musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Cemetery

Return to Kensal Green

Number 2 on my agenda on this fine morning in June 2016 was a visit to Kensal Green (all Souls) Cemetery, although St Mary’s next door was my real priority.  I had managed to snag most of the Victoria Cross graves in 2013, so this was a visit to see whether I could photograph the others that I am missing, and update any images that I had. The weather on my original trip had been grey and cloudy and while it was grey and cloudy on this day it did seem just a bit nicer and brighter.

However, the moment I walked down that path I was shocked. In places the grass was so high I could not see into the 3rd row of graves!  It reminded me that the weather can affect the vegetation and it is a never ending task to keep a cemetery free of undergrowth, and that is true of South Africa as well as Britain.

I really just followed the path, heading towards the chapel, photographing as I walked; at least the weather was a wee bit lighter but I was scared that it would rain so I had to make sure there was a place to shelter. In the back of my mind was a grave I really wanted to find as I had not really done a decent job of it last time around, and it really intrigued me. The only clue I really had was that the gasometer was visible in the background so at least I knew which side of the path it was on. 

The cemetery has a lot of mausoleums and statues. Some are in a derelict condition, some are not, and some are listed buildings and are to be restored. Most are sealed against the weather and intruders, and some are so tangled into the undergrowth they have almost disappeared. 

The chapel is really more like a huge crumbling art gallery that is in dire need of restoration, and there is no real way to photograph the whole building in one image, it is just too wide. On the end bay of each wing are statues but the plaster in the bays is crumbling in places and the floors no longer seem all that certain. What did this building look like when it was built? It must have really been an impressive structure. Today it looked like it was about ready to give up.

I continued past the chapel, really looking for one mausoleum in particular….

This is the Andrew Ducrow Mausoleum, and it is really an exercise in Egyptian and Greek mythology. It must have been quite a spectacle way back when it was erected, because that is certainly true of it today.

Random images.

It was VC hunting time, and I headed towards the areas where my map indicated. But, in all of the locations that I visited I was unable to find the graves (which were mostly flat slabs) due to the excessive grass and undergrowth. The one exception being when I stopped to look around and looked down to find I was standing next to a VC grave! 

I headed towards the “colonnades” which are situated along the one boundary of the cemetery. A block of flats backed onto the structure and a box came flying out of one of the windows to fall close to the top of the structure.

I still cannot quite fathom what this structure was for, and the Kensall Green website does provide an explanation: “… Along part of the northern boundary-wall a series of catacombs extends, which are at present calculated to contain about 2000 coffins. The line of these vaults is indicated, above ground, by a colonnade of Greek architecture, designed for the preservation of tablets and other monuments in memory of the persons whose bodies are deposited underneath”. (http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/history/index1.html)”   Where was the entrance to these catacombs?  apparently there was a door on the west side, now hidden by undergrowth.  However the colonnades are crumbling and most of the wall memorials are now blackened remnants, and in some case they have fallen off already and their remains scatter the floor. It is however a fascinating structure and makes for interesting photography. I did a photo essay on the structure with more images of the memorials in it. 

With my VC search abandoned I now decided it was time to find my missing grave. In 2013 I had photographed a statue of a small girl leaning on a cross, but had not managed to photograph the inscription, and I wanted that inscription. However, she was intent on not being found and I waded through waist high wet grass looking for a small statue to no avail. I had more or less given up completely when my meanderings took me back to the area where the skeletons of the gasometers stand. It was almost as if this child was teasing me because I knew she was around, but did not know where. Then I spotted her out of the corner of my eye and was able to finally put a name to a statue. 

Her name was Winnie Smith, and she died on 20 March 1904 and she was almost 6 years old when she passed on. She has stood her lonely vigil for over 100 years, and the odds are there is nobody alive from her immediate family that even remembers who she was. But, I had remembered and was glad that I could finally put a name to that small statue. Curiously it is very possible that this is a representation of what she looked like in real life as this is not an off the shelf statue.

