TG2408 : Rosary cemetery, Norwich - John Barker and Charles Thurston

taken 12 years ago, near to Norwich, Norfolk, Great Britain

Rosary cemetery, Norwich - John Barker and Charles Thurston
Rosary cemetery, Norwich - John Barker and Charles Thurston
John Barker, steam circus proprietor (left) and his relative Charles Thurston, amusement caterer, both of Norwich, are buried in adjacent graves. John Barker > Link died in 1897 in an accident at the old Cattle Market in Norwich whilst setting up his steam roundabout (circular railway) for the forthcoming fair. He was crushed between two wagons and suffered 14 broken ribs, fractures to the breastbone and spine, and both lungs were punctured. He was declared dead on arrival at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Zoah Hedges-Stocks, who grew up with the circus and can trace her showmen ancestors back to the 1820s, recalls: "John Barker, a relative on the Stocks side of my family, had his own set of four-abreast Gallopers – a grand carousel with four rings of horses on it, and a very impressive ride to own. There were not many like it in the country at the time, and he displayed typical traveller tenacity when he came over from Ireland in the 1840s with barely a penny to his name and worked hard enough to afford them. Sadly, in 1897, he was crushed between two traction engines on Norwich Market Hill, Norfolk – a tragic death for a hard-working and dynamic man, who left behind 15 children." Next to his monument is is the grave of Charles Thurston, ‘Amusement Caterer’ > Link and part of Thurston Fairs, which still tour England today.

John Barker was also vice president of the Van Dwellers Protection Association, formed in 1889 in response to the Moveable Dwellings Bill, which was perceived as unfair legislation by travelling showpeople. It was a decisive event in the history of the community, as showpeople from around the country joined together for the first time to protect their rights. The Association was soon renamed the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, and now has 10 regional offices. During WW2, The Showmen’s Guild raised £5,000 to buy a new Spitfire for the RAF. Named ‘All The Fun Of The Fair’ it was, unfortunately, shot down over France.

Zoah Hedges-Stocks also remembers Charles Thurston: "Charles Thurston was the uncle of my great grandmother, and arguably, at the time of his death in 1928, was the best-known showman in the country. An entrepreneur, he made his name with travelling Bioscope shows at the turn of the century. These shows were the forerunners of modern cinema and the first exposure that many people had to moving pictures. Charles made a point of always giving a free show to the people of the local workhouse in every town he visited. This thoughtful gesture must have given these poor people a welcome escape from their hard daily lives. A patriotic man, he not only named one of his engines after King Edward VII, but exhibited a film of his funeral and gave the workhouse audience free tobacco and sweets in his honour. He was not just a good man, but a canny one too. As static cinemas started to threaten his business, Charles decided that if he couldn’t beat them, he would join them. He built three of the country’s earliest cinemas, in Harwich, Norwich and Biggleswade. The Electric Palace at Harwich has been restored to its former glory and is once more a working picture-house, complete with a plaque commemorating Charles Thurston." Thurston Fairs still tour England today.
Rosary Road Cemetery, Norwich

The main entrance to this Grade II* listed cemetery is on Rosary Road > Link. A gate provides access for pedestrians only from Telegraph Lane East > Link. The Rosary was the first non-denominational cemetery in the UK and also the earliest garden cemetery in England. It was established in 1819 by Thomas Drummond, a nonconformist minister, on land formerly in use as a market garden. Claims according to which the Rosary is predated by the no longer existing Dissenters' cemetery in Rusholme Road, Manchester, are incorrect as indeed the records confirm that the latter was opened in 1821, two years after the Rosary, although the first burial in the Rosary did indeed take place in 1821. On 7 April 1824, the Norfolk Chronicle reports that it was agreed that the Rosary burial-ground having been duly entered at the office of the Bishop of the Diocese, and therein designated a general burial-ground for the use of persons of all sects and denominations, shall be invested in trustees on behalf of those who may become the holders of shares, to be limited to 500. The area of land comprising the Rosary - situated at the western end of the Thorpe Ridge and falling gently from north to east and south to west, with a more dramatic, terraced cross slope in the southern section descending from the high ground in the south-east towards the chapel - had formerly been in use as a market garden, and presents a broad green open space between the housing areas to the south and the playing fields of the Telegraph Lane schools to the north (G Goreham, 'Thorpe Hamlet', 1972). The local historian Geoffrey Goreham in 'Norwich Heritage' (1977) wrote "In Rosary Cemetery stone monuments straggle up the slope amongst forest trees and waning sunlight casts long shadows of urns, obelisks and crosses on the maze of winding footpaths", and this is still the case today.

The cemetery chapel > Link was constructed in 1879 and is said to be the finest work of architect Edward Boardman > Link.

