ann,  was born to the couple in 1815 and was baptised somewhat suspiciously in the village on  29 April 1815. One may only imagine that Ann was somewhat premature. It isn’t clear what became of Ann.


Saint Andrew East Lexham
© Godric Godricson
 The Church at East Lexham has nothing much in the cemetery of interest that still survives and the earliest monument would appear to be 18th Century with some badly eroded Putti swirling in an endless circle up to heaven. The scenery is quietly breath taking as befits this part of Norfolk. The Church is lovely and features on other web sites. The antiquity of the Church is clear and the building tells us about an honest faith that is  manifest in flint, stone and rubbl. The 21st Century would be bewildering to William Dunham although in the modern environment we are sometimes envious of the simplicty of the lives of people who have gone before.



Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hon. Isabella Stafford Jerningham - Costessey Hall

Hon. Isabella Stafford Jerningham
 Costessey Hall
"The remains of the Hon. Isabella Stafford Jerningham, who died at Genoa on January 1st, were interred in the family vault beneath the altar in the chapel at Costessey Hall.  At the same time was interred the body of the Hon. Frances Stafford Jerningham, who died at Paris in May, 1838.  It was placed by the side of the remains of her twin sister, the Hon. Georgiana Stafford Jerningham, who died at Leamington in 1841."


Title: Norfolk Annals  A Chronological Record of Remarkable Events in the Nineteeth Century, Vol. 1     Author: Charles Mackie

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monuments and Latin

© Godric Godricson
The cemetery is a place where we 'monumentalise' the dead and record their positive virtues to the exclusion of all other traits. The dead become glorious and good and their weakness is forgotten and minimised. We make the cemetery into a place where the family and the community are re-united at least for a time in marble and, often, in a Latin that we no longer speak

Friday, 4 November 2011

"Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borne"


Jean de Narde (December 2011)
© Godric Godricson

Jean de Narde is an interesting story of a French Napoleonic prisoner of war who was shot trying to escape in East Dereham in 1799. His monument was placed there by the Vicar of East Dereham in 1858 and this event is recorded in the diary of the Vicar now online.

A Norfolk Diary.

Feb. 17 1858. Today another cross was set up in the churchyard, the inscription under which will speak for itself.  'In memory of Jean de Narde, son of a Notary Public of St. Malo. A French prisoner of war, who, having escaped from the Bell tower of this church, was pursued and shot by a soldier. October 6th, 1799, aged 28 years.”


The obverse of the memorial reads.


"This memorial of his untimely fate has been erected by the Vicar and two friends who accompanied him on a visit to Paris as a tribute to that brave  and generous nation once our foes but now our allies and bretheren. Ainsi soit il. 1857"