Month: July 2015

The Sleeping Children

I love Cathedrals and old churches, and usually make an effort to have a look at them whenever I am near one. The one attraction that always draws me are the wall memorials and of course the effigies. I have seen quite a few now, but there is one that really sticks in my mind.

Inside Lichfield Cathedral you will find “The Sleeping Children”; it is the memorial to Ellen-Jane and Marianne Robinson, who died in 1813 and 1814, and it is breathtakingly beautiful, and the history of it is even more tragic.

lichfield_cathedral106
 

In the history of the memorial they mention the Boothby Memorial, which is equally beautiful, and an inspiration for this one. There is an interesting article about Penelope Boothby at “Pigtails in Paint

The images of the Boothby Memorial below were taken by Laurence Manton at the Graveyard Detective, and are used with his permission.
boothby01

 
 

In 1826 the poet, William Lisle Bowles wrote a poem about the Sleeping Children sculpture:

Look at those sleeping children; softly tread,
Lest thou do mar their dream, and come not nigh
Till their fond mother, with a kiss, shall cry,
‘Tis morn, awake! awake! Ah! they are dead!
Yet folded in each other’s arms they lie,
So still—oh, look! so still and smilingly,
So breathing and so beautiful, they seem,
As if to die in youth were but to dream
Of spring and flowers! Of flowers? Yet nearer stand
There is a lily in one little hand,
Broken, but not faded yet,
As if its cup with tears were wet.
So sleeps that child, not faded, though in death,
And seeming still to hear her sister’s breath,
As when she first did lay her head to rest
Gently on that sister’s breast,
And kissed her ere she fell asleep!
The archangel’s trump alone shall wake that slumber deep.
Take up those flowers that fell
From the dead hand, and sigh a long farewell!
Your spirits rest in bliss!
Yet ere with parting prayers we say,
Farewell for ever to the insensate clay,
Poor maid, those pale lips we will kiss!
Ah! ’tis cold marble! Artist, who hast wrought
This work of nature, feeling, and of thought;
Thine, Chantrey, be the fame
That joins to immortality thy name.
For these sweet children that so sculptured rest
A sister’s head upon a sister’s breast
Age after age shall pass away,
Nor shall their beauty fade, their forms decay.
For here is no corruption; the cold worm
Can never prey upon that beauteous form:
This smile of death that fades not, shall engage
The deep affections of each distant age!
Mothers, till ruin the round world hath rent,
Shall gaze with tears upon the monument!
And fathers sigh, with half-suspended breath:
How sweetly sleep the innocent in death!
 

My own images of the Sleeping Children Memorial do not do it justice, unfortunately I did not get back to the cathedral to rectify the situation. However, if I do get back to that city one day, be rest assured I will visit Ellen-Jane and Marianne, two girls who have reached through the ages to touch so many that pause at their effigy. With thanks to Laurence Manton for the use if his images

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 01/05/2016


Finding the Fallen: Prestbury, Cheltenham

The nice thing about moving to a new city is that there are new cemeteries to explore, and Cheltenham was no exception. They have a large cemetery very close to the city centre called Prestbury, and it was to this cemetery that I wended my way on the 18th of January.
 
There are 181 CWGC burials in the cemetery, as well as 28 Crematorium mentions, so I would have my work cut out for me if I wanted to grab most of the graves. Naturally I would be on the look out for the Angel population and of course anything that would grab my interest.
 
I had a feeling that the cemetery was a big one, it certainly looked like it on Google Earth, so I was not quite sure what I would find. The Lodge is just inside the main gate and it was now privately owned like so many other cemetery lodges. 
The map was interesting, because it showed the curves that were popular before the bean counters took over, and I suspected there was a mix of old and really old graves, with the more modern iterations moving away from the main gate.
  
The first military encounter I made was with the Gloucesters Memorial, and it is really a step back in time. The memorial comprising original crosses erected over the graves of men who were killed on the battle fields. Unfortunately the crosses were painted brown and that has really made them look less than historic. If anything they should have been varnished and left as they were originally. Most of the inscriptions are no longer legible either, which is really a pity.

And then we were off…. list clutched in my hands and shutter finger cocked. It was quite a warm day and the sun kept on coming and going which really messed with my photography. Just inside the gates is the Cross of Sacrifice, and the all crucial split that dictates how much of the cemetery you will get to see. I decided to head left because there was a CWGC grave on that side.
 . 
This was a Roman Catholic area, and it was in this area where I encountered the first angel statue. and it was the first of many. Prestbury has an impressive collection of oldies and new versions, and most were in a very good condition.
In fact that was one thing that impressed me about this cemetery, it was clean, well maintained, with very little sign of vandalism or neglect. Unfortunately though I did find that legibility on the headstones was not great, which was a pity because there were quite a few very impressive family stones.

