Friday, 25 October 2013

PC 403 William Frederick Tyler, Abney Park

Sacred to the memory Of William Frederick Tyler Aged 31 years Police Constable 403 of the N Division Metropolitan Police Force Who was killed at Tottenham While bravely doing his duty On the 23rd January 1909 - grave inscription

PC Tyler was shot by Latvian Anarchists during a bungled wages heist on J. Schnurmann’s Rubber factory in Chestnut Road, Tottenham. A 10 year old boy, Ralph Joscelyne , also died in the failed robbery. The pair were buried on the same day, Friday 29 January 1909, within yards of each other at Abney Park Cemetery. 3000 Police officers lined the route of the funeral procession along with several hundred thousand members of the public.

Jacob Lepidus and Paul Hefeld were Latvian immigrants and revolutionary anarchists who decided to carry out an armed robbery on the rubber factory where Hefeld had previously worked. Perhaps Hefeld was either particularly unobservant or dangerously reckless because the factory was across the road from Tottenham Police Station. When the owner arrived at the factory from the bank at 10.30am with £80 to pay his workers in a bag carried by one of his clerks. Lepidus and Hefeld snatched the money bag as soon as the clerk stepped from the bosses car but were immediately involved in a tussle with the clerk, the chauffeur and a passer-by. Several shots were fired but no one was injured. The two robbers dropped their loot and fled. The shots had alerted the police over the road and the constabulary were soon in hot pursuit, some on foot including Tyler, two others, in a car. The police on foot were almost immediately fired on – they returned fire after borrowing a pistol from another passer-by (gun control in 1909 England was as almost as lax as in current day USA). As well as the police a crowd of people also joined in the pursuit of the armed Latvians. The crowd included 10 year old Ralph Joscelyne who had been out with the local baker on his rounds. One of the bullets fired by the Latvians hit him in the chest and he later died in hospital.

Tyler caught up with the criminals on Tottenham Marshes opposite a domestic rubbish incinerator known as the Dust Destructor. He called for them to hand themselves in but Hefeld’s response was to shoot him in the head. The robbers fled on to Banbury Reservoir where they traded shots with a group of men out duck hunting. After catching their breath behind a haystack and holding off the pursuing crowd with continuous gunshots they hijacked a tram on Chingford Road. The police stopped a tram going in the opposite direction and, forcing the driver to reverse, started a tram chase both parties exchanging shots all the while. Another police officer commandeered a pony drawn cart to join the pursuit. Meanwhile the tram conductor lied to the two Latvians telling them that there was a police station around the corner. They ordered the tram to stop and then stole a horse drawn milk cart which was so slow that they stopped the first horse and van that overtook them and hijacked that at gun point. The van was abandoned a mile or two later on when the two men tried to cross the river Ching. Hefeld was too exhausted to climb the fence on the far side of the river and seeing the crowd catching up with him shot himself in the head. Lepidus ran on for a short distance and then took shelter in a lean to at the back of a farm where he was surrounded by the armed crowd. Two police officers entered the lean two and opened fire on Lepidus. When they laid hands on him he was already “in the throes of death” though the coroner later ruled that the death had been 'felo de se' – suicide. Hefeld survived the bullet in his head but only for three weeks and not long enough to stand trial. The whole incident became known as The Tottenham Outrage.

For more information:
PC Tyler's funeral procession making its way to Abney Park Cemetery 

William Mulready (1786-1863), Kensal Green

William Mulready was born in Ennis in Ireland on April 1st 1786. His family moved to Dublin shortly after he was born and when he six to London where he was to live for the rest of his life. His father was a leather breeches maker and the family lived in Compton Street in Soho. His aristic talent was noticed at an early age by the painter John Varley and sculptor Thomas Banks. At the age of 14 he was admitted to the Royal Academy School where he became the pupil of William John Varley. The close relationship between master and pupil was cemented when Mulready fell in love with and then married Varley’s sister Elizabeth in 1802, she was 18 at the time but Mulready was even younger, a mere lad of 16. The couple had four children, four sons, in rapid succession between 1805 and 1807 and then the marriage fell spectacularly apart. The couple separated, Mulready making vague accusations of ‘bad conduct’ but never providing any details and Elizabeth insinuating that he was completely to blame for the failure of the marriage because his cruelty, his pederasty and his adultery.

