A Member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits


Thursday 30 September 2010

Wednesday's Child

In Loving Rememberance of
youngest daughter of the late
John Elizabeth Gilbert
died Sep. 30 1873. aged 50 years
( inscription to worn to read )
also of LOUISA EVA daughter of
John & Eliza Wiles
and beloved niece of the above
died March 26 1863
aged 10 years
( inscription to worn to read )

Louisa Gilbert was the cousin of John Wiles. 

Tuesday 28 September 2010

The Unfinished Book

I simply love books, and there are so many analogies that compare our life with them: turning over a new leaf, blotting your copy book, starting a new chapter, never judging a book by it's cover...........
And once I've started to read one, it only seems polite to continue reading until the very end. So it seems so sad to see older headstones with only the one page filled and the page that was reserved for another, remaining eternally blank..........

St. Botolph's Essex

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Myths and Mazes

I knew of the grisly legend of the unfortunate Viking who had reputedly been flayed alive for sacking a local church, where upon his skin was nailed to the door of the church; as a warning to other invaders, that the people of Hadstock were not to be messed with.
But it was just a Myth, surely ? 
Then recently, I heard of an unusal headstone, that had a Maze upon it, which I just had to go and see.
This made me curious about the whole place and this is what I found out.........

reverse side of the Ayrton head stone

Michael Ayrton
Painter and Sculptor
1921 - 1975
Elisabeth Ayrton
1910 - 1991

Michael Ayrton B. 20 February 1921 – D. 17 November 1975 was an English artist and writer, known as a painter, printmaker and sculptor, and also as a critic, broadcaster and novelist. He was a stage and costume designer from the age of19; and a book designer and illustrator. His work is in several important collections including the Tate Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Ayrton wrote and created many works associated with the myths of the Minotaur and Daedalus, the legendary inventor and maze builder, including a bronze sculpture and the pseudo-autobiographical novel "The Maze Maker"

Arkville Minotaur by Michael Ayrton

Elisabeth Ayrton was a writer of many published cookery books.

But to go back to the beginning of this story:
For more than 1,000 years St. Botolphs church has stood beside the Icknield Way, Britain's oldest prehistoric pathway, overlooking the small Essex village of Hadstock, a community of 130 households. It is believed to have been erected by King Cnut in 1020 to commemorate his victory over Edmund Ironside at "Assandune" ( probably Ashdon nearby ) in 1016.

This simple building contains unique and important features, including the country’s oldest wooden door still in use. This 900 year old oak door is the one reputed to have had a Viking’s skin nailed to it at one time.

The windows were not glazed but closed by wooden shutters when first made and the tower was added about 1450. The chancel was completely rebuilt in 1884. There is a strong case for believing that St. Botolph's Church, Hadstock, may be on the site of the monastery of Ikanho founded by St. Botolph in 654, later followed by the Minster built by King Cnut to commemorate those Saxons and Danes, from both sides, killed at the Battle of Assandun in 1016. Otherwise, there is no reason for the presence of a large Saxon, Royal Church in Hadstock.

In the late 19th century, a fragment of skin was found underneath the ironwork on the church door ( the rest having been removed by relic hunters and tourists over the centuries ) and it restored the belief that it came from an invading Dane. However a century later BBC Television, filming 'Blood of the Vikings', arranged for a DNA test which proved the skin to be cowhide. It is on display in Saffron Walden Museum.

Friday 24 September 2010

Reserved Parking Space

A Shallow Grave

Not the kind of shallow grave you may have been expecting

Thursday 16 September 2010

Another Brave Boy

Brave John Clinton who drowned near London Bridge 16th July 1894,
 whilst trying to save a companion younger than himself.

There is also another fascinating memorial in Postman's Park, that commemorates this act of Heroic Self Sacrifice  along with those of others who have done the same thing.

