Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Bexleyheath Cemetery, London Borough of Bexley

The cemetery was opened in 1879 by the Burial Board for the new town which had grown up in Bexley on the ancient route of Watling Street, the London to Dover Road.  It is a small cemetery, just 5½ acres, behind Christchurch on the High Street. It is neat and well kept but with very few really interesting memorials.

Cromwell Fleetwood Varley, Victorian business man and the cemeteries most notable inhabitant

The Littlehales memorial for the wife of a local doctor

James Bullen who died at the age of 12 in 1965

Saturday, 25 April 2015

"What a lark we had...!"; Dudley Wilmot Carleton, 4th Lord Dorchester (1822-1897), Kensal Green Cemetery

The death occurred on Tuesday from pleurodynia, after a few days illness, of Lord Dorchester, at his residence in Berkeley-square, London.  Dudley Wilmot Carleton, fourth Baron Dorchester, in the peerage of Great Britain, was the eldest son of the late Rev. the Hon. of Richard Carleton (who was the youngest son of the first baron), by the daughter and co-heir of Mr. Eusebius Horton, of Catton Hall, Derbyshire. He was born in 1822, and entered the Coldstream Guards in 184L He served with his regiment in Canada. and in the Crimean campaign from September, 1854, to October, 1855, being present at the battles of  Balaclava and Inkerman, and the siege and fall of Sevastopol, for which services he obtained the medal with three clasps, the 5th Class of the Medjidie, and the Turkish medal. He commanded or the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards from 1866 until he retired from the Army in 1868. He married, in 1854, the Hon. Charlotte Hobhouse, the daughter of the First Baron Broughton (extinct), and in 1875 he succeeded his cousin in the title.  Lord Dorchester left no son, and the peerage is now extinct.

Liverpool Mercury Thursday 2 December 1897

Lord Dorchester photographed in 1861
Dudley Wilmot Carleton, the fourth Lord Dorchester, was the son-in-law of John Cam Hobhouse, the "dogged, faithful Hobhouse" who was Lord Byron's closest friend.  Carleton and his wife Charlotte are buried in Hobhouse's vault in Kensal Green and share his memorial. Lord Dorchester was a professional soldier and as a young man had that robust sense of fun that makes the English upper classes such a sore trial to their social inferiors. In 1843 the billiard hall keeper Horatio Smith brought the now 21 year old toff to court for an incident which had taken place two years earlier when the then 19 year old soldier had trashed Smith's Windsor billiard rooms and also given him a good thrashing simply because he refused to let them set up a table for French hazard. Carleton's defence counsel was Serjeant Charles Carpenter Bompas who had served Charles Dickens as the model for Serjeant Buzfuz in "Pickwick Papers." The story is from The Era of 5 February 1843:

The plaintiff in this case, Horatio Smith, who was described as an ivory turner, but who, it appeared, kept billiard-rooms at Windsor, brought the action, in the Court of Common Pleas, against Dudley Wilmot Carleton, Esq., formerly an officer in the 60th Rifles, but now in the Coldstream Guards, to recover compensation in damages for a violent assault committed on the 8th of June, 1841 (one of the Ascot race days), at Windsor. The damages were laid at £500. Mr. Sergeant Talfourd, with whom was Mr. T. V. Lee, appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Sergeant Bompas, with Mr. Carrow, for the defendant. It appeared from the learned counsel for the plaintiff and the witnesses, among whom were a brother of the plaintiff, (who stated he had been a barman, not a potboy, but now for amusement travelled to various races, &c., having no connection with any gambling booths), a rather dingy-looking, not very prepossessing person, having a crooked nose, and a sort of raven croak, a resident of Windsor, some police-constables and others, that about half-past twelve on the night in question the defendant, with about thirty others, several officers of the Life Guards and other regiments stationed at Windsor, were then mostly intoxicated, and wished to have a bank made for French hazard, which being objected to, they tore the cloths of and destroyed the billiard and roulette tables, and also the cues and maces. They smashed the lamps, looking-glasses, and windows, and tore the window curtains. The plaintiff endeavouring to quell the disturbance was struck by defendant with a knobbed stick, knocked down and struck several times afterwards, and then dragged into the road several yards. The following day defendant said, "What a lark we had last night. Are there any more windows to break? for we shall come and give you another turn tonight to finish the job for you." The plaintiff had bumps on his head, and was otherwise bruised. Mr. Sergeant Bompas addressed the jury at some length in mitigation of damages. The learned Judge summed up, and the jury after half an hours deliberation, returned a verdict for plaintiff, damages £10. The trial lasted nearly five hours, and the court was much crowded throughout.