After the failure of his marriage Mulready began a long term relationship with a married woman called Elizabeth Leckie. Not much is known about either Mrs Leckie or Mulready’s relationship with her mainly because he was understandably secretive about the “irregularities of his private life”. Mrs Leckie’s husband James seems to have disappeared from the scene very early on, shortly after the birth of a daughter Mary who eventually took the name Mary Mulready Leckie. Mrs Leckie kept a lodging house in Kensington and Mulready seems to have been a frequent visitor. Mulready’s unusual family set up may have been the subject of his picture “The Child Sitter” which shows an artist drawing a young girl watched by two young boys and what appears to be the girls mother. A writer for Art dealers Ncolas Bagshawe identifies the artist in the picture as Mulready himself, the young girl as Mary Leckie, the two boys as two of Mulready’s sons by Elizabeth Varley, the lady in the cap as Mrs Leckie and the probable location of the scene as Leckies lodging house.
Mulready’s "six-poster Lombard Renaissance" monument is made of artificial stone and was designed by Godfrey Sykes who was one of the artists responsible for the decoration of the Victoria and Albert museum. The monument, which features prominently on the Central Avenue of Kensal Green Cemetery, was exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle, where it won a prize. Mulrerady reclines, in life size effigy, on plush upholstery protected from the elements by a canopy. The base of the monument has incised representations of some of Mulready’s better known paintings as well as palettes and paint brushes and other symbols of the life of an artist.  

Isaac Watts Abney Park Cemetery

Isaac Watts (1674 to 1748) is actually buried in the non conformist Bunhill Fields but his statue presides over Abney Park Cemetery which was partly built on land belonging to Abney House, the home of Sir Thomas Abney. Watts attended the Dissenting Academy in Stoke Newington and then after a short break away to live and work in London, he returned to live there for the rest of his life, first in the house of the Hartopp family in Church Street where he worked as a tutor and then at Abney House to keep Sir Thomas’ widow company when her husband died. Although well thought of as a logician it is as a hymn writer that he is mainly remembered. His talent for versifying appeared at an early age. When apprehended in the heinous sin of keeping his eyes open during prayers he explained his actions with a hastily improvised couplet, compounding his original offence with the far worse felony of frivolity:

“A little mouse for want of stairs
Ran up a rope to say his prayers.”

His stern but fond father was having no mice as excuses for such atrocious behaviour and no versifying to compound the matter and did what any decent god fearing person would do, he thrashed him, energetically. Isaac’s response to the slaps kicks and buffets of his pater was:

“Oh father, father pity take
And I will no more verses make.”

Whether his father let him off or not history does not record but the incident was not the end of Isaacs obsession with the rhyming stuff. He is credited with 750 hymns (including ‘When I surveyed the Wondrous Cross’ as well as reams of admonitory verse for children and young people. One of his most famous is ‘Against mischief and idleness’:

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

The celebrated mathematician and paedophile Charles Dodgson (often known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll) deftly subverted Watt’s original with an even more famous parody in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

William & Betsy Bligh, St Mary's-at-Lambeth

In May 1790 the Royalty Theatre in Goodman’s Fields put on an evening’s entertainment, ‘The Calamities of Captain Bligh’ which, after a few sea shanties and a hornpipe or two, begged the audiences to suspend disbelief in the shaky scenery and wooden acting as it told the story of William Bligh’s epic 6,701 km voyage with a handful of loyal crew members in an open boat to Timor from the middle of the Pacific where they had been set adrift by the mutinous crew of the Bounty.

The story was certainly topical – Bligh had only returned to London from the South Seas two months before. His calamities had not ended, or even begun, with the mutiny on the Bounty. He was a man who saw more than his fair share of trouble. A Cornishman by birth Bligh went to sea at the age of 16 as an able seaman. In 1776, at the age of 22, he was personally selected by Captain Cook to accompany him as sailing master on the Resolution on Cooks third and final voyage and was present when Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii. He suffered the mutiny on the Bounty and faced what seemed like certain death when cast adrift in an open boat only to find himself court martialled when against all the odds he survived and returned to London. He faced a second mutiny at Spithead in 1797 when the crew rebelled over issues of pay and service in the navy. No sooner was this mutiny over than the crew mutinied again on the Nore. The crew called Bligh ‘that Bounty bastard’. In 1805 Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales. He didn’t get on well with some of the wealthier and more influential colonists and almost inevitably there was another mutiny, the Rum Rebellion. 400 soldiers of the New South Wales Corps marched into Sydney to arrest Bligh who fled to Hobart leaving a rebel Government in control. He had to face two further court martials in what remained of his career (he was acquitted both times). He died in Bond Street in December 1817.

The Bligh monument in St Mary's at Lambeth churchyard is made of Coade Stone and is in remarkably good condition. It is a fine chest tomb topped by a stone breadfruit. The dedication on this side is to Elizabeth Bligh, William Bligh's wife.

Elizabeth Betham was described as “a cultured and accomplished lady.” She met Bligh shortly after his return from Cooks fatal last voyage and it seems there was a strong mutual attraction between them. Her father was Collector of Customs and Water Bailiff at Douglas on the Isle of Man and they were married on the island  in the Parish Church of Onchan on the 4th February 1781. Betsy is probably the reason Bligh was given command of the Bounty. Her uncle, Duncan Campbell, employed Bligh on his merchant fleet when the end of the Napoleonic wars led to his being laid off from the Royal Navy. It was probably Campbell who introduced Bligh to Sir Joseph Banks who secured the job of commander on the Bounty’s breadfruit expedition to the Pacific. It was also probably due to Betsy that there were so many crew members from the Isle of Man on the Bounty; these included Peter Heywood who Bligh believed to be one of the instigators of the mutiny and Fletcher Christian.