 And then there is the chapel building….

I have seen a number of these in my travels, and I think the one at Prestbury outdoes them all. It is a spectacular building, in an excellent condition, and as beautiful as any church could be. Unfortunately I could not access the two chapels or the crematorium in it, but I spent quite a bit of time photographing the gargoyles and stonework of it.

 
I worked my way towards the back of the cemetery, crossing off names as I went. There was a small Australian plot close to the chapels and it did make walking the rows much easier.

But most of my graves were individuals scattered throughout and consequently I covered a lot of ground although I did not really concentrate too much on the thousands of graves all around me.

 
At some point I reached the boundary between 1950 and upwards, and it was unlikely that I would find any CWGC graves after that and started sweeping my way across the cemetery. It was really a pleasure to work this cem because I did not have to concentrate on not falling into a hole too much. The beauty of good maintenance is that my life was much easier.
  
My list was also shrinking and it was about time to find the cremations that were mentioned on the CWGC website. There were also three graves mentioned on the cemetery plans, but they were not historic in the way I would have liked. There are 5 VC graves in the cemetery, and I picked up the plaque for one of them,  although I was not specifically hunting for them. At some point I probably will, but this was not the day.
 
In fact I was starting to get tired, and home was looking more like an option. I started weaving my way towards the exit, although I really wanted to look at the Gardens of Remembrance before I left. 
  
It was a very pretty area, and I considered that if I pop my clogs one fine day this would be a suitable place to end up. Where do I sign? Unfortunately I did not find my missing crem plaque, but with hindsight I was looking in the wrong area. One more thing to do on a return visit. 
 
Behind the Gardens of Remembrance is the Ukranian Memorial
  
And that pretty much was the last image I took.  Unfortunately the 21 graves I am missing are probably PM’s so finding them is going to be very difficult, so I cannot completely mentally tick off this cemetery. One day I will be back.
And I am confident that the visit will be enjoyable because this is a very enjoyable cemetery to walk.

Update: 08/08/2015

Yesterday I revisited Prestbury to find the 5 Victoria Cross graves in the cemetery and clear some of the missing CWGC graves. I managed to find 13 more, and understand a bit more about how the cemetery is numbered, although I am still puzzled about where some of the graves are.

 
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 01/05/2016

St Mary’s Minster: Cheltenham

One of the more impressive churches I have seen has been Cheltenham Minster, St Mary’s; situated in a park surrounded by other buildings it is a hidden sanctuary of peace in a somewhat chaotic shopping area. 

The biggest problem though, is trying to photograph it completly because you cannot get far away enough to do so. The image above is really a composite of two different images, and it worked out quite well if I may say so myself. 
What is a Minster?  It is way too complicated to explain, but in short it is generally any “any large or important church, especially a collegiate or cathedral church”. In the 21st century, the Church of England has designated additional minsters by bestowing the status on existing parish churches.
 
The first time I saw the church and its graveyard I decided that it may be worth trying to get a visit, but my visits to Prestbury generally started early and ended late so it would be more about luck than anything else.
 
The graveyard is reasonably intact with quite a few headstones still legible, but I expect many have been lost over the ages. Make no mistake, this church has been around for a long time and there must be a lot of burials in this small space. Way back when the church would also have been in an open space, but as time has passed it has become hemmed in to the point where you cannot see it from street level without sticking your head into any alley and looking. I only found it because I was looking for the bus stop.
Now getting inside the church was not easy as it was only open till a certain time on a Saturday; but I was in luck on the one morning as I found the church still open, although it was almost closing time. 
 
 
It is spectacular inside, I was literally dumbstruck. On the outside the building does seem to have a mix of architectural styles but within it is irrelevant.
 
To me the Rose Window was the most spectacular feature of the interior.
 
There are some really stunning wall memorials and stained glass windows, and overall the church has a welcoming feeling about it, although I did feel the weight of ages within its walls. 
 
 
 
The only thing that seemed out of place were the light fittings which seemed like something out of a block of flats. Possibly they were fashionable at the time?
 
 
And then it was time to go because they wanted to close up for the day and I headed off into the distance, suitably impressed with what I had seen.
 
 
St Mary’s may be surrounded by buildings all around it, but it is probably one of the most impressive churches in Cheltenham, it is certainly the oldest.
 
 
It is quite difficult to find 1600’s headstones that are legible, although I did find an inscription for 1607 on a memorial. 
 
 
And finally, a reminder of the many Imperial troops that never came home from the Anglo Boer War. 
 
The Minster was a surprise, and if ever I see it open again I will make a return visit because there is just so many layers of history within the walls. Long may it be with us.
 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 13/05/2016