musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Radnor Street Cemetery Swindon

Following my visit to the Museum of the Great Western Railway I headed for the Radnor Street Cemetery in Swindon. Theoretically it was not too far away, and I had a scribbled map with some of the streets marked on it.
 
On my way I quickly stopped at St Marks Swindon to have a look at the graveyard. The church is magnificent, and also a handy landmark if I ended up getting lost. The church was dedicated on 25 April 1845. 
  
The graveyard was quite large although there were not too many headstones, however, those that remained were really in an excellent condition, and some were really beautiful. 
 
Then it was time to open my map and get lost! I have not been using the gps function on my phone lately as it can be very hard to read because the screen displays everything but where I must go. Besides, the cemetery wasn’t too far away?
 
I eventually found what I was after and went inside. There are 86 World War One casualties and 14 from the 2nd World War buried in the cemetery.
 
The cemetery did not endear itself to me immediately, it is built on a slope and very uneven in places, and the ground was very soggy. It was heading towards mid afternoon so the sun was getting lower and was behind and to the south of the graves I was after, so the light varies depending on where I was.
  
And, as usual finding those familiar white headstones was reasonably easy, although I was behind the inscriptions so could not really check for private memorials. The first 25 graves completed I crossed to the opposite fence from where I was and bumped into a local who knew the cemetery reasonably well. He was under the impression that there was a Victoria Cross grave in the cemetery although the grave he thought it was proved to be that of two RAF pilots.
We walked and talked while I shot of pics, time was not on my side and I wanted to be on my way by 15H00. There was no way I would get all the graves I needed to, or even try out my new fangled selfie stick.
 The chapel and Cross of Sacrifice are situated in the middle of the cemetery and the chapel is a very pretty building. Unfortunately I did not get the images of the chapel that I wanted a bit later as a car came along and parked in front, ruining any potential images.
 

The cemetery dates to the 1880’s and a local architect, William Read, designed the lodge, mortuary and chapel.  The mortuary has been boarded up and the lodge has found another use.

 

The one grave my unofficial guide pointed out was that of Trooper Cecil Howard Goodman of the 1st Co. Imperial Yeomanry who died in South Africa during the Boer War. This iconic monument was erected by “his fellow clerks at the GWR staff in April 1901″. My contact in South Africa informed me that Trooper Goodman is buried in Winburg (JAC Coetzer Str) Cemetery, and that the cemetery had been vandalised since his last visit there.

It is strange to encounter these graves so far from South Africa, and to read that he died while fighting for his country. Unfortunately too many of the Imperial deaths in South Africa were from Enteric fever as opposed to enemy action. 

The museum that I had visited earlier in the day did have a number of commemorative plaques on display for works members who died during the wars. And it would be interesting to know how many of the graves in the cemetery are in some way connected to the Great Western Railway and its works in the town. The works was probably the biggest employer in the town, and I am sure most people were connected to it in some way or other, it is also probable that when the works shut down many people moved from the town for better employment prospects elsewhere.

 

I continued my photographing, pausing to look at the grave of Doreen, who had died in a cycling accident in August 1938, aged 14 years.  It is a very pretty memorial, and definitely not an off the shelf purchase. But, who had damaged it? was this an act of vandalism? or just something in the design of the memorial that it shed limbs? There is also the possibility that this was damage from bombing. It is really one of those questions that there is no real answer to.

All I know is that I very rarely find the missing bits of these memorials. Where do they go to? 

The time was marching, and I had planned to leave by 14H10 so as to get the train at 14H49. It was not too far to the station, but I was probably only half way done with the CWGC graves. I had to start getting a move on and stop admiring the view.

I was starting to enjoy this cemetery a lot, there are some really nice old headstones in it, and while the going is rough it is not totally impassable. Unfortunately the white CWGC headstones do not weather very well and most were in badly weathered state, although you could see that quite a number had been replaced not too long ago.

I was ready to leave, later processing would reveal that I had missed 28 graves, and I think that is reason enough to return one day.  I did decide to go via the lodge as I had missed that when I had arrived.

Like so many other cemetery lodges I have seen it is a very pretty building, and the cemetery is a great one, although I did find it tiring to walk around because of the slope and the uneven ground. But, if ever I come this way again I shall go find my missing graves, and visit with Doreen, and appreciate this little 11,5 acre plot with its 33000 burials just a bit more. 

And what of Swindon? I did not see too much of it considering that I was really there for the museum and had limited time available. But here are some general pics anyway. Bear in mind that the town really revolved around the loco works. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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