Charlotte, Lady Dorchester, taken in 1860

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The power of the footnote: the cannibal legend of Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) St Anne's, Kew

Zoffany's grave in St Anne's churchyard, Kew
Once patronised by royalty, high society and the Georgian literary and artistic establishment, Johann Zoffany’s reputation declined in the 200 years following his death to the point where he was considered little more than a minor portrait painter. His star had sunk so low that in 2010 Tate Britain humiliatingly cancelled a scheduled exhibition of his works because they did not believe there would be enough public interest to justify it. Two years later the Royal Academy (of which Zoffany was one of the original members) felt that the tide of public opinion had turned sufficiently for them to risk putting on an exhibition of his portraits and conversation pieces called ‘Johan Zoffany – Society Observed.’ And the reason for the renascent interest in this hitherto obscure Anglo-German painter? A footnote in a book in which Zoffany otherwise merited only a couple of mentions.

Early Zoffany self portrait as David with the
head of Goliath
The book was William Dalyrmple’s “White Mughals” and the footnote, on page 289, reads “The Frankfurt-born Zoffany (1734-1810) lived in Lucknow for two and a half years, staying much of the time with Claude Martin. On his way back to England (where he had settled in the 1750’s) he was shipwrecked off the Andaman Islands. Lots having been drawn among the starving survivors, a young sailor was duly eaten. Zoffany may thus be said with some confidence to have been the first and last Royal Academician to become a cannibal.” Dalyrmple’s footnote is unsourced and the story of Zoffany’s anthropophagic adventure was apparently little known. If Dalyrmple did not have such an impeccable reputation as a scholar many may have suspected that he had made the story up.  True or not it was a good story and by the time of the 2012 exhibition at Tate Britain was so well known that the headlines on print and on-line reviews of the exhibition could not resist alluding to it; the Daily Telegraph “Johan Zoffany: The lovable artist who ate a sailor” for example, or Bloomberg’s “Cannibalism, Bigamy Spice Up Zoffany London Show.”
Zoffany was born Johannes Josephus Zaufallij in Frankfurt in 1733. As a 17 year he walked to Rome where he became the pupil of the fellow German artist Mengs (Zoffany’s earliest known self-portrait, of himself as David leaning casually on the head of Goliath and showing the pebble that felled the Philistine in his hand was attributed to Mengs until the 1980’s when thorough cleaning of the picture revealed Zoffany’s signature).  He spent 12 years in Italy before returning to Germany just long enough to contract an unhappy marriage and taking off for London shortly afterwards. With little or no English he lived in straightened circumstances in Drury Lane and perhaps would have starved to death if someone had not introduced him to the clockmaker Stephen Rimbault for whom he produced painstakingly detailed landscapes on clock faces. He was later taken into the studio of Benjamin Wilson, a painter, where he outshone his master and came to the attention of David Garrick. He was eventually introduced to the Royal Family who were delighted with the charming and urbane painter who like them spoke German. He became a great royal favourite. Always restless Zoffany’s wanderlust took him back to Europe, to Vienna and Italy, almost drove him to the South Seas with Captain Cook in the company of Sir Joseph Banks (he withdrew from the expedition, along with Banks, because of inadequate shipboard accommodation) and spent the best part of three years in British India. It was on this last trip that the cannibalistic episode supposedly took place.
The newspapers of the time noted Zoffany’s return from India – the Oxford Journal for example, on 22 August 1789; “Zoffany, the Painter, arrived a few Days since from India with more Wealth than Health. — He sailed from Calcutta in an Imperial Ship, but put himself on Board the Sir Eyre Coote, at St. Helena.” No mention of shipwrecks and cannibals though. Zoffany’s second wife happened to be a girlhood friend of Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe to Queen Charlotte and one of the late eighteenth century’s most incorrigible gossips. She knew the Zoffany’s well, was a neighbour of theirs in Chiswick and mentions them frequently in her memoirs “Court and private life in the time of Queen Charlotte." Mrs Papendiek remembered Zoffany’s return from India – he appeared at her house for a concert by the mulatto violinist George Bridgetower. “No one else in any way peculiarly remarkable was at this meeting except Mr. Zoffany, who surprised us at dinner. He had only recently returned from India, whither he had gone so many years before. We could but be rejoiced at his return, although sorry to see him so changed. For during the voyage home he had been seized with an attack of paralysis, from which he certainly never thoroughly recovered.”

