musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Finding the Fallen: Ryecroft Cemetery

This morning, after nearly two weeks of ugly weather I finally got a chance to head across to Rycroft Cemetery in Walsall. I had visited that town last month and had been really impressed by it, although the Queen Street Cemetery had been a real non event. I had more hope for Ryecroft though, it has 176 CWGC burials of which 97 are from the First World War and 79 from the second. 
 
The entrance in the image above is at Google Earth co-ordinates  52°35’53.17″N   1°58’35.59″W, although I did not come in from that entrance, I came in via an entrance in Cartbridge Lane which comes off Lichfield Road. That put me slap bang in the middle of the cemetery, right where I needed to be.  
   
For once I had made a list and worked my way through the list. The graves were mostly a mix of headstones with or without kerbs, and in some case a square kerb was all that there was. That was going to complicate matters considerably. Unfortunately kerbs tend to get covered by grass and their legibility then becomes problematic. The other issue I was dealing with was the legibility of some of the CWGC stones. I had been seeing a lot of stones that were in dire need of cleaning lately, they were so bad that recognising them from a distance was problematic. 
 

 
There were a lot of headstones too, as well as private memorials, but I could see that there was no way I would get every grave in this cemetery photographed, not without eliminating as many as I could first. Once I had completed a section I headed for the next until I had returned to the pathway where I had started out. and crossed into what was a much older area.

  
Headstones were reasonably sparse on one side of the path, but on the other side things were very different. The one thing that Rycroft had a surplus of was angels, there were lots of them.

There were easily 10 of the big angels in the cemetery, two of which I had not seen before. It never ceases to amaze me how old some of them are, and how expressive their faces are. In fact, these will probably end up being added to my collection. CWGC graves were sparse in this area, but as I approached the main gate things changed, and there was a small plot of WW2 graves. 

 

The cemetery also has a Cross of Sacrifice and that faces the main gate.  The lodge is to the right of the gate, but I did not see a chapel which was strange.

 
Outside the cemetery, but bordering on it was another patch of graves that contained CWGC graves, mostly from WW2, and this area was reasonably full. It does seem that this was a Catholic/non-conformist area though, but I cannot be sure. Returning to the main cemetery I found the children’s plot. Usually this can be a very sad place to see, and I do like walking through these areas because they do have a strange atmosphere.
 
Saying goodbye to the kiddies, I continued my exploration.

Just around the corner from here I discovered two old headstones that had probably been relocated from elsewhere in the cemetery. The first is much older, and it is pretty legible, although I am not quite sure about one part of it:

“William Burn
 departed this life August Y 8
 1756 (9?). Aged 56 
He being the 
firft (first) that is buried here”
 
                And the other is equally interesting:

 
Sacred
to the memory of Edward James Oakley
aged 19 years
who was accidentally drowned 
July 9th 1845 
While engaged in searching
for the body of J.H. Jarvey Esq
Late Mayor of this town,
who lost his life in a pool in Lichfield Street 
while bathing there.
 
Stay reader and behold the hapless lot
of one whose present will be soon forgot
Reflect on lifes quick transit from the flood
of eager youth to an untimely tomb
I feel this transit with my latest breath
and full of life lay in the arms of death.
  This stone is erected by a few friends
as a token of respect
It left me thinking about where these headstones originated from, and why were they the only two here? Once again answers were not forthcoming

I was roughly halfway by now and I was still encountering CWGC graves at a steady rate. This area was leading towards a small hillock which had headstones all around it. It was a bit of a puzzle, but I did not have any answers, I had to just follow the path, even if it meant backtracking to find that single headstone in the furtherest corner. I could see that I was reaching some sort of end to the cemetery though because I was approaching the main road once again. 

 
My last few headstones bar one were all past this angel, and it was realistically time to start thinking about home. I cut across the pathway and entered yet another area, and this may have been where the chapel was at one point (assuming there was one). In fact I even wondered if there wasn’t a crypt underneath the structure.
 
I picked up my last headstone on the right hand side of the road, and I was done. It was time to wave goodbye and go catch my bus home. 
  
I am sure that she was sad to see me go, but realistically I needed to process the images that I had (498 of them), and see what I was missing and compare that with CWGC data to see what is a private headstone and what is not. Then make a return trip and try to catch the balance of graves. Admittedly this is a very nice cemetery, although many of its headstones are in a poor condition. 
 
And on my bus ride home I tried once again to get a decent pic of the 30 foot high statue which stands over a former mine.
 
Some research revealed that the statue is named after a collier killed in an accident.  Known as the “The Brownhills Miner” (or “The Tin Man” as some of the locals call it),  it was nicknamed Jigger after Jack “Jigger” Taylor who died when the roof of Walsall Wood pit collapsed in 1951. 
 
The sculpture commemorates miners who worked in the town for three centuries before the last Brownhills pit closed. The statue is situated at the junction of High Street and Chester Road North and is by the artist John McKenna
 
It is an impressive piece, but inspite of my efforts I have not been able to get a decent image of the front of it. Unfortunately he faces the wrong direction for photography, and a tree always ruins my shots! 
 
That concluded my visit to Ryecroft. The final tally of graves is 153 out of 176 photographed, and 10 private memorials recorded. And lots of angels were seen. And you known what they say about angels? you can never have enough of them. 
  
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