Kensall Green does have a lot of angels in various states of repair, and I saw quite a few that I had missed in 2013.

The CWGC records that there are 536 burials in the cemetery although I did not see too many scattered graves. In 2013 I had not had the chance to photograph the small plot of graves close to the exit as it was undergoing restoration at the time. This time around I was fortunate enough to be able to visit it and photograph the graves of which 3 were of South Africans. 

I also visited the Screen Wall where more casualties are listed as having graves that could no longer be individually marked.

And having completed that area it was time to head for home and the Thames to take my last images of the RMS St Helena. Kensal Green is an impressive cemetery that is best experienced twice. It is big, it can be very overgrown in parts, it can be overwhelming in others. There are areas where recent burials have occurred and you may end up bumping into grave diggers along the way (I did). It is hard to know what it looked like when it was founded, or how it looked over the years. However, there is one sobering memorial that must be shown.  

My time was up, and I will leave you with more random images. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 10/06/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:12

Finding Bunhill

On my trip to London in this past week one of the places I had tentatively listed as worth looking for was Bunhill Fields Cemetery. In grave hunter terms it is one of those “must see places before I die”. 

As things worked out I tackled the cemetery shortly after I arrived as I had some time to kill before I headed off to the Thames for my date with the RMS St Helena 

Technically it was theoretically easy to find, because it is in walking distance of Moorgate Tube station on the Circle Line. The reality though turned out to be somewhat of a problem. Once I bailed at Moorgate I headed for the surface. I was unaware of the significance of Moorgate until I spotted the plaque outside

I tried to orientate myself and find the direction to head into. I usually use my mapping facility on my phone, but it tends to drive me crazy rather than tell me where I am going. The good old days of hitting a button to find out where you are no longer exists, instead I can find out all about the coffee shops, yuppie eateries and overpriced boutiques all around me, but not where I am physically at that moment in time. To make matters worse they were digging large holes in the area too. I made many false starts on that day, and eventually I reverted to a good old paper map. 

My destination was really a spot of green amongst a lot of buildings, but like so many green spaces in London it is a popular one with walkers, lunch eaters and people just “catching some rays”.  

This small space is now the last resting place for an estimated 120000 bodies,  with a number of famous people finding their repose in it. That includes William Blake, Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and Susannah Wesley.

The tomb of John Bunyan

The tomb of John Bunyan

The burial ground now contains 2,333 monuments, mostly simple headstones (of which there are 1,920) arranged in a grid formation. These are fenced off and not accessible to the public, although tours are regularly arranged. 

Many of the graves are packed closely together, giving an idea of how London’s burial places looked before large cemeteries further from the centre of London opened from the 1830’s onwards. The site is fenced, as are the areas around the graves. The name “Bunhill Fields” derives from “Bone Hill”, which is possibly a reference to the district having been used for occasional burials from at least Saxon times, but more probably derives from the use of the fields as a place of deposit for human bones – amounting to over 1,000 cartloads – brought from St Paul’s charnel house in 1549 when that building was demolished. 

The cemetery was badly damaged during the London Blitz and restoration was undertaken by the Corporation of London in 1964, and that included laying out a portion of the site as a public garden. 

It is a strange place to visit, I could not access the fenced areas but could photograph the headstones, some of which are surprisingly legible. There was also a work crew in amongst the graves working at preservation and cleaning of the grounds. 

If anything it is like many of the churchyards I have visited previously, although it is a unique place in the city. 

The big question is: how much of this cemetery has been lost to progress? I am sure the space was much bigger when it opened, but time has shrunk it and this is the end result. 

