A LONG LIFES WORK
The below poignant epitaph has been left for us on a tombstone locally; likely forgotten and definitely sadly abandoned now for many years, it stands in a badly neglected former non-conformists' cemetery in the ancient part of Melton Mowbray, propped against a boundary wall; wherever lie the human remains to which it refers and once stood over, I have no idea.
Born May 6th, died September 27th, 1843.
Born September 21st, 1844, died May 25th, 1846.
Born November 2nd, 1845, died January 11th, 1846.
Born December 8th, 1846, died May 25th, 1847.
Born December 16th, died March 10th, 1848.
Born January 28th, died October 6th, 1849.
Born January 22nd, died July 31st, 1850.
Born March 7th, died August 31st, 1851.
Born May 22nd, died October 15th, 1852.
Born July 3rd, died September 24th, 1855.
Born December 6th, 1856, died January 21st, 1859.
THE BELOVED CHILDREN OF FREDERICK & MARY TYLER.
But why did I deem it to be 'poignant' that day and what was it that attracted my special attention? It was the dates, numbers and the very young ages of the many poor children listed and with my very basic schoolboy maths I surmised that this lady had been one of those poor Victorian mothers who had been through the wringer and back during a desperate life as a would-be mother. I couldn't work out the involutions of her seemingly forgettable family journey in situ, so I photographed the stone in order to work it out later, also to escape the rain, but, just peruse the dates of the births and deaths as shown above and do the math for yourself. My maths did indeed confirm that this young lady had spent the best young years of her life in an almost lost cause.
Accustomed as I am to meandering about my local grave-yards about the town and further afield - especially on a Sunday morning when there are less people to see me going about my idiosyncratic pastime - I occasionally come across a few words inscribed on a headstone which give me great food for thought, not to mention many interesting tales to pass on. I have been moved to write in the past of the story of three young men, siblings all, who had passed away in the summer months of a century ago during the visit of a massive weather event to the area. The sad story which unfolded of the tragic events at the small village of Barsby on a dark and stormy night in October of 1927, I have written about elsewhere, but my point is that it is my tendency to be curious which creates my continuing interest in the past.
During one such stroll in the old town's St Mary’s Gardens, immediately behind ‘Tubes Night-Club, I was attracted to a particularly large and beautifully embellished stone of dark-grey Swithland slate which was exquisitely inscribed by an obviously skilled artisan. The mason's name ‘WEAVER’ in block capitals appended at the very bottom of the slab informs me that it was crafted by Mr Samuel Weaver, local builder and stonemason/engraver of Sage Cross Street and the year was likely to be 1859. I was not only attracted by the fine work of the engraver as what really drew my attention was the amount of script he had squeezed into into his allotted space. As depicted in the above illustration, the names of no fewer that 11 children - that is seven girls and four boys - all seemingly of the parentage of Frederick and Mary Tyler are shown, all of which had died at a very young age with some most likely at the time of their birth. The more I perused the still very legible list, the more I meditated as to whatever had lain behind the tragic story of this ‘message’ left behind more than 150 years ago.
As for the the maths, I gave up on the task soon after I began to work out the ages or days lived by each of these eleven babies; perhaps you might like to work this out for yourself - and to forgive me any errors found. Puzzled and ever inquisitive though I engaged in the task of discovering who this desperate couple might have been, especially the poor mother who had obviously suffered the bulk of the wasted endeavour and the long days, months and years of grieving and likely despondency of their own. I can pretty well safely say that Mary Tyler had spent at least 23 years in confinement and can assert that in this period of time she was to give birth to a grand total of no less than 17 children of which only 3 boys and 3 girls seem to have survived to adulthood. Bizarrely, five of these were comprised of the first five babies born. The sixth survivor named as ‘Fred’ was born much later in 1854 and who grew up quite healthily to marry and create a family of his own.
Fred and Mary Tyler.
Mary Roell was a Melton-born girl who married Frederick Tyler in the Summer of 1836. I believe that this family name is mis-spelled and should be ‘Rowell’, but I have gained no useful knowledge as to her family background. Her first-born child was Mary, in 1836 and it is perhaps ironic that as a widow, she would be living with this particular daughter when she passed away at the age of 77 years. Mary Snr. is on record as having been employed as a laundry worker, but I’m sure that she spent more time working as a mother!
