by Jimmy Notts
A lot of people think that cemeteries are morbid and places which should be avoided. But actually, if you take the time to walk around and look at the individual graves you soon learn that cemeteries are both educational and interesting places. You can quickly learn about a City, Town or Village’s history just by spending a little time looking around your local cemetery.
Someone once said that:
“Going to a local cemetery can have many educational values. One main purpose of this to encourage an appreciation of the unique historical significance of that place. Nearly every community has an old cemetery of historic and educational value. A study of it can reveal much about the lives of people of the past. Once there you can enjoy the wonderful artwork and architecture of the mausoleums. A cemetery is a quiet place; much contemplation can take place there. One can learn about the philosophy prevailing and their decoration and epitaphs. Gaze upon the monuments and come to understand the staturay and iconography common upon them”.
Cemeteries can also reveal the sad and harsh times in which our ancestors lived. Take the pauper’s graves for example in the Church Rock Cemetery on Mansfield Road. If you closely look at some of the graves, many of the names are of babies, some who died literally at a few minutes of age.
Rock Cemetery has to be my favorite Cemetery of all. Its combination of it’s history, the fantastic graves, obelisks, plaques and busts. This is all combined with it’s sandstone cave setting.
One of my favorite graves in the Cemetery, is a grave I call the “Mother Angel and Baby Grave”. This particular grave in the Rock Cemetery always seems to fascinate not just myself but many people who visit the cemetery. It is a well photographed grave and always seems to appear when someone writes or talks about the cemetery.
The grave belongs to Thomas Cutts Seal , he was a Lace Manufacturer who lived in Normanton-on-the-Wolds. His wife Helen died on 20th of March 1884 aged just 29 and his only child Nellie Beatrice died the following day aged just 3 years and 5 months. He erected this monument to them at great expense. He married again on the 21st of February 1890 his second wife Eleanor Ellen died aged just 30. Thomas Cutts Seal himself died on 26th of April 1908 aged just 52. His third wife Amy Louisa outlived him and died on Jan 5th 1923, herself just 54. Even the wealthy had wretched lives in those days. How much pain and sorrow did Thomas Cutts Seal suffer burying his two young wives and his only child. It’s a sad monument really.
This grave in the Rock Cemetery is a sad reminder of how so many thousands of people died at a young age in Victorian Britain.
The grave reads:
LOOSED FROM THEIR EARTHLY CARES, GENTLY THEY FLEET AS IN CALM SLEEP AWAY:
AND DIADEMD WITH LIGHT, ENTER THE REST OF EVERLASTING DAY.
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
The beloved wife of Thomas C. Seal
Who calmly passed away March 20 1884,
BEGOTTEN AGAIN UNTO AN INHERITANCE THAT FADETH NOT AWAY.
The dearly beloved and only child of the above who joined her dear mother the following day. Aged 3 years and 5 months.
Here is a link to a video of the grave:
Whilst we are on the subject of sad graves. Whilst walking through Nottingham General Cemetery, I saw this. I had to literally hold the foliage back to take the photograph. The grave is now nearly completely eaten by foliage, but somehow it grabbed my attention:
The Grave is of a lady who died in child birth on January 1st 1846.
The grave was commissioned by her widower WF Wood, with affectionate remembrance:.
Her name was Elizabeth Wood.
One of the on going and current issues/problems we have in cemeteries is it’s conservation and also the vandalism of cemeteries. On my recent visit of both the Church Rock Cemetery and The General Cemetery I noticed the increasing number of vandalised grave stones and also graves which had fallen over. Many people argue about collapsed graves. Is this down to vandals? Or just simply the age and deterioration of the grave?
It seems that every time I visit the local cemeteries in Nottingham, more and more of the graves seem to become damaged. Something needs to be done to protect Nottingham’s cemeteries, which have now become protected heritage sites. These cemeteries are just as important for an areas’s local history as say an historic building or an historic park. If we loose these sites through neglect or vandalism, we will have nothing left to preserve for the future.