Unfortunately, while I had intended to visit the nearby Quaker Gardens, it slipped my mind and I left Bunhill and headed to the next tube station which is at Old Street. My destination was Bank/Monument Tube station and from there towards Tower Bridge. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 10/06/2016.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:13

The Cross of Sacrifice

Visiting cemeteries looking for War Graves will mean that I will encounter the Cross of Sacrifice on a regular basis, and it is an easily recognisable and familiar object in many of the cemeteries that I visit. 
 
The first one I ever saw was at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, and this cemetery was really where my war grave photography started. I literally cut my teeth on war graves here, and while I have not been there in years I usually consider it a yardstick with which I compare other cemeteries to.
Cross of Sacrifice: West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Cross of Sacrifice: West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Designed in 1918 by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). It is present in Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves. The cross is an elongated Latin cross with Celtic dimensions whose shaft and crossarm are octagonal in shape and ranges in height from 18 to 24 feet (5.5 to 7.3 m). A bronze longsword, blade down, is affixed to the front of the cross (replaced in some cases by fibreglass replicas). It is usually mounted on an octagonal base.
Cross of Sacrifice: Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Sadly the local vandals stole the sword from this cross as well as from the one in Brixton Cemetery, and this has been replaced. Sadly, when I first saw this Cross it was still in its vandalised state.  There are two crosses in Johannesburg, although there is no real dedicated war cemetery in the city. The closest war cemeteries are in Pretoria and of course my favourite is in Palmietkuil just outside Springs.
Cross of Sacrifice: Palmietkuil South War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Palmietkuil South War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Thaba Tswane New Military Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Thaba Tswane New Military Cemetery


Leaving South Africa I travelled east to Hong Kong where the Cross of Sacrifice stands at the bottom of the magnificent Sai Wan Military Cemetery.
 
Cross of Sacrifice: Sai Wan  Military Cemetery, Hong Kong

Cross of Sacrifice: Sai Wan Military Cemetery, Hong Kong


The Cross and headstones are of the white stone which is unlike the gray that we have in South Africa, and I would encounter that white stone when I moved to the United Kingdom.

In London there are a lot of these Monuments to our folly with warfare, and the first I encountered at Streatham Park Cemetery where it forms part of the war memorial. Unfortunately the weather on this day was gray and overcast, and at that point I did not really have a place where I could submit my images to any longer.

Cross of Sacrifice: Streatham Park Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Streatham Park Cemetery



The use of the Cross of Sacrifice as the centrepiece if the war memorial is quite a regular occurrence in the UK,
Cross of Sacrifice: Brockley/Motherwell Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Brockley/Motherwell Cemetery



The Cross of Sacrifice may also be found in four of the Magnificent Seven Victorian garden cemeteries in London.
Cross of Sacrifice:Highgate Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:Highgate Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:Abney Park Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:Abney Park Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice: Kensall Green Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice: Kensall Green Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:West Norwood Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:West Norwood Cemetery, London


Oddly enough not all of the Magnificent Seven have a Cross of Sacrifice, although one was erected in Chelsea near the station and forms part of the local war memorial. Brompton Cemetery is not too far from here.
Cross of Sacrifice: outside Chelsea Station, London

Cross of Sacrifice: outside Chelsea Station, London


Moving from London to Southampton brought new challenges and places to visit, and one of the first places I visited was Hollybrook Cemetery.  There are two Crosses of Sacrifice in Hollybrook. The first is at the memorial to those who lost their lives at sea.


Cross of Sacrifice: Memorial to the Missing. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

Cross of Sacrifice: Memorial to the Missing. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton


And of course there is another Cross of Sacrifice at the World War Two plot in Hollybrook.
Cross of Sacrifice: World War Two Plot. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

Cross of Sacrifice: World War Two Plot. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton


Southampton is also home to Netley Military Cemetery, and it too has a Cross of Sacrifice.
Cross of Sacrifice: Netley Military Cemetery, Southampton

Cross of Sacrifice: Netley Military Cemetery, Southampton


Southampton Old Cemetery has a number of military burials within its walls and I spent many hours hunting them down. I also attended a wreath laying at the cemetery in 2013, and this grand old cemetery has a special place in my affections as a result.
Cross of Sacrifice: Southampton Old Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Southampton Old Cemetery


I only visited Winchester briefly and managed a visit to West Hill Cemetery which had a Cross of Sacrifice as part of the memorial within the cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: West Hill Cemetery, Winchester.