In 1841, the couple are recorded as living in Scalford Road, Melton, with Fred being shown as a publican and there were four children of the family present, but ten years later in 1851 he is shown as a watch-maker by occupation and there are now five children, with baby Mary Jane only just born in February of 1851. A change of address tells us that they were now living in their better known address of Sage Cross Street, possibly then newly built. A salient point to mention here is the fact that baby Mary Jane was by then her eleventh born child! In 1861, the family is still in Sage Cross Street, next door to the builder’s yard of his friend, master mason, Robert Weaver and his family and it is likely that Samuel Weaver had even crafted the fine family tombstone for them by then. It is interesting to also note that at least three of the Tyler children were by now in their 20’s and what’s more, there was by now the addition of a one year old, Arthur Tyler, who was recorded as a ‘grandson’.
By 1871, the by now convoluted Tyler family was still dwindling, with Fred and Mary still in charge there now remained at home only daughter Emma, now a spinster at 29, but almost certainly the mother of 10 years old Arthur who was also resident and shown as an ‘errand boy'. It is here that I leave my detailed search of a family, formally unknown and irrelevant to me and of no particular personal interest apart from my gaining an insight into a world now passed and which seemed to have included so many such sad stories.
Fred Tyler passed away in 1880 at the age of 70, after sharing many of the tragic setbacks of his dear wife Mary, who was to die some eight years later in March 1888. This is the short tale of the sad story behind the long forgotten siblings, n named for posterity on the face of the wonderful memorial stone which arrested my curiosity one rainy day.
THE BURIAL GROUNDS OF MELTON MOWBRAY
It may be of interest to learn that the three main cemeteries of Melton Mowbray have each evolved from the basic conundrum of available space divided by the required demand from an increasing population. Simply resolved, when the hallowed ground comprising the limited curtilage of St Mary’s Church yard became no longer comfortably viable for the acceptance of more remains, suitable and available land was acquired from the garden area which then joined King street at the rear of the Generous Briton public house with Norman Street to the north of the town. This was to be known as the ‘New Cemetery’.
A brief knowledge of the history of the Nation’s religious problems tells us that Melton Mowbray was very much a part of the schism which grew to be a rancorous separation of the long established church by a smaller dissenting community in various scattered guises. Dissent was very much a proactive part of the social scene, but suffice to comment for now that the split which existed at the time of this change of location, created a ‘them-and-us’ scenario with Dissenters being laid to rest only in the northern one third of the ground provided, whilst the larger ‘established’ number of ‘remainers’ of the high church, were allocated the remaining two-thirds.
With the inevitable crowding out of the loyal deceased parishioners from the small graveyard of St Mary’s which abutted BurtonEnd, it was vital that somewhere be found to carry the ever increasing overflow. There were several acres of grassland behind the Church apparently doing little apart from providing one or two small allotments, but these were owned by wealthy outsiders then, so an alternative compromise on the grounds of cost was arranged when the Town Estate property was utilised off King Street. See the small maps which clearly show the ‘new’ cemetery layouts.
The enforced removal from the original church grounds to the virgin land off King Street in that late Summer of 1845. was to prove not to be a permanent answer to the space problem, more a relatively short term solution and as the town expanded towards the end of the Victorian era, its useful days were to become numbered once more, when, in 1898, Meltonians would celebrate the opening of a what was planned to be the ultimate answer to the burial problem when the new purpose-built facility in Thorpe Road was officially opened. though its future too, is now currently in doubt as the onward march of each generation continues to quickly fill up the existing allocations. In the meantime I present below, a short account of the opening in 1845 of the ‘new’ town cemetery in 1845, through the eyes of the irascible Leicester Chronicle which is bizarrely presented with an edge of humour in some sort of reference to a competitive newspaper.
(Reproduced from the Leicester Chronicle of Saturday 25 October 1845)FIRST INTERMENT IN THE NEW CEMETERY, MELTON MOWBRAY.
The coffin has been made,
To receive its fallen dead.And therein 'twill be laid.When its tiny spark has fled, —'Twill be buried with the grandeur it deserves;And thus it will be sung.Whilst the great bell will be rung," It died of sap among All its nerves “— Old Song.
On Friday, the 3rd inst., (says a correspondent,) the new burying ground in Melton was consecrated. In anticipation of this event, the ‘Recorder’ had been ‘lying in state,’ ever since its demise, at the office of the Publisher, for its ‘nobility’ could not, even in dust, blend with the ignoble democrats over the wall ; and on Monday, the 20th inst., the ‘maiden sod’ was upturned, that its remains might be deposited in the silent tomb. At present all that marks the mournfully interesting spot - the grave of Melton's hope - is a pasteboard tablet (in imitation of marble) bearing the following inscription;
"HIC JACETall that was mortal of'THE MELTON RECORDER’ ,After a lingering and painful illness,it departed this lifethe 14th day of July, 1845, Aged 20 weeks.Ye readers kind, who now lament,Be thankful while you weep.For I, who made you drowsy once.Myself am fallen asleep."
