TG2408 : The remains of a gravestone

taken 2 months ago, near to Norwich, Norfolk, Great Britain

The remains of a gravestone
The remains of a gravestone
This small inscribed plinth which presumably once would have formed the base of a cross is the only marker remaining on the grave of seven young children of the Howard family. They are: Charles Howard (9 Dec 1897, aged 5); Lily Ruth Howard (died 5 Aug 1899, aged 10 months); Grace Jane Howard (died Aug 15, 1904 aged 4 months), Charles Edward Howard (died Sep 19 1906, aged 11 months), Robert Martins Howard (died 19 Sep 1906, aged 10 months); Alice Shiedy Howard (died 4 Dec 1901, aged 10 months); Alice Shiedy Howard (died 12 Feb 1908, aged 10 months) and Charles William Howard (died 26 Dec 26 1909, aged 1 month).

In Victorian times children were at risk of dying from a great number of diseases such as smallpox, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, dysentery, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. Death was a common visitor to Victorian households and the younger the children, the more vulnerable they were. Furthermore, epidemics of smallpox, typhoid, cholera and diphtheria, have been documented to have occurred in Norwich; combined with often poor living conditions, air pollution and impure water there were many dangers to the health not only of Victorian children but also of the adult population - not to mention the many women who died in childbirth.

On 5 April 1832 the Norfolk Chronicle reports: "The first outbreak of cholera in Norfolk occurred at Stow Bridge, and in two months 33 cases were reported, of which 13 terminated fatally. The disease made its appearance at Cawston on May 25th; and in Crown Court, St. Peter Hungate, Norwich, on August 15th. The Board of Health directed the bodies of all persons who had died of cholera to be interred within twenty-four hours, the clothes and bedding of the deceased to be destroyed, and surviving friends to be indemnified by the Corporation of Guardians. The medical men of the city gratuitously superintended the parishes allotted to each. On September 12th several cases were reported at the Bethel, and eight inmates died. The last official return was made on October 18th, when it was stated that the total number of cases in Norwich was 320, and the deaths 128. Thanksgiving services were held at the Cathedral and parish churches on November 11th, on the termination of the outbreak."
Rosary Road Cemetery, Norwich
The main entrance to this Grade II* listed cemetery is on Rosary Road > LinkExternal link. A gate provides access for pedestrians only from Telegraph Lane East > LinkExternal 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. 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. The writer Geoffrey Goreham in his book about Thorpe Hamlet (1972) 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". The cemetery chapel > LinkExternal link was constructed in 1879 and is said to be the finest work of architect Edward Boardman > LinkExternal link.

Tragically, the first interment at the Rosary was Drummond's wife Ann who died in childbirth aged 41 > LinkExternal link. The cemetery has a number of literary links. The novelist Ralph Hale Mottram, for instance, is buried here in the family plot > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal link. A great number of interesting gravestones and memorials, such as the cast iron monument of Jeremiah Cozens > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal 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 > LinkExternal 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. LinkExternal link.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Grid Square
TG2408, 2554 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Thursday, 9 May, 2019   (more nearby)
Submitted
Thursday, 9 May, 2019
Geographical Context
City, Town centre  Burial ground, Crematorium 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 2445 0840 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:37.6155N 1:18.8959E
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 2446 0840
View Direction
Northwest (about 315 degrees)
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