Cross of Sacrifice: West Hill Cemetery, Winchester.


I lived in Salisbury for just over a year and there was a Cross of Sacrifice in the London Road Cemetery, but none in Devizes Road Cemetery, although both of them had war graves in them.
Cross of Sacrifice: London Road Cemetery, Salisbury

Cross of Sacrifice: London Road Cemetery, Salisbury


Strangely enough, St Lawrence Church in Stratford Sub Castle had a small war graves plot presided over by a small Cross of Sacrifice. The graves were mostly of Australians from World War One.
Cross of Sacrifice: St Lawrence Churchyard, Stratford Sub Castle, Salisbury

Cross of Sacrifice: St Lawrence Churchyard, Stratford Sub Castle, Salisbury


My biggest war grave photography session was in Gosport, at Haslar Royal Navy Cemetery, and it was interesting because most of the pre World War Two graves had a different headstone to the standard CWGC one, but there was still a Cross of Sacrifice as a reminder of where you were.
Cross of Sacrifice: Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Gosport

Cross of Sacrifice: Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Gosport


I spent some time in Basingstoke and found that Worting Road Cemetery had a small CWGC plot with a Cross of Sacrifice in it.
Cross of Sacrifice: Worting Road Cemetery, Basingstoke.

Cross of Sacrifice: Worting Road Cemetery, Basingstoke.


And while I was in Basingstoke I managed to visit the magnificent military cemetery at Brookwood. There are two large Crosses of Sacrifice in this cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brookwood Military Cemetery.

I also visited the city of Bath which had a Cross incorporated into the town war memorial.

Cross of Sacrifice: Bath.

And the beautiful Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol has a Cross of Sacrifice at the “Sailors Corner”.

Cross of Sacrifice: Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol.

Cross of Sacrifice: Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol.


On a trip to Swindon I discovered a small Cross of Sacrifice in the Radnor Street Cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: Radnor Str Cemetery, Swindon

Cross of Sacrifice: Radnor Str Cemetery, Swindon


And on my visit to Reading I discovered the small Cross of Sacrifice in the local cemetery, keeping watch over the screen wall.
Cross of Sacrifice: Reading Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Reading Cemetery.


After Leaving Basingstoke I travelled North and ended up in Staffordshire, there I visited Cannock Chase Military Cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: Cannock Chase Military Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Cannock Chase Military Cemetery


And I found another Cross of Sacrifice in Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham.
Cross of Sacrifice: Warstone Lane Cemetery, Birmingham

Cross of Sacrifice: Warstone Lane Cemetery, Birmingham


and another in Ryecroft Cenetery in the town of Walsall.
Cross of Sacrifice: Ryecroft Cemetery, Walsall.

Cross of Sacrifice: Ryecroft Cemetery, Walsall.


I now live in Tewkesbury, and the first Cross of Sacrifice I have encountered around here is at the beautiful Prestbury Cemetery in Cheltenham.

The point I am making is that wherever there is a Cross of Sacrifice there is a reminder that many servicemen and women, as well as civilians and their families were lost in the two World Wars, and they remind us that we must never walk down that terrible path again, because who will be left to erect even more war memorials or Crosses of Sacrifice?

I am sure I have forgotten a few of the crosses that I have seen, as I wade through my pics I am bound to find more of them, and will continue to find them as I explore more around me. The Cross of Sacrifice is a simple yet effective memorial, but it is so tragic that we need something like this in the first place.

