Tag: graveyard

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. 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 further-est 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: 22/03/2020 — 19:11

Warstone Lane Cemetery Birmingham

One of the reasons for visiting Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham was mention of catacombs, and possibly because it was within walking distance of the New Street Station. According to what I read, the catacombs were built into the sides of a gravel pit, and that sounded like an interesting concept worth investigating.

I approached the cemetery from Icknield Street instead of the main entrance in Warstone Lane. Fortunately I did because the lodge is closed up and the gates are closed.

From where I came in the cemetery sits on a rise with graves from the pavement up to the hill and the catacombs in a circular depression in that hill. Many years ago there was also a chapel above the catacombs, but that was demolished.

I will be honest though, I did not think that the cemetery was being properly maintained. There was litter strewn around, headstones were toppled, graffiti was painted on some of the graves and generally the place looked run down. The grass was cut, although in some areas I am not even sure if the ground covering was even grass!

I worked my way up the hill, keeping an eye open for any CWGC graves. There are 51 First World War 13 Second World War burials in the cemetery as well a screen wall next to the lodge on which are recorded the names of those whose graves are not marked by headstones.

I was busting a gut to get at the catacombs, although from what I could see from above there was not much to see below!

However, I persevered and continued my exploration,  photographing headstones that interested me and just trying to get a feel of the place. The headstones were really all very similar, and many dated back to the 1800’s. There were not a lot of angels to be seen, and I think I only saw one still standing and two that had been toppled.

On the hill in areas around the catacombs there are flat slabs with the names of all those buried in the catacombs below. Kind of like a table of contents for a chamber. What I found odd was that many of the names did not seem to come from the same families.

It is also possible that many of the names mentioned on the CWGC screen wall tie into people buried in these catacombs. It was a bit of a puzzler and frankly I do not have any answers.

The central area of the catacombs has a number of headstones in it, although how many people are buried in this space it is impossible to tell. The catacombs did have a bit of a chequered reputation before they were finally sealed up. But in my reading I have not been able to understand what they looked like before. It appears as if they may have been tunnels, where the coffins were just stacked up in, possibly with a door, but they must have also been accessible as it is mentioned that they were often used by drug addicts and rent boys! I counted three individual marked doors to the catacombs, but apart from a number above each doorway there was no listing of who was inside, you obviously had to consult the slabs as mentioned above.

It would be very interesting to see plans of what these may have looked like, surely a plan exists? There are also two anecdotal stories about the cemetery that bear reading about. The first involves the corpse of John Baskerville (type-founder and printer), and the other involves the moving of 600 bodies to the catacombs. When Christ Church, in the centre of Birmingham, was demolished in 1899 the remains of 600 bodies were moved to the Warstone Lane Catacombs. They were taken in funeral coaches, which travelled in a dignified, slow procession in the “dead of night”,  so residents wouldn’t be disturbed.

(1500×541)

There is one Victoria Cross recipient buried in the cemetery and he is commemorated with a plaque and his grave is tentatively marked too.

The cemetery has a reputation as a place where things go bump in the knight, and given the circumstances and history of this place it is entirely possible.  All I know is that I came away with more questions than I had answers for.

I do have this listed as place to return to, because it is a very interesting and unique cemetery in its own right. However, it may be overshadowed by Key Hill Cemetery next door!

Then it was time for me to leave this strange place. I will not say it was a great cemetery, but it is certainly a unique one. I shall leave some random images of the cemetery until I come back from my return visit. There is a Friends of Key Hill and Waterstone Lane Cemetery  society  that takes care of the two cemeteries, and it is worth visiting their website  to see some of the historic images of these two places. There is a short write up about Key Hill Cemetery just after the images below.

Key Hill Cemetery, Birmingham.

On the 14th of April 2015, I returned to Warstone Lane and visited Key Hill Cemetery shortly afterwards. Like Warstone it has a set of catacombs built into the side of the hillside and these are a mix of public and private vaults.

The cemetery is also more densely populated than Warstone Lane, and the graves are not in too good a condition. There are a lot of toppled headstones, although I suspect that many were toppled because they are unsafe.

There are also many more trees here, and from above the cemetery looks like a miniature forest. The railway line to Birmingham Snow Hill Station runs alongside the cemetery, and a lot of graves were exhumed when additions were made to the line.

The CWGC lists Key Hill as having 38 First World War burials,and 8 Second World War burials. The First World War burials are not marked, and these graves are listed on a screen wall.