Tragically, the first interment at the Rosary was Drummond's wife Ann who died in childbirth aged 41 > Link. The cemetery has a number of literary links. The novelist Ralph Hale Mottram, for instance, is buried here in the family plot > Link. He was Lord Mayor of Norwich and also the last chairman of the trustees of the cemetery before it was entrusted to Norwich Corporation in 1956. A number of Norwich School painters > Link are also buried in the Rosary, as are a number of railway employees such as the train driver John Prior and the fireman James Light, both killed in the disastrous 1874 Thorpe rail accident > Link. A great number of interesting gravestones and memorials, such as the cast iron monument of Jeremiah Cozens > Link and made by Thomas Dixon's foundry in Norwich, can be found on the 13 acres (53,000 square metres) of the cemetery. The only mausoleum in the cemetery is that of the eye surgeon Emanuel Cooper > Link.

Norwich Heritage have a record according to which the large crowds of people visiting the Rosary in the summer of 1880 led to the employment of a policeman.

An extension adjacent to the old part (referred to as the lower cemetery) in the north-east and bounded by Telegraph Lane East, was opened in 1924 > Link on land formerly owned by Isaac Bugg Coaks, and at times used as a grazing ground for the Cavalry horses, and Mr Bullard from Riverside used to train his horses there. This new part or upper cemetery was laid out according to the advice received from Captain Sandys-Winsch, the then head of the council parks department and the designer of Eaton Park, Wensum Park, Waterloo Park, and Heigham Park in Norwich. The Rosary came under the control of the Norwich Corporation in 1954 and it is estimated that about 18,500 people have been buried there since 1821.

To anyone interested in symbols and carvings > Link on gravestones and monuments the Rosary offers a rich field of study. The Victorians had a particular preoccupation with death: many houses of the period had a 'coffin corner', a niche cut into the stairwell so that the coffin could make the turn in the flight of stairs, and some houses had a showcase window, where the deceased could lie in state for people to pass by on the street and pay their respects. This preoccupation is also reflected in the art of the period, including the decorative artwork seen on gravestones.

The Rosary also contains 31 Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) graves > Link all made to the same design from Portland stone. The prominent circle at the top of each headstone depicts a national emblem or the regimental badge > Link. Below the badge are the details of the buried serviceman or woman, commonly comprising service number, rank, name, military deocrations, regiment, age and date of death. Due to the practice of non-repatriation of the dead, Commonwealth servicemen and women who died on active service abroad were buried abroad. The majority of those buried in the UK are for this reason those who died either in military hospitals in the UK, in training accidents or in air raids, or those whose bodies had been washed ashore. Special commemorative headstones for individuals who are buried elsewhere also exist (but not in the Rosary). They look the same as the usual CWGC headstones but in addition have a superscription across the top, marking them as commemorating stones rather than headstones situated over an actual grave. Many other war casualties who are buried abroad are commemorated on the gravestones of their relatives, which can be difficult to spot because they do not stand out like the uniform, clean and well-maintained CWGC graves. All the 31 CWGC headstones in the Rosary are situated over actual graves.

A great number of wild flowers, many of these native, can be found growing in the areas of grassland, and more than 130 flowering plants have been recorded. The lower cemetery (which is the older part) is managed as a nature reserve. The Rosary is also host to a great variety of birds, and one of the best locations in Norwich to observe butterflies.

The first OS map (surveyed 1880/83, published 1886) records three OS benchmarks in the cemetery: by the NE corner of the boundary wall (105.5); by the SE corner of the boundary wall (138.8), and on the SE corner of the cemetery lodge by the entrance (60.5). The cemetery also had a well, dating from before 1878. According to the record held at the National Geoscience Data Centre ((161/p9), water was struck at about 30 metres, through layers of brick earth, sand and gravel, and chalk. The well would seem to have been sealed a long time ago. It was situated at TG 2440 0846 (near the north-south path separating Sections F and G).

The year 2019 is a landmark date for the Rosary Cemetery in that it was established 200 years ago in 1819.

For graves of interest and detailed information about the people buried there, be they members of Norwich's thriving Victorian merchant community, leaders of industry, bankers, eminent surgeons, painters, writers, preachers, or ordinary working people - they all have a story to tell - see my article. Link.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
TIP: Click the map for Large scale mapping
Change to interactive Map >
Grid Square
TG2408, 2867 images   (more nearby search)
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Saturday, 9 October, 2010   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 13 October, 2010
Cemetery > Cemetery   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 245 085 [100m precision]
WGS84: 52:37.6666N 1:18.9973E
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 245 085
View Direction
EAST (about 90 degrees)
Looking for a postcode? Try this pageExternal link
Clickable map

Image classification(about): Geograph
This page has been viewed about 567 times.
View this location: KML (Google Earth) · Google MapsExternal link · Bing MapsExternal link · Geograph Coverage Map · geotagged! More Links for this image
Background for photo viewing: White / /
W Go E
thumbs up icon
You are not logged in login | register