I did my first trip to Bristol in January of 2014, and the main object of that exercise was to have a look at Arnos Vale Cemetery and photograph as many of the CWGC graves that I could find in one expedition. To be honest, I had no idea what the place was like, and the cemetery was my only goal at that point. I was pleasantly surprised though and a return trip to Bristol was on my list for action, although I did nothing about it until August this year when we made a detour to the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the city.
It was time to return, and on this fine foggy morning I groped my way to the station and boarded the train to Bristol Temple Meads.
The temptation is great to use the original images from my 2014 trip, but on that day I had spectacular weather, on this day it was foggy and grey and not really photography weather. But, I persevered and so the images in this post will be from today. Fog and all! The train runs from Great Malvern, Worcester, via Ashchurch for Tewkesbury, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucester, and then onward to Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads. It took roughly 90 minutes although we did spend 15 of those standing still in Gloucester.
The cemetery is roughly 30 minutes walk away, and well provisioned with a packet of chips and a sandwich I followed the Bath Road to my destination.
When I had first visited St Mary Redcliffe Cemetery in 2014 I had been puzzled because I could not find the church associated with it, and there was no church in the cemetery either. At any rate, I had missed two graves there last time, and was fortunate to find one with not too much trouble, but the last one evaded me, and it probably always will. In many instances the missing graves are private memorials and the kerbs have sagged or the stones have toppled rendering any inscription illegible. Without any grave numbers on the graves themselves it becomes even more problematic. I know when I am beat though and I headed over the road to Arnos Vale.
By now my shoes and socks were soaked by the wet grass, and I was going to have to squelch my way through the day like that. I should look at a pair of wellies, they may be suitable cemetery stompers. Arnos Vale had not changed much, but the one major change that had been made from my previous visit was the installation of the original ledger stones in front of the screen wall at Soldiers Corner.
These ledger stones were found in the crypt under the Anglican Chapel and were on the original graves that make up the grassed area in front of the Memorial.
In 2014 these had not been found yet so I saw this area as a green patch, and now that have been replaced. Not all the ledgers still exist though, and some are not very legible. Generally there are 4 names on each stone, and number 675 includes the names of two South Africans: M Modlalaand HC Jones, The former a South African who served with the South African Native Labour Corps, and who died of Pthysis and was buried in this small triangle. He is not the only South African buried here, Jacobus Molupe, Richard Baker and Stanley Jenkins are also buried here, and only the ledger with Molupe mentioned on it is missing. These stones are very historic and give us an early glimpse of what was done during the war to bury the many casualties that died locally. I know much more about these ledger stones now and you can read about the re-dedication of Soldiers Corner and the unveiling of restored and new ledgers in that plot in the post I did in 2018
My list of names was a long one though, and I had covered a lot of the cemetery previously so would be going over my tracks, but I found an additional 11 previously un-photographed graves and these will now be added to the record. I did not want to spend too much time at Arnos Vale though because I had other plans, but more about those later.
The Cross of Sacrifice in the distance is the one by Sailor’s Corner and you can see that blue skies do not exist. I had forgotten how tangled the undergrowth was in this cemetery, and a few excursions into the brush was enough to remind me.
I headed down towards the chapel area as my bladder was reminding me of my priorities. As I walked past the Anglican Chapel I realised that the one door was open so I thought I would pop in for a look. The cemetery is currently having an exhibition about the war and its consequences, but I was really more interested in what else was in this space.
The bays on either side contain coffins behind slabs, and the other bays were in use for the exhibition and some contained cremation urns, old stonework and other bits and pieces probably associated with the cemetery.
It was an interesting glimpse into this building, but I suspect that there must be more than this small space. Co-incidentally, it was in this crypt where the ledger stones were found.
Time was marching and I found the loo and it had been created in the area of the old 1928 opened crematorium by the other other chapel.
A small exhibition was in place showing the furnace and associated equipment. The windlass on the left leads to the lift that was used to lower the coffin from the chapel above into the area where the crematoria was. Arnos Vale was able to survive because of the crematorium, as did West Norwood in London. Like it or not, cremation was a source of revenue, and this was sorely needed in a cemetery that was filling up and having to compete with other cemeteries in the area. I was also very fortunate that the chapel above was open (technically they were holding a wedding reception there) so I had a quick look.
Having taken my pics I was ready to start making tracks again, my destination being Holy Souls Catholic Cemetery next door. On my way out I did some casual photography and managed to find a wonderful child statue hidden in the bushes.
I had not seen her before and she is on my list when I do a return visit one day. Unfortunately the lack of sunshine was not great for photography, and I had too many other plans to be able to spend too much time in Arnos Vale. My previous visit to Holy Souls had been a quick one too. It is a difficult place to photograph and the graves are stacked up a hill.
Fortunately most of what I had found originally had been clustered around a central screen wall and I was missing 11 graves. They were not where I hoped they were and I headed towards the other end to start my search. By sheer fortune I encountered a grave I had been at previously and it had a number which placed in slap bang in the middle of a section, and working my way to either side of the section I was able to wrap up 5 graves that were in the section. Alas though, the others were probably scattered amongst the balance of the population.
It was time to leave. I had under 20 graves in total completed, so I have to return one day. But my time here was at an end as I wanted to go the harbour and photograph whatever was floating in it, and I would do that via St Mary Redcliffe. This is the church that probably ties into the cemetery I had been to first. I turned my bows towards the Bath Road and in the general direction of the harbour. I would pass the church on my way. I had scheduled a train for 14.42, and it was now just after 12 so I had roughly 2 hours left to see a lot.
My day to visit Bristol was a fortuitous one as there was some sort of heritage festival on the go and the harbour was suddenly the right place to be, although I will deal with that over the page.
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