I must admit these two cemeteries were strange ones, unlike anything I had seen in my previous visitations elsewhere in the country. But then Birmingham was an industrial town, and life was very different here to what it was in the South of England, and by the same token that would hold true for death.

DRW ©  2015 – 2019.  Created 11/02/2015, edited 14/04/2015, added more images 03/01/2017. Moved from aas to musings 23/07/2019 

Updated: 04/12/2019 — 20:27

Revisiting Brompton.

When I first went to Brompton Cemetery on 25 March I had returned unimpressed. So much so that I kept trying to work out why. I do expect the weather had something to do with because the cemetery was not really memorable at all. There was only one thing to do and that was return, this time on a day that theoretically could have a hint of sunlight. I also had the opportunity to try to find some of the VC recipient graves I had not found before. Don’t get me wrong though, the 6th of April was not as warm as it promised. 
 
The nice thing about Brompton though is that it is reasonably linear, so finding things isn’t all that impossible, however the legibility of the headstones is problematic.  There are quite a few mausoleums and impressive statues too, so they are always first in my mind. In spite of two visits to this cemetery I was not able to find the reported statue of two children in their Sunday best. A myth? or me not looking properly? By sheer accident we ended up discussing it at one of my graving groups and they confirmed that the statue does exist, or it used to exist because at some point the two statues were stolen. The boy was recovered a few years ago but the girl never was. There is an article about the statue (posted 16 Sept 2011)  at http://sleepinggardens.blogspot.com/2011/09/
The Chapel is an impressive structure, one that would not look out of place in London’s business district. Leading off of the chapel are the two pillared structures that don’t really seem to serve any function, except for being the roof of the crypt. They are really magnificent structures, and in a remarkably good condition, unlike the similar structure that I saw in Kensal Green.  
There seem to be 3 gates per side leading into the crypt underneath, and through the doors I could see coffins in shelves. I was surprised because I would have thought that the Victorians would have been somewhat more circumspect about having coffins in view through a door. However,  I was looking at something that was over 100 years old, and circumstances may have changed.   
There are a number of “celebrities” and famous people buried here, including Samuel Cunard, Emmeline Pankhurst, Richard Tauber and a few that are “before my time”. It was probably a very fashionable cemetery to be buried in during its heyday. Considering that it opened in 1840, it really has a wide selection of everybody in English Society.  A list of famous graves may be found here https://brompton-cemetery.org.uk/monuments.html
Military monument wise, apart from the 12 VC graves, there is also a Chelsea Pensioners plot and Memorial.
And an extensive Brigade of Guards Memorial which has been used since 1854.
 
What I did like was that the cemetery was obviously a much appreciated recreation space for the local community, and on the day I was there a large number of families were taking a walk through this Royal Park and enjoying the atmosphere of it. It is really quite a nice tidy cemetery, although parts of it are reminiscent of the vegetative chaos of Nunhead.  
Brompton had redeemed itself considerably, and I was about ready to head off home. A last look around before I left and my whole outlook had changed. The weather had definitely contributed to my second opinion, but I also expect I was able to view it with a different eye. There are over 200.000 burials registered here, some being relatively recent too, and yet it doesn’t feel too cluttered or chaotic.  
And, there are some really nice angels and headstones too, even the pigeons and squirrels seem quite content to mooch off passing visitors. And, there is the obligatory sleepy lion and he is the third lion that I have seen in the “magnificent seven” garden cemeteries of London.
The catacombs are to be found underneath the collonades and they have wonderful steel gates on them that can show a glimpse of what lies within.
 
It is a strange thing to see, however we must not look at a place like Brompton, or any of those vast Victorian cemeteries through the eye of a 2016 viewer, but rather through the eyes of the Victorians, and then we may understand. Brompton is the only public cemetery to remain under government control and is now managed by the Royal Parks Agency.
There  are a number of Victoria Cross holders buried inside it’s walls,  the most famous being that of Sub-Lieut Reginald Alexander Warneford VC. I did photograph quite a few of the VC graves and they may be seen on allatsea
And that concluded my second Brompton visit, and I was glad that I took the trip out there with so few days left in London.  

 Random Images from my 2nd visit.

 

DRW © 2013-2020. Images redone 29/02/2016. Additional images added 01/01/2017, updated 15/03/202
Updated: 15/03/2020 — 13:59
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