Life as a naval man’s wife must have been hard and lonely with your husband away at sea for up to two years at a time. Bligh was home enough to father six girls and a pair of boy twins who died within 24 hours of being born. Bligh doesn’t seem to have been ashore when any of his children were born. As well as being physically absent for long periods when he was at home Bligh was often preoccupied with his own problems, fighting to preserve his reputation at his various court martials and looking for employment. After the Australian debacle, where his tenure as Governor of New South Wales was cut short by yet another mutiny, Bligh’s active career was more or less over. Betsy survived barely another two years, dying on April 15th 1812, some say as a result of her health breaking down under the strain of Bligh’s calamitous career. Others, including John Toohey,  author of ‘Bligh’s Portable Nightmare’, say that she died of tertiary syphilis presumably contracted from her husband who probably picked it up in Tahiti where the disease was rampant.

Rothschild Mausoleum, West Ham Jewish Cemetery

The young Ferdinand Rothschild
Ferdinand James Anselm Freiherr von Rothschild was born in Paris in 1839 of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family. His father was Baron Anselm von Rothschild and his mother Charlotte von Rothschild (née Rothschild). Ferdinand was devoted to his mother and was inconsolable when she died in 1859. He had always envied the relaxed and cultivated lifestyle of his English cousins so following the death of his mother he left Vienna to study at Cambridge and eventually became a naturalised British citizen. In 1865 he unquestioningly took up the family tradition of endogamy by marrying his cousin Evelina, the daughter of Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his cousin Charlotte Rothschild (née Rothschild) of the Neapolitan branch of the family. It would usually be assumed that this would have been a dynastic alliance but Ferdinand truly loved Evelina. The couple took a long honeymoon travelling in Europe and within a few weeks of their return Evelina discovered, to Ferdinand’s great joy, that she was pregnant. Eight months later, at the age of 26, she was dead. Following a railway accident she had gone into premature labour, giving birth to a stillborn child and then herself dying. Ferdinand never got over his grief. He commissioned an elaborate mausoleum where her name, Eva, is endlessly repeated as a decorative motif in English and Hebrew letters. He also endowed a hospital for sick children in Southwark in her name. When his father died in 1874 he liquidated his £2 million share in the family bank, gave up business and bought a rundown estate in Buckinghamshire from the Duke of Marlborough. On the estate he built a stately home where he lived for the rest of his life with his unmarried younger sister Alice. At first he devoted himself to collecting art, amassing an important collection which he later left to the British museum, and to compulsive socialising. Later he became the Liberal MP for Aylesbury. He never remarried and despite his famous hospitality he often dined on cold toast and water while his guests were being served lavish meals. Shortly before he died he wrote to his cousin Lord Roseberry “I am a lonely, suffering and occasionally a very miserable individual despite the gilded and marble rooms in which I live.” When he died in 1898 he was finally reunited with his young wife and was interred by her side in the mausoleum.

Baron Rothschild in his later years, photographed at Waddesdon Manor

The local Quaker philanthropist Samuel Gurney sold farmland in Forest Gate in 1855 to create the two West Ham cemeteries. The Jewish cemetery was established in 1865 by the New Synagogue then at Great St Helens Street, EC3. They were later joined by the Great Synagogue at Dukes Place, the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in England (established 1690). The cemetery is no longer in use and is closed to the public following a number of desecrations which included the toppling of headstones and the daubing of swastikas. In the worst attack, in 2005, the doors of the Rothschild Mausoleum were battered in and kicked off their hinges.

Mary Wollstonecraft, Old St Pancras Churchyard

Radical William Godwin erected this memorial to his famous wife shortly after her death. It became a favourite place to meet for the poet Shelley and the feminists daughter Mary (who was, of course, later to write 'Frankenstein.'): "Shelley and the two girls enjoyed long afternoon walks around London in the radiant June weather and their favourite rendezvous was Mary Wollstonecroft's grave in Old St Pancras Church Yard. Mary, Jane and Shelley sat on the grave and talked for hours. We do not know what they talked of: could it have been other than the rights of women, free love, atheism, political and social tyranny, the community of radical spirits? How far Shelley, sensing the abnormally close relationship between Mary and her father, felt that he had discovered another paternal tyranny that required liberation, we cannot tell either, though it is is hinted at in one of his letters. He presented a copy of Queen Mab to her with a facetious joke on the fly leaf, but she wrote secretly in it: 'I am thine, exclusively thine. I have pledged myself to thee and sacred is the gift.'" (Richard Holmes 'Shelley - The Pursuit.")

William Godwin died almost forty years after his wife but was buried with her and has his entry carved on the opposite face of the memorial. A third face is dedicated to Godwin's second wife Mary Jane Clairmont. All very modern for the 18th century but Godwin's was a radical household. The post mortem menage a trois were later forcibly split up when William and Mary were disinterred and reburied on the south coast by their grandson Percy. He wanted to grant his mother's wish that she be buried with her parents but didn't want to bury her in grimy Kings Cross. Instead he removed William and Mary's remains (but leaving Mary Jane Clairmont where she was) to a new Shelley tomb at the church of St Peters in Bournemouth.