In their 1920 privately printed book (limited to 500 copies) “John Zoffany, R.A.: his life and works 1735-1810,” Lady Victoria Manners and G.C. Williamson draw very heavily on Mrs Papendiek’s account of Zoffany’s return from India, quoting in full her account of the Bridgetower evening. The authors break off in the middle of Mrs Papendiek’s account to interpolate an incident apparently never publicly revealed before and which is related “according to the traditions in the family, which are said to rest upon fact…” The incident is the first account in print of the Zoffany cannibal legend and is presumably where William Dalrymple came across it. The Manners/Williamson version of the story reads:

Of that journey home we have heard of but one incident, and that relates to a terrible experience the travellers had in the Indian Ocean. The vessel was wrecked and the passengers escaped in boats, but that in which Zoffany was, came short of food, and according to the traditions in the family, which are said to rest upon fact, lots were cast on the boat as to who should be killed; and eventually one sailor, who was in a very weak state, either succumbed to his injuries or was put out of his misery and the others had to eat his flesh, roasted in some primitive fashion, in order to keep themselves alive.

Whether this horrible occurrence took place on the boat, or on an island is not clear, but it is generally said to have happened on one of the Andaman Islands; and it is stated that the experience had such an effect on Zoffany that he from that time had a melancholy cast of countenance, and was very different in every respect from the jovial, enthusiastic, gay man he had been in India.

A late self portrait by the alleged anthropophage surrounding himself with various memento
 mori including the skull, hour glass and a book on the brevity of life and the longevity of Art 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The East London Cemetery, Plaistow

East London Cemetery opened in 1872 and until recently (when it was taken over by Dignity) continued to be owned by the original founding company – the East London Cemetery Company.  The cemetery is still very much in use and many of the best monuments are of very recent date, the impressive Vassallo memorial, Tommy Lawrence, a giant dartboard and a moving memorial of a young boy with a football. Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper’s third victim is buried in the cemetery as a number of First World war German spies who were executed in the Tower of London. There is a monument to the 38 people who died the day the HMS Albion was launched at the Thames Ironworks in 1898 and the grave of one of the many families who died aboard the Princess Alice in 1878 is marked with a granite obelisk. The Alnwick Mercury of Saturday 21 September 1878 describes their funeral at the cemetery:

Sunday afternoon a concourse estimated at about 5000 persons, assembled in the vicinity of the East London Cemetery, Plaistow, to witness the interment of a family of five, who perished by the recent calamity on the Thames. They were: Mr. George Davies. 41 years of age, Limehouse; Elizabeth Davies, his wife, aged 51; and George, 17; Thomas, 13; and Emily, 12, sons and daughters. The bodies were taken to their last resting place in five hearses, and were accompanied by between twenty and thirty mourning coaches and private carriages, which conveyed, in addition to the relatives of the deceased, many members of the Masonic body, to which Mr. Davies belonged. Flags floated half-mast high on Limehouse and Stepney steeples, and on other buildings, and various other places on tbe route manifestations of sympathy were displayed, the procession being joined by many who accompanied on foot. The entrance to the cemetery was kept by mounted police, and only those Immediately concerned were admitted within the grounds during the reading the Burial Service, which was performed by the rector of Limehouse. the conclusion the public were allowed to view the vault in which the unfortunate family was interred.
Impressive semi-public funerals for the victims of disasters were a feature of East End life in the late 19th and early 20 th centuries. Not everyone who attended these events behaved with the decorum one would expect. At the funeral of a family killed in a house fire in Bethnal Green a pickpocket was arrested according to the Chelmsford Chronicle  of Friday 07 January 1898:

On Tuesday  John Scott, 22, a costermonger, was charged with stealing a purse containing three farthings, in the East London cemetery, Plaistow.—W hen the victims of the Bethnal Green fire were being Interred Constable Hartridge, 533K, was on duty in plain clothes. He saw the prisoner and others acting suspiciously. Scott put his hand under a Mrs. Tilley’s cape, and turned sharply away. Having ascertained that Mrs. Tilley had lost her purse, the constable followed the prisoner, who threw the purse over a fence.—Remanded for a week.
Flowers left on graves were sometimes a temptation for people in straitened circumstances:

On Monday, at West Ham, Mary Barber, 77, lodging 86 Whitwell Road Plaistow, was charged with stealing some flowers and wreath ribbon, from a grave the East London Cemetery at Plaistow. It was stated that when told she would be charged, the old lady said,  “You can do what you like with me. You can cook me and eat me, but you'll find me deuced tough!"  The defendant was said have only 5 shillings a week from the parish for her support. Asked if she would go to the Workhouse, the old lady said she would sooner not, but eventually she consented to go, and was then discharged with a caution.  (Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 26 August 1904)

Flowers were also the target of three women thieves according to Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper on Sunday 06 July 1884

Ann Amelia Rogers, 21, of 17, Church-street, Poplar; Winifred Hutchins, 27, same address; and Amelia Gamble, 38, all married women, were charged with being concerned in wilfully damaging a grave at the East London Cemetery, Plaistow, by destroying roses thereon to the amount of 2s., on the 30th ult. The prisoners were seen by the grave- diggers and two ladies to go to one of the graves and pluck six roses from a rose tree growing thereon and destroy the tree. Three of the roses they placed upon the grave of a friend of the prisoner Rogers;  each carried one away in her breast. Mr. Phillips remarked that it was a mean and despicable theft; anything more despicable he could not imagine. He fined each defendant 10s., and 5s. costs.