But of course this will not be deemed a sufficient tribute to its ‘memory dear’ by its admirers. It is therefore proposed either to erect a statue to, or build a nest for, the ci-devant (former) Editor, testifying thereby that his herculean labours have not been wholly unappreciated. If the statue is decided upon, a premium will be offered to artists for designs.
Sir Francis Grant President R.A. (1803-1878)
Meanwhile, On a related note, referring to my recent presence at the cemetery, I might draw attention to the placement in this former cemetery - now not recognised as such in its present state - of the monument of one of our town’s most prominent former residents. By the way of a diversion from the theme of this article, I speak of the world-renowned artist and long term popular resident, Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy of Arts. A Scot, he was born in Edinburgh on the 18th January 1803. At first a student at Harrow on-the-Hill school as a young child, he was later educated in Edinburgh, but not at university nor did he achieving any significant degree. Arriving in Melton Mowbray, attracted by its reputation, he was to gain the friendship of two locally established artists, the well regarded Ferneley brothers. Without formal training he would learn to paint and in later years, to advance this self-taught expertise to a standard beyond even his own wildest dreams. Francis grew up to become a formal portrait painter of some great renown, specialising mainly in the portraiture of many aristocratic and political figures of his time, including that of his greatest admirer, Queen Victoria.
The Grant family home in London was at No 27 Sussex Place, Marylebone, where he spent the early days of a spoiled life with his two brothers and from where, with an inheritance of more than £10,000 from his deceased father’s estate, he vowed to spend his early years spending it all, with a further promise to train later as a lawyer. He achieved his first avowal to spend but did not quite make his visit to the halls of higher education, instead, wasting his precious moments in his great passion of hunting and gambling, pastimes which were to bring him inevitably to Melton Mowbray, where only the very best of this popular sport was to be achieved amongst some of the most important people in world society.
At the age of 23 years he met his wife-to-be, Emily Farquharson who also hailed from Scotland and they were married in 1826, but sadly, in circumstances seemingly unknown, young Emily, without issue, was to die in 1828, it being less than two years after their nuptials and for a short time Francis was on his own again. Extremely handsome and reportedly most attractive to the ladies of his time, the young budding artist was not to mourn for too long before he was courting local lady, the highly sought and esteemed society beauty, Isabella Elizabeth Norman (1805-1894) a relative of the Manners family of Belvoir. On the 8th July, 1829, Melton Mowbray was to witness the wedding of all weddings at the Parish Church of St Mary’s, when Francis married for a second time. No children had emanated from his first marriage with Emily, but this new union was to eventually produce five girls and three boys born between 1830 and 1847. I understand that one of these eight children is said to have been born out of wedlock, but I have as yet, no further details. The Grants lived in the large house, then known simply as ‘The Lodge,’ today extant on the lower slope of Dalby Road almost opposite the swimming baths. In the 1930’s, the residence was renamed for some reason as ‘Dorian Lodge’, the name which it currently retains. When, as a popular and respected Associate of the esteemed Royal Academy of Art in London, he became their President in 1866 being simultaneously rewarded with a Knighthood from his Queen in recognition of his valuable and prolific services to art.
With a very much dispersed family of children, we usually hear mainly of two or three of his young daughters who remained in Melton as their home town. Sir Francis and Dame Isabella had retained the family home at 27 Sussex Place in Marylebone, adjoining Regents Park and in the Spring of 1871 they are to be found there in residence with four house staff and a carriage in the driveway. His work in the capital city ensured a close connection with his art, but by now it was more with the business of administration and exhibitions.
Finally, as they say, ‘All good things come to an end’ and it was on the 5th day of October, 1878, when apparently without prior warning, Sir Francis Grant suffered what was described as a ‘massive’ fatal heart attack whilst resting at Dalby Road with his daughter, Daisy. His funeral service at St Mary’s was widely reported as being one of the biggest turnouts ever seen in the town.
THE NEW, NEW CEMETERY IN THORPE ROAD
‘APPOINTMENT OF CEMETERY SUPERINTENDENT
At the meeting of the Local Board, on Wednesday evening, Mr Joseph Smith, of Nottingham Road, Melton, was appointed superintendent of the new Cemetery out of fourteen applicants for the post.’