Sir John Soanes monument can be seen in the background.

....dogged faithful Hobhouse.....Kensal Green Cemetery

I came across the grave of John Cam Hobhouse at Kensal Green by accident. The name leapt out at me because of a long standing interest in Byron:
" what turned out to be his final term at Cambridge, Byron made his most intimate male friendships, with John Cam Hobhouse, Scrope Davies and Charles Skinner Matthews, a group of young men on his own intellectual level who shared and indeed helped to perfect his sense of humour, the propensity to laughter which was Byron's saving grace....John Cam Hobhouse was the son of Benjamin Hobhouse, a Liberal Whig MP created baronet in 1812. He was initially suspicious of Byron's affectations disliking the way he went swanning around Cambridge wearing 'a white hat, and a grey coat' while riding 'a grey horse.' But he warmed to Byron on discovering that he wrote poetry. Hobhouse himself had literary aspirations. The friendship between the volatile and charismatic Byron and the dogged faithful Hobhouse flourished through the years, surviving tiffs, domestic tragedies, political differences, so that Hobhouse, after Byron's death, could truthfully assert: 'I know more of B. than anyone else & much more than I should wish any body else to know.'" (Fiona MacCarthy "Byron: Life & Legend.")

Hobhouse travelled with Byron in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey, was his best man at his spectacularly imprudent marriage (Byron regretted marrying the moment the ceremony ended) and consoled him after his separation. When they weren’t together the two corresponded continually but of course only Byron’s letters are of interest to anyone now. Byron died forty five years before Hobhouse who went on to have a long political career as a radical Whig the highlights of which were a spell in Newgate for writing a seditious pamphlet (Byron, all sympathy, wrote a poem: “Why were you put in Lob's pond/My boy, HOBBY O?/For telling folks to pull the House/By the ears into the Lobby O!”....not one of the poets greatest efforts) and inventing the phrase “His Majesty’s (loyal) opposition.” He wrote a few works of his own, an account of a trip around Albania and a set of posthumously published memoirs. Ironically he perpetrated one of the greatest acts of literary vandalism ever when, concerned for his friends reputation, he burned Byron’s memoirs after his death.

Stearns Mausoleum, Nunhead

The mausoleum was built for Mrs Laura Stearns of Twickenham who died in 1900. Her father, William Chillingworth, a wine merchant, is buried next to her in his own sepulchre. They were the owners of Radnor House in Twickenham, known locally as Pope’s Villa because it was built on the site of Alexander Pope’s original house, which still stands and is now an independent school. When Mrs Stearns died her solicitor placed an advert in the press asking for any person who thought they might have a claim on her estate to come forward from which I assume she had no surviving children. Apart from this I couldn’t find out much more about the family. 

"A small terracotta mausoleum built in the Romanesque style with crow-stepped gables and a ridged roof. What gives the building its charm, however, is the quality of the decorative detail; the arcaded parapets, moulded gargoyles, and intricate patterns round the arched openings of the windows and doorway and the capitals and shafts of the colonettes. This is the third mausoleum designed by the architectural firm of George and Peto (the other two, the Doulton and Tate mausolea are in West Norwood Cemetery) using moulded decorative detail made by the firm of Doulton in Lambeth. The interior was not completed to the original design, the glazed tiles being added by a builder some 20 years later. The coffin shelves to either side of the building may be seen through the wrought iron gates." 
The Mausolea and Monuments Trust: 

William Holland, Kensal Green

Possibly my favourite monument in Kensal Green – it’s so good it looks more like something you’d expect to find in Pere Lachaise than in any London cemetery. William Holland was a cabinet maker who founded Holland and Sons producers of fine furniture. In 1853 the company employed 350 men and the following year it acquired the prestigious firm of Thomas Dowbiggin who had made the throne for Victoria’s coronation. Holland & Son’s were cabinet makers and upholsterers to the Queen supplying furniture for Osborne House, Windsor castle, Balmoral and Marlborough House. Other major commissions for the firm came from the British museum, the Athenaeum Club and the Royal Academy. They were also a major contractor on the new Houses of Parliament. Oddly they also did funeral work their biggest commission in this line being the funeral of the Duke of Wellington. The firm continued in existence until 1942 even though William Holland died in 1853. Of William Holland himself I can find out very little.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Tradescant monument, St Mary at Lambeth (Garden Museum)

A short distance from St Mary’s at Lambeth the two John Tradescants, father and son, had an estate off the South Lambeth Road. They were gardeners, travellers, naturalists and, perhaps above all, great collectors of curiosities. As gardeners they both worked for Kings Charles I and introduced many new exotic species into British gardens. As travellers they visited Russia, the Levant and Algiers (Tradescant the elder) and the new colony of Virginia (Tradescant the younger). As collectors they founded the first museum ever open to the public in England, the Musaeum Tradescantianum housed in a building known as the Ark. The exhibits were divided into natural objects (naturalia) and manmade objects (artificialia) and included whale ribs, a mermaids hand, a mummy’s hand, part of a Barometz (a vegetable lamb), crocodile eggs, a lion’s head, a banana, various fossils and a sliver of wood from the true cross.