Memorial to First World War German Spies shot in the Tower of London and buried in the cemetery 

The Vassallo monument

The Vassallo monument

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Peace to his ashes! Sir William Rawlins (1753-1838) St Botolph's Churchyard, Bishopsgate

Sir William Rawlins was a man who had very definite ideas on what he wanted for his funeral and he made sure that clear instructions were left in his will: “I desire that … my body may be placed in a lead coffin and that it be interred in the vault belonging to me in Bishopsgate Churchyard .….. That my funeral may be a walking procession and that it commence from my own house down Liverpool Street to the Catholic Chapel to turn on the lefthand up Bloomfield Street to the end of New Broad Street then through the Iron Gates up the said street to Bishopsgate Church Yard. I also desire that the entrance to my vault may be enclosed with good sound and solid brick work so as to prevent the further use thereof by any person whatever, and I also desire that a respectable mausoleum or tomb may be erected over the said vault of well manufactured polished Haytor Granite with designs of scientific excellence which may do honor to the artist whom my said executors hereafter named may think proper to employ. It is also my wish that a cast iron railing may be erected round my said tomb and to be at least five feet ten inches high and to be well painted four times in oil.”
Sir William Rawlins as a young man
He also had very definite ideas about how he should be remembered. According to the London City Press on Saturday 20 August 1859: "The late Sir William Rawlins, KT…… was very desirous to be held in remembrance by the Ward which he had represented and resided in many years. He, therefore, by a codicil to his will ….dated 18th of April, 1838, directed his executors to set apart a sufficient sum out of his personal estate as would produce a clear annual income of 15l., in the name of the Alderman of the Ward, the Deputy, and two others of the Common Council of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without (only), upon trust to keep his vault, then already built, and his tomb or mausoleum, and the iron railing, for which he had entered into a contract with Mr. Samuel Grimsdell to erect to his memory, at a cost of 315l., according to a plan of which he had approved, in good repair and condition......”  

Sir William’s will also included provision to pay for a “respectable” biannual dinner to be held on 24 July (his birthday) for the Alderman and the Common Council of the Ward of Bishopsgate Street Without, “the testator directs that, previous to dining, the tomb and railing shall be inspected, and the necessary orders given for the repairs and embellishments required; and that the codicil read at each dinner, in order that the same may be preserved fresh remembrance.” Each council man who attended both the inspection and the dinner was to receive a fee of one guinea.  According to the London City Press the eleventh biennial dinner was held on Monday 25 July (Rawlins will stipulated that if July 24 the dinner should be held on the following Monday) “at which Mr. Alderman W. T. Coneland, Esq., M.P., presided, supported in the vice-chair by W. H. Pilcher, Esq., Deputy. There were also present: R. Ashby, T. S. Owden, M. and J. Richardson, Esqs., Common Councilmen of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, and who duly performed the functions of their office, as directed by Sir William Rawlins. The Alderman, after dinner, proposed the standing toast, "The pious memory of Sir William Rawlins." After the healths of the Alderman and Deputy, and several other toasts, the gentlemen departed, with the idea that "it's well to be remembered;" and so Sir William thought. Peace to his ashes! say we.”

Sir William in old age
When St Botolph’s churchyard was cleared of tombstones and other memorials Sir William’s trust fund for the upkeep of his rather splendid memorial seems to have been an obstacle to its removal. Apart from a handful of gravestones used as paving slabs and the Rawlin’s memorial the entire churchyard was emptied and converted to a garden. The initial £500 investment lasted until 2013 when the parish council used the last of the money to refurbish their last remaining churchyard memorial. The then Alderman of Bishopsgate, Neil Redcliffe, lead the Common Councilmen and local business leaders in a final inspection of the tomb and a graveside toast to Sir William before launching an appeal for funds for future restoration work. 

Sir William was born in Bridgecomb, Berkshire in 1753, the son of a farmer. At the age of 17 he became apprenticed to a London weaver but three years later was turned over to an Upholder and eventually gained the freedom of the Upholders Company. He became a successful business man and benefactor of the church and local schools who dabbled in politics. This dabbling cost him a couple of months in Newgate in 1805. He had become Sheriff of London in 1801 and after his term of service was knighted. In 1805 he and his fellow Sheriff Robert Cox were indited for election fraud in getting Sir Francis Burdett elected as MP for Middlesex. They were accused, and found guilty, of accepting at least 300 fictitious votes and thereby securing Sir Francis’ seat. Sir William went on to found the Eagle Insurance Company (later Eagle Star) and died in 1838 at the age of 84.