© DRW 2015-2018. Created  20/09/2015, images migrated 01/05/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:25

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
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:33

Tottering around Tewkesbury

On Monday the 15th I did my first bit of tottering around in Tewkesbury. I had to take in the sights before I started work just in case the job went phut and so did I. 
It is not a large town, it is smaller than Salisbury, but like that town it is rich in history and tradition. If you approach it from the railway station (Which is not called Tewkesbury) the town really is more of a cursive Y shape, with the Abbey being the best feature of the place.

The station by the way is called Ashurch for Tewkesbury, and not too many trains stop here. It is closer to Cheltenham than to Worcester, but sadly trains are few. Once this was a thriving railway junction, with tracks heading in all 4 directions. Today it is empty.  Thank you Mr Beeching!

The map above shows how large the Ashchurch Junction was, Tewkesbury is on the left and the line heading to the left would run up to the town and then to Upton on Severn. Today parts of that line are the cycle path.

Back at the town I really only planned on looking at the Abbey, which is a magnificent structure and which I will be visiting again as I have two war graves inside of the church. Interestingly enough the Abbey is actually the parish church and is probably the most ornate parish church you could ever want for. I will be doing a proper blog post about it at a later stage.

 
Having visited the abbey, my next port of call was the local cemetery. And it was not a very impressive one as far as these things go, although it did have a really nice chapel building.

I had heard that there was also a small graveyard by the old disused Baptist Church and that was my next destination, although finding it in the veritable warren of alleys and courts was difficult, but eventually I found it and it was a gem.

tewkesbury 345

It has a surprisingly interesting burial in it too, that of Joan Shakespeare, who was William Shakespeare’s younger sister. She married into the Hart family, and one of the Hart descendants moved to Tewkesbury. John Hart was a chairmaker, and so was his son, and there are two Shakespeare Hart burials in this tiny plot. Unfortunately I was only able to find one (Thomas), but will keep it in mind for the future for a revisit.  I did a revisit in December 2017 as part of my “Cemetery in the Snow” mania,

The town has a lot of wood framed buildings in it and it is really a pretty place, although not too large and prone to flooding. There are more images from Tewkesbury at my Best of Tewkesbury gallery.
There are two rivers next to the town, the Severn and my old friend the Avon. They are the source of the flooding and I must bear that in mind if I decide to settle here. 
 
That glorious iron bridge may be Thomas Telford’s Mythe Bridge over the River Severn, although I was not able to get close to it to double check. (I did eventually find the Mythe Bridge and wrote about it later) In fact the whole marina area is almost impossible to access, although I did not go too far as I was starting to tire.

Methinks I should look at getting myself a narrowboat.

In case you wondered, there is a War Memorial in the town, although it sits in a very awkward place which is very difficult to photograph because of the traffic. In fact the traffic in this small town is terrible, there is really only one main street and everybody goes past or around this memorial. I believe this junction is called “The Cross”

Don’t blink now, that was Tewkesbury.  Actually there is much more to the town that these few images, but I did not go over the top imagewise and will add to this as I go along.

The Town Hall

 
tewkesbury 027

 

The White Bear

Ye Olde Black Bear. Supposedly the oldest pub around (est. 1308)

The former livestock auction house and The Albion pub

Former hospital, now flats

Former hospital, now flats 

 

The railway line used to run up this road to the mill

Bridge over the Avon

Bridge over the Avon

Churchwise there are a few, although the Abbey makes everything else look like nothing. The Holy Trinity Church has somewhat of a modern feel about it, although there is a graveyard so it may be older than it looks

 
Tewkesbury Methodist Church

Tewkesbury Methodist Church (aka “the Messy Church”)

From a shopping point of view there is a Morrisons, Aldi, Poundland, Tesco Metro, WH Smith and quite a few others that I don’t usually shop at. Unfortunately though the town is 45 minutes walk from where I lived at the time of writing, so any expedition I made to there had to be worth my while. A quick walk through really did not reveal too much, but I may have missed seeing a lot of what is under my nose.
 