When John Tradescant the younger lost his only son to a childhood illness he was somehow persuaded to leave the collection to astrologer, alchemist and fellow collector Elias Ashmole. When Tradescant died Ashmole, who was by then living next door to John’s widow Hester, tried to claim the collection only to find Hester refusing to hand it over. An acrimonious squabble developed which led to accusations (Hester said Ashmole had knocked a hole in the wall dividing their properties so he could make himself at home on her estate) and counter accusations (Ashmole alleged Hester had deliberately placed a dung heap in a position which allowed thieves into his property and to make off with 32 of his hens and roosters) and eventually ended up in court where the Judges backed  Ashmole’s right to the collection. Shortly afterwards Hester was found face down in a shallow pond on her own property, dead, and Ashmole could finally take charge of the collection. Ashmole later persuaded Oxford University to house the contents of the Ark and so the Tradescant’s collection became the basis of the Ashmolean Museum. Ashmole is also buried in St Mary’s, inside the church beneath a memorial slab which is no longer on public view as it is in the offices of the Garden Museum.

The Tradescant Monument - after  Wenceslaus
Hollar, etching, published 15 July 1793

In “ London’s Dead” author Ed Glinert claims that there is a tradition that Elias Ashmole offered himself up for execution in place of Charles I “ as those that ordered Charles’s execution were all Freemasons and no Masson could execute his Grand Master, Charles I, the two men swapped over and Ashmole allowed himself to be executed while Charles I lived out the rest of his days as Ashmole.”As I can’t find any trace of this rather ridiculous theory on the web I can’t help wondering if Glinert isn’t pulling our leg here.

The Tradescant’s magnificent tomb was commissioned by Hester Tradescant after her husband’s death in 1662. The tomb we see now is not the original however – after barely standing for  a hundred years in the churchyard it was badly weathered enough to merit being  recarved in 1773 when the lid was also replaced.  It was recarved again in 1853. The original lid is on display inside the Garden Museum where you can read still the original epitaph attributed to John Aubrey:

Know, stranger, ere thou pass, beneath this stone
Lie John Tradescant, grandsire, father, son
The last dy'd in his spring, the other two,
Liv'd till they had travelled Orb and Nature through,
As by their choice Collections may appear,
Of what is rare in land, in sea, in air,
Whilst they (as Homer's Iliad in a nut)
A world of wonders in one closet shut,
These famous antiquarians that had been
Both Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen,
Transplanted now themselves, sleep here & when
Angels shall with their trumpets waken men,
And fire shall purge the world, these three shall rise
And change this Garden then for Paradise.

J.G. Ballard, Kensal Green Cemetery

I discovered J.G. Ballard’s headstone when I literally stumbled over Harold Pinter’s in Kensal Green. I was examining the back of some mausoleum or other when I tripped over Pinter’s ground level gravestone. From muddy knees I looked up to see Ballard’s name carefully chiselled into the stone. It’s quite a coincidence that the two modern writers whose names have become adjectives are buried so close together (Ballardian (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (born 1930), the British novelist, or his works (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments. Pinteresque (adj) reminiscent of the plays of Harold Pinter, the English dramatist (born 1930), noted for their equivocal and halting dialogue - Collins English Dictionary).

Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai where his father was a chemist at the Chinese subsidiary of a British textile company. During the second world war he was interned with his family at the Lunghua Internment camp, "I don't think you can go through the experience of war without one's perceptions of the world being forever changed,” he said later, “the reassuring stage set that everyday reality in the suburban west presents to us is torn down; you see the ragged scaffolding, and then you see the truth beyond that, and it can be a frightening experience." His most commercially successful novel ‘Empire of the Sun’ was based on his experiences in the camp.

Immediately after the war Ballard returned to the UK with his family, completed his secondary education, started studying medicine in Cambridge but gave it up to read English at Queen Mary College, joined the RAF for a year, married Helen Mary Matthews, started publishing stories, had three children, found full time work as assistant editor on the journal “Chemistry and Industry” and moved to Suburban Shepperton. From 1962 he took up writing full time. In 1964 His wife died and Ballard dedicated his life to bringing up his three children (he never remarried) and writing his novels of “dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.” His books seem at odds with a man whose life was, apart from the early days in Shanghai, wholly unexceptional. 

