Monday, 19 May 2014

St Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green

St Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery was established in 1858, 25 years after neighbouring Kensal Green Cemetery, on land belonging to the General Cemetery Company, the then owners of Kensal Green. The company felt that Catholics might appreciate their own burial ground rather than being interred in a non denominational cemetery. 165,000 people are buried in its 29 acre site which remains in use today.

Storing traffic cones is not perhaps the most sensitive use for mausolea

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Thomas Joseph & Esther Tate, St Marylebone Cemetery (East Finchley)

Probably the best known and certainly the most striking monument in St Marylebone (East Finchley) Cemetery is Frank Lynn Jenkins cast bronze pedestal and sculpture of a young man for Thomas Joseph Tate and his wife Esther, who died within a fortnight of each other in February and March 1909. There are many who think the tomb too showy, too ostentatious, too….French. You certainly see more of this type of bronze memorial in the great cemeteries of Paris than in London. And what is it meant to represent? A half naked man, apparently in the prime of life, reclining on a bed; is he dying? The symbolism is hard to decipher.

He may have been a man of means (cast bronze memorials produced by celebrated sculptors do not come cheap) but Thomas Joseph Tate would be an almost completely forgotten name today if it were not for this monument and a handful of tennis racquets. He was born in 1832 according to the memorial but 1831 according to his baptism record in Huntley Street, now WC1, and baptised at Old St Pancras Church. He was the second of four children born to Charles James Tate, a cabinet maker, and his wife Mary. At the age of twenty he was living in Early Mews in Camden with his cousins 18 and 20 year old Joseph and Charles Gomez; all three gave their occupations as Bow and Arrow Makers. It was a career Thomas was to follow for the best part of the next forty years. His cousins worked in the family business making long bows but Thomas eventually became a foreman on archery production working for Buchannan’s of Piccadilly. He married Esther and lived with her in rented rooms at a number of overcrowded lodging houses in Westminster. It wasn’t until he was almost fifty that his fortunes seemed to improve. By 1881 he had moved south of the river to Newington Causeway in Southwark where he and Esther finally lived alone at number 84. Ten years later he was back north of the river in Great Portland Street.

The 1891 census was the first time he records his occupation as being other than bow and arrow maker; he is now a bat maker. We don’t know when or where he started making tennis racquets but he was good at it, designing and producing top class equipment. Two of his best known customers were the Renshaw twins, William and Ernest. William Renshaw won twelve Wimbledon titles, seven of them the men’s singles (an all-time record shared with Pete Sampras and Roger Federer), six of these between 1881 and 1886 won consecutively, a record that has never been beaten. The Renshaws accepted a lucrative deal from the Slazenger Company to allow one of their racquets to be named after them but they actually played most of their title matches with Thomas Tate racquets. In the 1901 census Thomas lists himself as a racquet maker and as an employer producing goods and living at 18 Prince Street in Westminster.   

Thomas and Esther lived together for over forty years but there were no children. Although she was five years younger than her husband she seems to have lost the will to live once he died and she only survived him by a fortnight; Thomas dying on  Thursday 25 February 1909 and Esther on Thursday 11 March.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

John Crook (1827-1902) and Grace Sophie Crook (1830-1914), Kensal Green Cemetery

John Crook, a retired inn-keeper, and his wife Grace Sophie Crook were both from Lancashire and spent almost all their lives there, inexplicably moving to London in their old age. John was born in Blackburn in 1827 the son of a grocer. His early working life was spent in the cotton mills. At the time of the 1851 census when he was 24 he was still living with his parents in Salford Street but was already married to Grace. His occupation was described as overlooker of power looms. Grace was a power loom operator; perhaps they met at work? George ,their first child, was born the following year but died at the age of 18 months. The couple did not have another child until 1860 when their daughter Sarah Theresa was born. By 1862 John was the license holder at the Bowling Green Inn in Eanam, Blackburn. He was prosecuted in July that year for selling drink during church hours; there were nine men in his house drinking at 11.50am on a Sunday morning. He admitted the offence, telling the magistrate the men were the brewer’s carters who had stabled their horses at the Inn whilst alterations were being carried out at the brewery. He was fined 10 shillings. The Bowling Green Inn must have been a profitable concern because by the 1881 census John Crook was living at 2 Maple Street in Blackburn and at the age of 54 describing himself as a retired inn keeper. The 22 year old Sarah was a pupil (i.e. student) teacher. The current 2 Maple Street is a very modest terraced house that looks like it might well have been standing in the 1880’s. There is a more substantial property across the street and perhaps the houses have been re-numbered in the last 130 years? There is no reason to think that John Crook and his family ever lived in straitened circumstances At some point in the late 1890’s they left Blackburn to come to London, buying a semi detached villa at 32 Clifton Hill, St John’s Wood, NW8, a property that is currently worth over  £4 million and even at the tail end of the 19th Century would have been a substantial and expensive middle class address. John Crook died in 1902; Grace his widow lived on in the house until her own death in 1914.  

John Crook's one brush with the law - selling drink during church hours - the Blackburn Standard 09.07.1862