The town has gone down in history as being where one of the decisive battles fought during the War of the Roses was fought, and in time I will go look that area up, but suffice to say, eighteen year old Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster, was killed either in the battle or during its aftermath and is buried in the Abbey.

Next month is the Medieval Festival and hopefully I will pop along and have a look at it. Who knows, there may even be a blog post about it. (blogpost created 2017)

However, at the end of the day Tewekesbury is only famous for 3 things:

  1. It flooded in 2007
  2. It has a Medieval Festival
  3. Tewkesbury Abbey

and now I live there.

Actually you can now add: “The great snow of 2017” and “The water shortage of 2017” to that list

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

Updated: 15/07/2018 — 10:04

Finding the fallen: Belgrave Cemetery

My visit to Leicester meant that I could add yet another cemetery to my list, and see whether I could pick up more of the CWGC graves that needed photographing. I had 2 possibilities in mind, Belgrave or Welford cemeteries, Belgrave was the closest, although at the time I did lean towards Welford more as it seems to be the older of the two. I am however glad I did go to Belgrave, the first reason has to do with the railway experience that I had, and the second has to do with angels.
  
The cemetery is not a large one, which was a good thing because I had limited time to do what I had to. There are 49 CWGC recognised casualties in the cemetery, although on the notice board in the entrance it states that there are 90 killed in action named on family stones. That is probably the most PM’s I have ever seen in a cemetery. Interestingly enough there are 364 stillborns and  under two year olds buried here too.
 
The cemetery is divided into 5 distinct areas, with the B and C areas on a bit of an upwards slope.  There are also toilets! which is a bit odd seeing as they are in the centre of the cemetery. However, I wonder if that particular space was not where the demolished chapel used to be?
 
The War Memorial is not a complicated one, and if I had not walked past it I may have missed it.
 
The plaque simply reads: 
To Commemorate 
the Brave Men of Belgrave
Who Lost Their Lives
in Both World Wars
 
The memorial was placed in November 2008.
 The headstones are not in too bad a condition, and there is plenty of evidence that they do take a lot of care with the cemetery, the grass was cut and there was no litter or anything that detracted from the experience. Quite a few headstones have been toppled though, but I suspect that is from a safety aspect. There are a lot of of accidents caused by toppled headstones, and the legal and bad publicity ramifications can be large if a headstones falls on a child.
And then there are angels. Belgrave has seven distinct angels, 2 of which are truly spectacular and which I am reproducing here.
I have to admit that the first angel is really beautiful, my photographs do not do her justice. At one point I really felt as if she was looking at me, but that is probably because she is on a pedestal and looks down on everybody below her anyway.
I was able to cover the cemetery quite quickly, picking up the CWGC headstones as I found them and occasionally spotting a PM close by. It will be awhile before I sort my images though, so as yet I do not have a final tally of how many graves I found. But I do know there were a lot of very unique PM’s too.  There are over 15000 burials in the cemetery, and it has a friends society that looks after it.
 
It was a great little cemetery, one of those rare gems that are a pleasure to see, and of course, a pleasure to explore. As much as I would love to return here I probably will never get the opportunity, but, I am glad I did chose to visit, because at the end of the day this visit was full of surprises.  The final grave tally? 36 out of 49 CWGC found as well as 12 PM’s. Gee, it could have been many more, but that is for somebody else to complete.
 
 
© DRW 2015-2018.Images migrated 30/04/2016
 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:42

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. 
  
© DRW 2015-2018.  Images migrated 30/04/2016. 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 15:43

Finding The Fallen: Sutton Coldfield.

On my recent trip to Birmingham, one of the stations that I passed was Sutton Coldfield, also known as “The Royal Town Of Sutton Coldfield”. The only reason I decided to head out that way was because according to my list, there were 46+3 graves buried in the old cemetery in the town. That is reason enough for me, and I packed my goodies and headed out in that direction. 
 