First Class Boy

John Travers Cornwell V.C ( known as Jack ) was born on 8 Jan. 1900 in Leyton, London, son of Eli and Alice Cornwell. He was educated at Walton Road School, Manor Park and wished to be a sailor when he left school. But his parents could not bear the thought of losing him so soon, so he became a boy on a Brook Bond's tea van. He was also a keen Boy Scout, and held two certificates.
After his death the Scouting Association were to name their own Badge of Courage to his memory:
click this link for more info The Cornwell Award - The Badge of Courage

When the European War broke out his father promptly joined the Army, and Jack Cornwell decided to join the Navy. After his training at Devonport, in July 1915, he became a First Class Boy on HMS Chester for active service in Admiral Beatty's North Sea Squadron.
A few months after Jack Cornwell joined his ship, and came to grips with the German High Seas Fleet near Jutland 31st May 1916;

Jack was mortally wounded in action, and died two days later in Grimsby hospital. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross [London Gazette, 15 Sept. 1916] : " John Travers Cornwell, Boy (First Class), O.N. J.42563: Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders, until the end of the action, with the gun's crew dead and wounded around him. His age was under sixteen and half years."

The story of his brave deed was told in the following letter,
written to his mother by the Captain of his ship :

" I know you would wish to hear of the splendid fortitude and courage shown by your son during the action of 31 May. His devotion to duty was an example for all of us. The wounds which resulted in his death within a short time were received in the first few minutes of the action He remained steady at his most exposed post at the gun, waiting for orders. His gun would not bear on the enemy ; all but two of the ten crew were killed or wounded, and he was the only one who was in such an exposed position.
But he felt he might be needed, and, indeed, he might have been ; so he stayed there, standing and waiting, under heavy fire, with just his own brave heart and God's help to support him. I cannot express to you my admiration of the son you have lost from this world.
No other comfort would I attempt to give to the mother of so brave a lad, but to assure her of what he was, and what he did, and what an example he gave, I hope to place in the boys' mess a plate with his name on and the date and the words, ' Faithful unto Death.' I hope some day you may able to come and see it there. I have not failed to bring his name prominently before my Admiral."

The " Times History of the War " says, in Vol. II., page 189, of Jack Cornwell:

" He was only a boy, under sixteen and a half years of age; yet no record of the Cross was more impressive than that of his behaviour in the Jutland battle : Mortally wounded early in the action, he remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders, until the end of the action, with the gun's crew dead and wounded all round him.

Some time elapsed before the steadfast courage of the boy was made known. Meanwhile he had been brought ashore, he had died at Grimsby of his wounds, and through one of the stupid blunders which are inseparable from officialdom he had been buried in what was no better than a pauper's grave. No sooner was the truth known of the lad's last hours of life and the manner of his death than public opinion demanded a befitting reinterment. Accordingly the body was exhumed, and there was an impressive funeral in Manor Park Cemetery.

A few months afterwards the boy's father, Eli Cornwell, who had joined the Army, was buried in the same grave." . . . A committee was formed to organize a national memorial to Jack Cornwell. and £21,849 13s. 111/2d. was raised.

In Memoriam
First Class Boy John Travers
Cornwell VC
Born 8th January 1900
Died of Wounds Received at
The Battle of Jutland
2nd June 1916
This stone was erected
by scholars and ex-scholars
of schools in East Ham
'It is not wealth or ancestry
but honourable conduct and a noble
disposition that make men great.'

 " A picture of the boy, standing by his gun, with Admiral Sir David Beatty's report of the incident, occupies a position of honour in more than 12,000 schools.
At Buckingham Palace, on 9 February, 1917, the Queen received the members of the Jack Cornwell Memorial Fund Committee, who presented to her the first instalment of the proceeds of the appeal. Admiral Lord Beresford presented an address explaining the objects of the fund and the means adopted to carry them out. One form of the memorial was a contribution of £18,000 collected in the schools and by scholars of the United Kingdom to the ' Star and Garter' Fund, and it was proposed as another part of the scheme to place a portrait of Cornwell in each of the contributing schools.