Anthony Schaffer, Highgate East Cemetery

Anthony Schaffer was born in Liverpool in 1926 to a prosperous Jewish family. His identical twin brother, Peter was born five minutes later. The two went to school together, worked down the mines together as Bevin Boys during the war, collaborated on crime stories and thrillers in the thrillers and both started writing for stage, film and television at roughly the same time. On the 12th January 1970 ‘Sleuth’ premiered at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. In a burst of creativity over the next few years Anthony worked on the script of ‘Frenzy’ for Alfred Hitchcock and wrote the most famous British cult movie ‘The Wicker Man.’ Thereafter he descended to writing the scripts for adaptations of Agatha Christie movies and eventually moved to Australia. Brother Peter wrote ‘Equus’ and ‘Amadeus’ amongst other works and garnered considerably more critical and commercial success.

His epitaph calls him 'The Grand Artificer of Mysteries' and he certainly left one for everyone to solve when he died. Thrice married by the time of his death his current wife, the actress Diane Cilento was living in Australia where Schaffer too was officially domiciled but he actually spent most of his time at his flat in Chelsea with American-Italian Marie Josette Capece Minutolo. After Schaffer’s death Marie Josette contested his will saying that Schaffer had intended to marry her and had even given her an engagement ring. She took her case to court but Schaffer had kept his plans to marry secret not only from his wife but from his closest friends and when shortly before his death his wife had paid him a visit and found women’s clothes and make up in the flat, he had instructed his solicitor to write to hers saying that he did not want their marriage to end. The judge threw the case out of court. 

Gilbert Laye, Brompton Cemetery

This headstone belongs to Gilbert Laye 1866 to 1926 and was put up by his 'devoted wife'. It took me a while to find out anything about him but he was an actor/composer/theatrical manager. Not a massively successful one - the only credits I can find for him are a part (with his 16 year old daughter - more of her in a minute) in "Oh Caeser" at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh and on Broadway where he directed "My Lady Molly" at Daly's Theatre in January 1904. His devoted wife was Eva Stuart Froud aka Evelyn Stewart or Mrs Gilbert Laye. Her death was reported, of all the most unlikely places, in the Broken Hill (NSW) newspaper 'Barrier Miner' on the 7th November 1951:
Evelyn Laye's Mother Dead
London, November 6.
Mrs. Gilbert Laye, mother of actress Evelyn Laye, died in Bournemouth after a long illness. Evelyn Laye opened in Sydney on Saturday night in "Bell, Book and Candle.”
The only other faintly interesting internet trace I could find was the notice of a lot sold at Sotheby’s in South Ken for £173 on the 4th November 1997:

A pencil and three bracelets, the 9ct. gold mounted Baker's Perm-point pencil engraved "Evelyn Laye 26 XI 54", two small identity bracelets engraved Evelyn Laye Lawton and Mrs Gilbert Laye; and a bracelet with three charms.

The Evelyn Laye who owned the gold pencil was Gilbert's daughter and the lot was sold the year after her death in 1996 after a long and distinguished theatrical and film career (including her stint in Sydney in "Bell, Book and candle.") She was George VI's favourite actress as the linked article explains. Is it just me or is this article insinuating that she might have been his mistress?

Andrew Ducrow, Kensal Green

Andrew Ducrow’s Graeco-Egyptian mausoleum, was supposedly designed for his wife, but his epitaph says that he lies "within this tomb erected by Genius/for the reception of its own remains." Even in 1856 it was considered to be over the top. A critic in The Builder called it “a piece of ponderous coxcombry."

Andrew Ducrow was born on the 10th October 1793 at the Nag’s Head in Southwark. His father was a circus strong man from Bruges known as the Flemish Hercules who could “lying on his back…with his hands and feet support a platform upon which stood eighteen grenadiers.”  Andrew and his siblings were brought up to be performers; they started learning the trade at the age of 3 moving from vaulting to tumbling, dancing on the slack and tight rope, balancing, riding, fencing, and boxing. By 1808 at the age of 15 Andrew was already chief equestrian and rope dancer at Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre at a salary of £10 a week.  His rope dancing might have been good but it was for his innovative equestrian acts that he became famous. At the age of 19 he was performing the ‘Flying Wardrobe’; dressed in rags and behaving like a drunkard he cantered around the ring making false falls from the horse and gradually removing ripped jackets and torn waistcoats until he revealed himself as the star rider of the show. The frisson detectable beneath the laughter as Andrew removed his clothes perhaps inspired the later development of the act where Andrew and his sons would dress in flesh coloured body stockings and strike poses known as ‘plastiques’, designed to show off their physiques, whilst balancing on the rump of white stallions. 

After travelling and working in France and Belgium he returned to England to create the spectacular horse shows that led to him being dubbed the Colossus of Equestrians. At Astley’s he staged equestrian dramas like his famous version of ‘Mazeppa’ and novel routines like ‘the Courier of St Petersburg’ (“A rider straddled two cantering horses while other horses bearing the flags of the countries through which a courier would pass on his way to Russia passed between his legs.”) So successful was his act that eventually he became co-proprietor of Astley’s,; it was the responsibility of ownership that killed him. With a staff of 150 and weekly expenses of £500 when the Amphitheatre burnt down in 1841 he suffered a breakdown with the worry. According to the 1900 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography “Ducrow's mind gave way under his misfortunes, and he died at 19 York Road, Lambeth, on 27 Jan. 1842. His funeral, attended by vast crowds of people, took place on 5 Feb. in Kensal Green cemetery, where an Egyptian monument was erected to his memory. Notwithstanding his losses he left property valued at upwards of 60,000l.”