It did not seem to be too big a place, although my Google Earth  Map did show a substantial park, as well as the usual conglomeration of buildings, churches and houses. My goal was not too far away although I did mess up by taking the wrong turning. (I seem to be doing that a lot lately), and it was probably because I detoured at the Holy Trinity Church first. 
  
There is an interesting plaque in the park below the church that was of interest, and it sums up a bit about the town. 
Sutton_coldfield163
 
 
Bishop Vesey is buried in this church and he has a lot to do with the revival of the town after the War of the Roses. Sadly the church was not open so I could not go look at the effigy inside the church. The graveyard has been levelled, and the headstones are now stacked along the periphery wall. The area around the church is much higher than the floor level of the church which could be as a result of the amount of burials within the original churchyard.
 
The cemetery I was going to was really and overflow for the churchyard, and it in turn had an extension once it was full.  
Following my detour I eventually found the cemetery, and started at the extension as there were only 3 graves there to find. The extension is also full, and I wonder where burials are now happening? I walked the rows, looking for the first burials, but it was quite a large area. 
 
Fortunately my graves were in an area close to the road and I almost fell over them while I was looking. Unfortunately they are not a healthy colour, and are really in dire need of cleaning. 
 
Then I headed to the old cemetery, with its lodge and chapel. I did have grave numbers for the graves, but these did not tally with how the sections were marked on the map.
 
I was just going to have to find what I could and try reconcile those known graves with graves that I was missing. 46 does not sound like a lot, but the reality is that once the recognisable graves have been found  the private memorials are what is left over. Their legibility is often poor, and in some cases the headstones are overgrown with moss, or even toppled.
  
As cemeteries go it was not too bad, a nice mix of old and newish headstones, although some parts were looking slightly sparse. The easily found graves went quickly but I was soon sitting with 8 graves that were hiding from me, and I had to eliminate each one separately. By roughly midday I had only two to go and the discovery of grave numbers on the occasional grave did mean I could walk a section and count, and then try another section and count. Surprisingly both graves were right under my nose! The private memorial toll was quite high too, I found 8 PM’s amongst the graves, and that was surprising.   Rent paid, it was time to head off home. 
 
I headed in the direction of the station, but veering slightly off course towards where a sign had pointed out the Town Hall was. If there was a war memorial it would probably be close to the Town Hall. 
 
 
My supposition was correct, and the War Memorial was opposite the Town Hall on a small island. It was a very pretty memorial too, very reminiscent of some that I had seen in London.
 
The Town Hall was also quite nice, with an impressive clock tower. Although the actual building seems to be in danger of becoming more yuppie pads.
 
I was close to the station so decided to get myself over there and homeward bound. The station is not really a huge one,  but it does have a very nice tunnel, and I waited for the light at the end of the tunnel!
 
When it did arrive it turned out to be the local to Birmingham, and not one of the many diesels that I had heard at the cemetery.
 
 
It appears that at some point close by the railway splits, with the diesels and their container trains heading in one direction, with the locals in the other.
 
The station was also the site of a rail disaster on 23 January 1955, but I am not sure where it happened in relation to the station as it was on that day. A plaque was unveiled at the station to commemorate the event.
Sutton Coldfield Rail Disaster Mmemorial_- 2016-01-25

Sutton Coldfield Rail Disaster Memorial_- 2016-01-25

(Image by © Optimist on the run, 2016 /, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46600852)
Master and Miss Harrison are both buried in the churchyard of  St Peter and St Paul, Weobley, Herefordshire.  
I had accomplished what I had set out to do, and was suitably satisfied, peckish and tired. There was not too much to see in the town though, and I doubt if I will head out there again, but it was an interesting interlude and a glimpse into yet another interesting town. 
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 30/04/2016, updated 24/11/2016 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 15:48

Cannock Chase War Cemeteries

Following my visit to Burntwood, we decided to drive down to Cannock Chase War Cemetery, as well as The German Military  Cemetery  close by. 
CWGC Has a very informative information board at the cemetery,  and it is well worth reading it to gain some sort of context to the two cemeteries.

