TG2408 : The grave of Thomas Brightwell

taken 20 days ago, near to Norwich, Norfolk, Great Britain

The grave of Thomas Brightwell
The grave of Thomas Brightwell
The slab depicted here marks the grave of Thomas Brightwell (18 Mar 1787 - 17 Nov 1868) and his eldest daughter Cecilia Lucy (d 17 Apr 1875). Also buried here are Ann, the wife of Thomas Brightwell (6 Nov 1787 - 17 Feb 1862), and Martha Hawkins his sister (d 14 Aug 1876).

Thomas Brightwell was born in Ipswich and had married the only daughter of WM Wilkin of Costessey, and settled in Norwich, where he lived for 60 years and practised as a solicitor. A Nonconformist, he joined the congregation which assembled at the Old Meeting in St Clement’s, where until his death he officiated as one of the deacons. He was the author of a work on the Pentateuch, and his intellectual attainments and scientific pursuits gained him admission into the circle which included William Taylor, Doctors Sayers, Martineau, Rigby, and Barrow, Sir James Smith, and other Norwich celebrities. He was also a close observer of nature and gave much of his time to entomology, and a fine collection of insects in the Norfolk and Norwich Museum was formed by him. But the study to which, in his later years, he devoted especial attention was that of Infusoria. He wrote a treatise on Infusoria, illustrated from drawings by his daughter Cecilia Lucy, which had been printed for private circulation. At the Norwich Congress of the British Association, of which he was a vice-president, he is said to have been greatly amused by the anxious and ineffectual endeavours made by several of the scientific men present to procure copies of the work, by then out of print. In 1821 Mr. Brightwell became a Fellow of the Linnaean Society, and he also rendered considerable assistance in the formation of the Norfolk and Norwich Literary Institution and of the Norfolk and Norwich Museum. (Source: Norfolk Chronicle)

The Norfolk Chronicle has the following information about Cecilia Lucy Brightwell, published on her passing: "Died at her residence, Surrey Street, Norwich, Miss Cecilia Lucy Brightwell, eldest daughter of Mr Thomas Brightwell. For nearly forty years she was the devoted and inseparable companion of her father. Miss Brightwell was a voluminous writer, and more than twenty works of hers had issued from the press, the first of which was a biography, the only one extant, of her old friend, Amelia Opie, whose diary and correspondence she had access to through her father, Mrs Opie's executor. Amongst her other works was a 'Life of Linnaeus', 'Early Lives and Doings of Great Lawyers', 'Annals of Curious and Romantic Lives', 'Palissy, the Huguenot Potter', 'Footsteps of the Reformers', 'Heroes of the Workshop', 'Men of Mark', 'Annals of Industry and Genius' etc. Proficient in the use of the etching needle, she illustrated her father’s works on Infusoria'. A singular evidence of Miss Brightwell’s skill in etching may be found in the British Museum, where, side by side with the work of Rembrandt, known as 'The Long Landscape', is a copy by her which the gentleman then in charge of that department could not believe to be such until vouched for by others".
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, 2804 images   (more nearby search)
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Saturday, 21 March, 2020   (more nearby)
Sunday, 22 March, 2020
Geographical Context
Burial ground, Crematorium 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 2442 0848 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:37.6593N 1:18.8726E
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 2442 0848
View Direction
Southeast (about 135 degrees)
Looking for a postcode? Try this pageExternal link
Clickable map

Image Type (about): geograph 
This page has been viewed about 6 times.
View this location: KML (Google Earth) · Google MapsExternal link · Bing MapsExternal link · Geograph Coverage Map · geotagged! More Links for this image
W Go E
thumbs up icon
You are not logged in login | register