Ducrow’s exuberant mausoleum  in Kensal Green cemetery does its best to exhaust the whole range of Victorian mortuary symbolism. Wreaths and inverted torches form the iron railings around the tomb, there are draped urns, broken columns (including one with a hat and a pair of gloves draped across it), Egyptian columns, angels, winged horses, a beehive (masonic symbol of industry), military colours lowered over an infantryman’s cap, sphinxes, seashells, and melancholic females in figure revealing drapery. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Reginald Alexander John Warneford, Brompton Cemetery

Reginald Alexander John Warneford by O.F.E.

Daily Express readers chipped in to pay for the monument raised over the final resting place of 23 year old Victoria Cross winner Reginald Alexander John Warneford. It lauds his “courage, initiative, intrepidity,” – if he was a son of mine I’d probably be cursing him as ‘reckless, irresponsible, foolhardy’. Young Warneford was a merchant marine who joined the Navy on the outbreak of war and found himself being trained as an aeroplane pilot (there was no RAF as yet, so the navy were in charge of the air as well the sea). During training his commanding officer is supposed to have said “this youngster will either do big things or kill himself." He was stationed in Belgium when he won the Victoria Cross. On the 7th June he was flying when he spotted a German Zeppelin LZ37 near Ostend. He gave chase and despite heavy defensive machine gun fire from the airship he managed to drop his bombs on it. The Zeppelin exploded and crash landed but Warneford’s plane also suffered problems when the engine stopped and he was forced to land in a field behind enemy lines. In less than half an hour he managed to carry out some makeshift repair on the engine and escape before he could be picked up. The French were the first to honour him, General Joffre awarded him the Légion d'honneur at a special lunch on the 17th June. Intoxicated with glory and perhaps too much champagne Warneford took an American journalist out for a spin in his plane after the ceremony. Pushing his machine to the limit in a near vertical climb to 200 feet the wings collapsed and the pilot and passenger were both thrown to their deaths.

The McDonald Mausoleum, Brompton Cemetery

When James McDonald died, in Washington DC, on the 13th January 1915 he owned Standard Oil Company stock valued at $1,114,965 and left an entire estate worth $3,969,333.25. He was born in Scotland in 1843 and emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 15. He attended a Military Academy in Talbot County, Maryland and at the outbreak of the Civil War joined the Union Army as a civilian clerk. He accompanied General Sherman’s army in the Georgia campaign working in the Quartermasters Department. At the end of the war he settled in Cincinnati with his older brother Alexander and went into the oil business setting up the Consolidated Tank Line Company. They formed a business connection with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company and in 1890 allowed Standard oil to take over their company in return for a substantial stock holding in the newly formed Standard Oil Company of new Jersey (later to be renamed Esso in the rest of the world and Exxon in the US). While Alexander stayed in the States James came to England to help consolidate American oil interests in Europe with the founding of another Standard Oil subsidiary, the Anglo-American Oil Company. His big rivals were Russian oil interests fronted by the Nobel and Rothschild families which at the time had a near monopoly on the fledgling European oil and petrol markets. James managed to break the monopoly without falling out with his rivals and later their were accusations that the oil companies and agreed to a division of the markets to ensure that competition did not damage their profits. At Congressional hearings in the States senior executives of the oil companies were called to give evidence and justify what appeared to be anti-competitive behaviour. Standard Oil executives were repeatedly asked to explain multi million dollar loans to James McDonald in London but none of them could ever remember why he had borrowed so much money from the company. James was married at least 3 times, 4 times if you include his job; "Mr. McDonald devoted himself unselfishly to his task, working many hours of the day, and often-times going without sleep. This was a terrific strain on his powers, and although he was possessed of remarkable physical endurance, he virtually wore himself out through overwork” as one contemporary source put it. It adds that in 1906 “after having worked uninterruptedly for more than forty-six years, Mr. McDonald developed a serious affection of the heart and was compelled to retire from all active business. Since that time he has traveled to all parts of the world in search of health, under orders of his physicians to avoid exertion, physical or mental, as much as possible. Finding it necessary to live in a warm climate, lie went to Southern California in the winter of 1911/12 and spent the season there, planning to return there each winter in the future.”

"Carre [Caroline] Rule McDonald died in January 1900; her husband, a chairman of the Anglo-American Oil Company, arranged for her body to be temporarily placed in the catacombs at Brompton Cemetery until the completion of the present mausoleum in 1902. James McDonald died in Washington DC in 1915; the removal of his remains to London was delayed by the Great War, and he was eventually interred at Brompton in 1920. Wall plaques commemorate Carre Rule McDonald (1854-1900), her husband James McDonald (1843-1915), and James Georger Briggs (1879-1909), her son by a previous marriage.”