In accepting a cheque for £18,000, the Queen said : ' I am glad to know that in every school where the scholars have contributed to this memorial a picture of Jack Cornwell will be placed, which will serve to remind future generations of scholars in those schools of the lasting glory that attaches to the performance of duty.'
On 23 March, 1917, a large company witnessed at the Mansion House the presentation to the Board of Admiralty of Mr. Frank O. Salisbury's picture, ' John Cornwell, V.C., on H.M.S. Chester.' Sir Edward Carson, the First Lord, received the picture on behalf of the Admiralty. The picture showed the lad standing by the side of a gun, which had just been fired. The inscription gave the official details of Cornwall's act. The artist unveiled the picture, and in formally presenting it to the Admiralty, said that the studies were taken on board the Chester. Cornwell's brother sat for the portrait. The captain, on being asked for a title for the picture, replied that he knew of none which was more appropriate than this : ' Thou hast set my feet in a large place.'

In accepting the gift on behalf of the Admiralty, Sir Edward Carson paid a high tribute to the dead lad's courage and example. ' I ask people who grumble' he said, ' if they ever heard the story of John Travers Cornwell. ... I feel that this boy, who died at the post of duty, sends this message through me as First Lord of the Admiralty for the moment to the people of the Empire: "Obey your orders, cling to your post, don't grumble, stick it out."

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

This stone was erected by many loving sorrowing friends

There was no other information as to when or who it was dedicated.

Writer's Corner ~ William Blake

William Blake ( B: 23 November 1757 - D: 12 August 1827 )  William Blake’s work was considered extraordinary and mystical by many of his peers, including William Wordsworth. 

However he was shown very little respect during his own lifetime, often being considered a madman by Society at the time and also considered as an eccentric by those who knew him. 
England almost wrote him off as delusional and insane, which compromised his works.
Only after his death, when his poems were released by a dear friend, did he become popular. 

Glad Day

Blake was considered as delusional because he often spoke of meeting God. This started when he just four years old. He claimed to have seen God, who put His head by his window. He also said that when he was nine years old he saw a tree full of angels.

Blake's unique style of writing, used dichotomy in his works, such as heaven and hell, life and death, spirit and reason etc.
Blake was a learned man and in order to read poetry in their own languages, he learnt Hebrew, French, German and Latin. He soon mastered these languages. However, when he married Catherine, she was illiterate and he then took the time to teach her how to read and write so that he and she could work together.
Blake usually credited his works of poetry to his dead brother Robert.

When Blake passed away, his so-called insanity was praised by William Wordsworth, who said that there was more to Blake's insanity than Lord Byron's or Walter Scott's sanity. Surprisingly, many of his fans, peers and friends who knew him well had a similar opinion. 

The Number of the Beast 666

Today he is recognised for his imaginative contributions and is considered as one of the greatest romantic poets to have lived.
A British journal published that by far Blake was the greatest poet that England had ever produced. The lack of recognition of his work was attributed to his prophetic way of speech and also mystic experiences which he claims he had had. This made people think he was delusional.

The Ancient of Days

His painting and poetry is considered as the greatest works during the Romantic Movement in poetry itself. He had several idiosyncratic views and there was a lot of creativity and mysticism in his work. The Church of England, however, refused his work and denied acknowledging them because several times he questioned the very existence of humanity.

The Tyger
Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile His work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake

The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee
Does thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice.
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Does thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by His name,
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee.

William Blake

Sunday 12 September 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

Here is a most unusal epitaph from Bunhill Field Cemetery, London.
It describes the treatment Mary Page endured, but does not name her condition which had yet to be recognised. However I did find a referrence to the probable cause being that of Meigs Syndrome  ~ Joe Vincent Meigs whom the condition is named after, wasn't born until 1892.

Here lyes Dame Mary Page relict of Sir Gregory Page Bart.
She departed this life March 4 1728 in the 56th year of her age.

In 67 months she was tapd 66 times
Had taken away 240 gallons of water
Without ever repining at her case
Or ever fearing the operation.