(Grantham Journal, 3rd June, 1893.)
Towards the end of the 19th Century, it is apparent that the ‘new’ cemetery in King Street was now becoming as congested as that of the church of half a century before and it became once more the business of the local board, in partnership with representatives of the various denominations now proliferating in the town, to provide the extra space for a future generation of the residents. In 1893, land was acquired at the side of the Thorpe Road, then utilised as public allotment gardens, for the purpose of providing an up-to-date and ‘state-of-the-art’ new facility. The Leicester Chronicle of the day, described the opening event.
OPENING OF THE NEW CEMETERY AT MELTON MOWBRAY.
On Thursday morning last, the new Cemetery provided for the locals of the town of Melton (a full description of which appeared in these columns some few weeks ago) was formally opened after having been handed over to the Board at a special meeting on the previous evening. The proceedings were of the simplest character possible, the members of the Board meeting at the Lodge, where the Chairman (Mr. J. J. Fast), in a few words, “opened the place.” It had been suggested that a dedicatory service of some kind should be held to mark the event, the proposal being that the whole of the ministers in the town should take part in it, but no definite steps in this direction were not taken, and consequently nothing was done as regards any religious ceremony. The whole of the cemetery is open, i.e no pets it is consecrated as is the custom in many towns, according to the rites of the Church of England. Though complete as regards its buildings and the laying out of the various intersecting pathways, the Cemetery as yet presents by no means a finished appearance, no trees or shrubs having been planted, as doubtless there will be in time, and the ground near the Chapel and also the lodge still bears traces of the “hands" of the builders. When the ornamentation of the place in these respects has been carried out it will look very pretty, and we think that Meltonians will have no reason to be dissatisfied with the new burial ground when it is got into proper order.
As stated, the Cemetery was opened in the most formal manner, with a special meeting of the Board being convened for ten o'clock that Thursday morning at the keeper's lodge. There were present— J. Fast (chairman of the Board), J. Glover, J. Gill, W. Willcox, G. N. Wing, J. Anderson, C. Callis, Rd. Barker (Clerk), and K. Jeeves (Surveyor). The grounds were formally inspected and they then, proceeding to the room where the ministers robe, the Chairman said they were there that day for the purpose of formally declaring the Cemetery open to the public, and he hoped they would all live long enough to hear the public say that they looked upon it as a boon. He would like to have expressed entire satisfaction with regard to one or two small matters which had been detected, he supposed there was nothing perfect in this world, and they must put up with things as they found them unless they had the power to remedy them. Mr. Willcox said that he thought it would a great boon to the town at large when the place was properly set out, and hoped it would not fall so heavily upon the ratepayers that some of their friends have imagined, because no doubt they would derive a considerable revenue from here on. Mr. Glover remarked that he had no wish to see the cemetery pay its way, which would only mean a heavy death-rate.—A slight discussion then ensued with reference to the letting of the plot of ground attached to the cemetery, and it was ultimately resolved to let it by tender.
The proceedings then terminated. The first funeral took place at four o'clock in the afternoon when the body of Mrs. Sophia Clarke, wife of Mr. Henry Clarke, refreshment-house keeper of Church-lane, Melton, was interred. The deceased, who was sixty-eight years of age, died on Monday after a somewhat lengthy illness. Mrs Clarke was well known in the town and highly respected. The obsequies were conducted by the Vicar (Rev. R. Blakeney) the first part of the service being held the Parish Church, and then completed at the grave-side where a short dedicatory prayer was said. The funeral was witnessed by a large number of people. The Parish Magazine for June had announced that the custom which has hitherto prevailed of the portion of the burial service being read in the Parish Church, can still observed in every case in which it is desired.
And what of tomorrow?
For more than a century the Thorpe Road Cemetery has served the people of Melton Mowbray. Its fine lodge at the main entrance still stands today, overlooking the large, manicured area of the various sections representing the religious followings of its occupants, which must now amount to many hundreds over time. Little seems to have changed over these years, during which time the spare plot mentioned at its opening ceremony was indeed utilised for extra space. There is talk today, in 2019, of the sale of the lodge house as a private dwelling and news of a possible end of term for the facilities so lovingly provided all those long years past. There is even a current public discourse on the subject of bringing to an end the ancient practice of burial in the ground in civic open spaces, leaving no doubt, much contention amongst the religious groups who will no doubt need to organise alternative methods of the disposition of loved ones. Watch this space!
© John McQuaid 2019