Sacred to the memory of John Furtado... A Portuguese Jewish family in Stoke Newington

It was the name on the chest tomb that caught my attention – Furtado. It’s a Portuguese surname and I was surprised to see it on a grave dated 1830 in St Mary’s Old Churchyard in Stoke Newington. The inscription is rather worn – “sacred to the memory of John Furtado son of Isaac Mendes Furtado Esq late of this parish who departed this life ?? June 1830 aged 49 years…” I wondered if the family were of Portuguese Jewish ancestry and some digging around confirmed that indeed they were. The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1803 records the surprising fact that buried in  “May At Stoke Newington Mr. Isaac Furtado, a Jew merchant, who was buried in the Church-yard, in a grave dug North and South, instead of East and West, according to the usual custom. His son and two daughters were baptised and confirmed in the Church of England in March 1799, and their conversion was announced to the public in a printed letter addressed to them by the late Rev. Wm, Jones.” Odd that a ‘Jew merchant’ should be buried in the churchyard without any mention of his own conversion.

Medieval  Portugal’s sizeable Jewish population were expelled (or forcibly converted) in 1497 under pressure from their most Catholic Highnesses Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Many ostensibly converted Jews practised their religion in secret, raising their children to do the same so that even 300 years later there were crypto-Jewish families in Portugal still loyal to Rabbinic Judaism. These secret Jews were called Marranos. Isaac Mendes Furtado, born in 1729, was the son of Gaspar Mendes Furtado and Clara Henriques of Covilhã in Portugal. Four years before he was born both his parents were denounced as Judaisers to the Lisbon Inquisition and arrested. Gaspar was tortured and Clara threatened and as a result they both agreed to publicly renounce their faith in front of the King at an auto-da-fé, on October 13, 1726. They were released but when Gaspar died in 1730 Clara decided to become a refugee in England taking with not only her own six children but the seven children of her uncle. In England the family became openly practicing Jews, worshipping at the Synagogue in Bevis Marks. The synagogue provided dowries for Clara’s daughters one of whom married a certain Benjamin D’Israeli and became the grandmother of the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield. Isaac, in the meantime, was brought up in London and became articled to a London Attorney. In 1762 he married his niece and probably made his living as a notary but working in partnership with his brothers on annuity broking and marine insurance. In 1782 the finta (synagogue tax) was reassessed and Isaac’s assessment raised from £3. 6. 8d. to £10. He reacted with fury, writing to the Synagogue ruling council, the Mahamad “the misrepresentation of my great wealth to you by somebody, I suspect, forces me to put you to the trouble and me to the blush to require an abatement in the £10 a year which I am informed the new ensuing Finta allots me to pay and on so disproportioned a rise of 200% viz. from £3. 6. 8d. to £10……. I have discovered no Golden Mines nor yet have I come to any large inheritance and my being considered so precipitately Rich will rather lend to my discredit than honour and with yr permission will pay four pounds a year, this puts me upon a more equitable and equal footing.” Isaac’s strained relationship with the Mahamad broke down altogether in a conflict between the council and the congregation on how the festival of Purim should be celebrated.

The Mahamad of Bevis marks issued a proclamation that the traditional manner of celebrating Purim was prohibited -  during the festival a reading is made from the book of Esther and whenever the name of Haman is mentioned some members of the congregation would react by catcalling, booing, hissing, banging and yelling. The Mhamad thought this was indecorous and wanted to put an end to it. The congregation ignored them and the Mahamad reacted by calling in Constables from the City Marshall to restore order. Isaac was furious, especially when his son Abraham was summoned by the Mahamad to apologise for his behaviour. He wrote another furious letter this time resigning from the Synagogue. He later built some tenements in Mile End and named them Purim Place. Isaac was survived by 2 sons and 3 daughters and left property worth around £6000. His eldest son Abraham, the one who liked to make noise at Purim, became a composer and song writer and changed his name to Charles (see below).

John Furtado (we finally get around to him) was born on May 27 1781 and was originally called Jacob. Presumably John was the son mentioned by the Gentleman’s Magazine as converting and being baptized into the Church of England in 1799. He also became well known as a musician and teacher and published as least two works “An essay on the theory and advancement of thorough bass,” in 1798 and “An essay on fingering the piano-forte.”

A caricature in the Jewish Museum shows Charles as a 19 year buck about town saying to another character  'You bow too low sir' who answers 'And you seem to be spitted Mr Jew'. According to many sources Charles was the father of the well known Victorian actress Teresa Furtado (see below). Wikipedia for example “She was the daughter of Charles Furtado, professor of music in London and composer of ballads. Her appearances at the Adelphi included No Thoroughfare by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens (1868) and Esmeralda in Notre-Dame or, The Gipsy Girl of Paris, a dramatized version of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1875).….. In 1873 she married the English actor, John Clarke. Her premature death at the age of 32 led to his breakdown and he died less than two years later.” As Charles died in 1821 and Teresa was not born until 1845 it seems highly improbable that they were father and daughter. Grandfather and granddaughter perhaps.