Friday 10 September 2010

On Unconsecrated Ground

Bunhill originates from the term 'Bone Hill' and the area was associated with burials from Saxon times.
In 1685, it was set apart as a common cemetery for the interment of bodies for which there wasn't room in their church cemeteries during the Plague. However it wasn't used for that purpose when Mr.Tindal leased it and converted into a burial place for those who practised outside the Traditional Church.

So it is a site of great historical and religious significance, as Bunhill Fields is unconsecrated ground that has been used for centuries as a burial place for Nonconformists, Dissenters, and other people who died outside of the Church of England.

The cemetery was used until 1855 for approximately 120,000 burials, when it was taken over by the City of London in 1867 for use as a green space. Today, about half of Bunhill Fields is a park and the rest remains a fence-enclosed cemetery.
Bunhill Fields graveyard was damaged by German bombing during World War II but reconstructed in 1960.

It is the last resting place for an estimated 120,000 bodies, including some of Britain's most famous Nonconformists:
•William Blake (1757-1827), poet, and his wife Catherine (1762-1831)
•John Owen (1616-83), Congregational minister
•Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley:
 founders of the Methodist Church
•Daniel Defoe (1661-1731), author of Robinson Crusoe
•John Bunyan (1628-1688), author of The Pilgrim's Progress
•Isaac Watts (1674-1748), hymnwriter
•George Fox (1624-1691), founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers) - in the Quaker Gardens, next to the Bunhill Fields Meeting House
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 1830s onwards.

Bunhill today is a popular lunchtime spot for office workers wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the surrounding City.
You cannot wander amongst the tombs as there are railings around them with padlocked gates, but there are benches to sit upon and the squirrels are charming and incredibily friendly. 

Click the link for Bunhill Fields Cemetery Map

Wednesday 8 September 2010

The Empresses Nanny

Mary Ann
20th March 1830,
8th August 1906.
She served
Princess Alice's
( Grand Duchess
of Hesses ) children
for 40 years
This moument is erected
in Loving, grateful memory by
Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg
Elizabeth, Grand Duchess Sergius of Russia
Irene, Princess Henry of Prussia
Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse
Alix, Empress of Russia

Mary Orchard was the Nanny to the children of Princess Alice ~ Queen Victoria's daughter

Above: Clockwise Elizabeth, Grand Duke Louis with May in his arms, Alice, Victoria, Irene: kneeling, Ernest Louis: seated, Alix: center

And it would be ( Princess Alexandra (Alix) ) who was to later marry Tsar Nicholas II and became the ill-fated last Empress of Russia, when the entire family and their faithful retainers were murdered during the Russian Revolution by the Bolsheviks in the basement of the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918.

1889 Mary Orchard fixes Alix's hair, Elizabeth

Princess Alice and her husband Prince Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt lived in the small old-fashioned town of Darmstadt in the New Palace, that was built when their first home proved too small for their rapidly increasing family. It had a lovely garden, for it had originally been the Botanical Gardens.

It was built according to the Princess's own taste and was made by its owner as much like an English house as possible. Life in the Palace was organized on English lines, and continued this way even after  Princess Alice's untimely death at the age of 35 years.

Life in both nursery and schoolroom followed definite rules, laid down by the children's Mother, based on the same simple lines as she herself been brought up by. Their father become Grand Duke upon the death of his Uncle in 1877.
The couple gave much of their income to charity, and the building of the New Palace had taken much of the Princess's dowry, so that before the Grand Duke's accession, they were far from rich.
The children were brought up in accordance with old-fashioned English ideas of hygiene, which were, at that time, far ahead of those in Germany. Their dress was simple and their meals of the plainest fare; indeed they all kept hated memories of rice puddings and baked apples in endless succession.

The nurseries were large, lofty rooms, very plainly furnished. Mary Anne Orchard, " Orchie" to the children, ruled the nursery. She was the ideal head nurse, sensible, quiet, enforcing obedience, not disdaining punishment, but kind though firm. Mary Orchard gave the children excellent nursery training and she had fixed hours for everything, the children's day was strictly divided in such a way that it allowed them to take advantage of every hour that their Mother could spare for them.