What makes this cemetery unique is that the majority of allied troops in it are New Zealanders, a number of whom succumbed to the Spanish Flu in 1918. There are also the graves of 286 Germans who died in Brocton Internment Camp and Hospital.

Like all CWGC military cemeteries, it is a study in linearity and order, and the alignment of the graves always fascinates me.
  
It is strange though to walk in a cemetery were there are so many men from both sides, and at the end of the day, when the war ended, their ideological differences were of no more consequence. 
 
I walked the rows, photographing as I did. Unfortunately the weather kept on changing as dark clouds covered the sun each time I wanted to take images, so my pics do vary in consistency.
 
The major difference between a the German and Allied forces is that while the headstones may look the same, they differ in the shape of the top of the stone, as well as the amount of detail on the stone.
Having taken my pics I was now ready to head towards the German Military Cemetery just a bit further up the path. 
 
This cemetery is uniquely German, and is the first I have ever seen. The next closest one would be in Continental Europe.  
  
It was very difficult to get a sense of the cemetery as we arrived shortly before it closed, so I really only had a bit of time to dash around and grab pics without straying too far from the exit.

There were a number of aspects of this cemetery that I must mention, the first is the Zeppelin memorial that commemorates the crews of SL11 (03/09/1916), L32 (24/09/1916), L31 (02/10/1916) and L48 (17/06/1917) .

The other aspect that interested me was the “Hall of Honour” with the statue of “The Fallen Warrior”, sculpted by the eminent German sculptor, Professor Hans Wimmer. It is a powerful piece, and there is something stark and dismal about this space. It almost has an abandoned look about it, or maybe that was the intention?

 

Then it was time to visit the graves. There are 2143 World War One burials here, and 2786 from World War Two.

The cemetery is quite a large space, with the two sets of war dead separated by a sunken walkway, each headstone generally has 4 names on it, two per side, or sometimes 3.

In the case above the one is an unknown soldier, and there are a number of unknowns buried in the cemetery too. The stones are of a Belgian granite, with white engraving, and these give the cemetery a very stark feel about it. This place was very different to the CWGC cemetery I had visited earlier.

The picture was very different on the the next day when we went to visit. It was cold and grey and the light levels were low, making the cemetery a sad and poignant place. Inside my mind I kept on hearing the words from a traditional lament from the German Armed Forces: Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden (“I had a comrade”), (that piece may be heard on Youtube). It was an odd feeling though, almost as if there was a lot of sadness and loss associated with this quiet place.

 

Then it was time to head to our next destination; RAF Cosford, where many of the aircraft that had fought against this foe were on display to those who came to see them, and of course there were also aircraft that some of these men may have flown. Many of those buried here are aircrew from the bomber raids. 

I believe that a ceremony of Remembrance is regularly held, although it does not draw as many as a CWGC service does. But I know people come here because every here and there was a bouquet, or a poppy, a sign that while the dead lay in foreign fields they are always close to the heart of those who mourn their loss.

The question is: do I feel the same way about this cemetery as I do for the many CWGC cemeteries that I visit? It is a difficult question because of the way the war was conducted, and there is an element of “who was the winner and who was the loser?” But at the same time, I feel a lot of sadness for these men, just as I do for the soldiers of the Dominions who are buried far from home, or for the nurses that travelled to hospitals to perform their duty, or the men of the SANLC who died when the Mendi was sunk. At the end of the day they all had hopes and dreams, possibly family, or a puppy, they were humans, and they are no more, and for that alone, they deserve to be remembered. This cemetery was probably the most different war cemetery I have ever seen. It will remain with me for a long time.

 
© DRW 2015-2018 Created 28/03/2015. Images migrated 28/04/2016
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:42
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