Hesse children with their cousin's the Wales's

On the same floor as the nurseries were the Grand Duchess's rooms, and there the little Princesses brought their toys and played while their mother wrote or read.
Toys were simple and sometimes all the old boxes containing their mother's early wardrobe were brought out for dressing up. The children strutted down the long corridors in crinolines, and played at being great ladies, or characters from fairy tales, dressed in bright stuffs and Indian shawls, which their grandmother, Queen Victoria, could not have imagined being put to such a use.
The Grand Duke was not able to be with his children much, but their rare games with him were a delight.

The children were full of fun and mischief and sometimes escaped Mary Orchard's vigilance, when once the children were chasing one another in the garden when Princess Irene and Prince Ernest ran over some forcing frames, carefully treading only on the stone. Princess Alix - who was six at the time-followed, but tried to run over the glass panes. She crashed through, and was so badly cut that she remained scared for life.

Every year the whole family went to England, staying at Windsor Castle, Osborne or Balmoral, according to Queen Victoria's residence at the moment. The Queen was adored by all her grandchildren. She was always a fond grandmother, and did not apply to them the strict rules that had governed her own children.
In November 1878, diphtheria broke out severely in the New Palace, and all the family, except Princess Elizabeth, went down with it. A serum was unknown, and the old-fashioned methods of treatment were powerless against the illness.
Queen Victoria sent her own doctor to help the German physicians. The Grand Duchess had a terribly anxious time and undertook most of the nursing herself. She sat up whole nights with her children, going from one sick-bed to the other. Except Princess Victoria, they were desperately ill.
In spite of all her devotion the "baby," Princess May, died on November 16th. Then her own weakened constitution could fight the infection no longer. On December 8th she fell ill and on December 14th she died as well.
Greatly lamented, both in Hesse and in England, while to her own family her death was a shattering blow.

It took a long time for the family to adjust to a life which had lost the hand that guided it, for the Grand Duke Louis IV had scarcely recovered from his own severe illness at the time of his wife's death. All the children were moved as soon as possible into the unfamiliar surroundings of the old town-Schloss, and from its windows little Alix who was barely six, saw her mother's funeral procession wending its way from the New Palace to the family mausoleum at the Rosenhohe.
Prince Ernest Louis, now ten, had a tutor all day, and Princess Irene joined the elder Princesses in the schoolroom. Princess Alix remembered long afterwards, those sad months when she sat with old "Orchie " in the nursery and had looked up, to see her old nurse silently crying. The deaths of her beloved Grand Duchess and of Princess May had nearly broken her faithful heart.

The Grand Duke did all in his power to take his wife's place with his motherless children. He was a kind-hearted, honest man, with a wonderfully fair outlook on things and was adored by his children. Their Mother had always had the entire management of the children's education, and even after her death the Grand Duke scrupulously followed the directions she had given.

Queen Victoria, who was very fond of the Grand Duke of Hesse, treating him as a son, urged him to come to her with all his children as soon as possible, and in January 1879 the family went to Osborne for a long stay. Once they had recuperated, they returned to Darmstadt two months later, accompanied by Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany) who had always been a favorite Uncle.

The two elder Princesses tried to take their Mother's place as their Father's companions, and were constantly with him. The sixteen-year-old Princess Victoria looked after her brother and sisters, and acted as mistress of the house. That first year the Grand Ducal family went to Schloss Wolfsgarten, the new surroundings and their youth helped the children to recover their vitality.
They returned to the New Palace in the winter of 1879-1880, and Princess Alix began her solitary schoolroom life, having toiled at her spelling under faithful 'Orchie's eye', now came the somewhat formidable tutor Fraulein Anna Textor, under the general guidance of her Governess: Miss Jackson.

More info on the life of Princess Alix, click this link: Princess Alix
More info on the history of the Romanovs, click this link The Romanovs

The Romanovs

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