Musings on a Walk Through a Victorian Cemetery

Cemeteries, although perceived by some to be dark and morbid, can serve as an immense source of inspiration and provide a very real connection to the past.  And it is in just such a place that I spent my Saturday afternoon…The cemetery in question was to be found in Bedford.

It opened in 1855 and reminders of Victorian gothic art and architecture are dotted all over, from the monuments themselves – obelisks, angels, Grecian urns and Celtic crosses – to the buildings, including the cemetery chapel and the gatehouse.  For such a small town, people from all over the world ended up being buried there, and it makes you wonder about their stories, especially how come it was this small town where their story reached its conclusion.

It is also interesting to see how inscriptions on the stonework changed over time.  Sometimes only the names of the deceased are recorded, perhaps alongside the date of their birth and death, whilst other gravestones bear witness to the manner of the death, such as an accident or as a result of war.  Other information includes where they lived in life, not just the name of the town or village, but the exact address, as well as who their close family were…Finally, it is the names themselves that perhaps, alongside the skilled stone-masonry, which draws the most fascination.  Some certainly sound exotic to our modern ears.  The one that I found most unusual was Hepzibah…A quick Google search says that the name means ‘my delight is in her’ in Hebrew.

A walk in a Victorian cemetery can tell us a lot about contemporary attitudes towards death and the departed.  Although there is no doubt that they are places whose primary function centres on sadness and grief, there is beauty and light here too.  Landscaped grounds, gently twisting paths that are lost to sight behind a carefully placed tree, benches for you to sit and stay a while…it’s as if they were trying to create their own little Eden, a place for the living as well as the dead…

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7 thoughts on “Musings on a Walk Through a Victorian Cemetery

  1. Hey Sammi,

    There is an undeniable peace and serenity to be found amongst the headstones and flagstones of a cemetery, a sense that time and the hustle and bustle of the world either pauses at the cemetery gates or just evaporates altogether, and it is this this sense of restfulness and calm that I find amidst your thoughts and images…a distant feeling of comfort and of being comforted, which I find quite delightful. I to enjoy the solitude and companionship of these special places.

    Your comments on the historical perspectives of those laid to rest are intriguing…I had never considered the birth-place of those that lay under the press of my sole. I read the headstones, absorb the details and often try to imagine the person in life and how they might have been, but I’ve never taken my thoughts further to consider the history of their lives before. How inspiring, thank you. No wonder you are the writer and me the visitor to your Blog 😀

    And Bedford eh? Hmm interesting. I grew up in Herts, Beds and Bucks 🙂

    Have a wonderful evening and a fantastic week ahead Sammi. Take care of you.

    Namaste

    DN – 16/08/2015

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Dewin, Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      As morbid as it sounds to some, cemeteries are one of my favourite places to find inspiration and peace (I suppose on a subconscious level you are surrounded by reminders that things could always be worse, and the residents are rumoured to be a restful bunch 🙂 ), and this one is particularly quiet. It is as you say, as if the rest of the world stops at the gate. Time is a funny thing within its high walls…hours pass by like minutes whilst the weathering on the headstones is so inconsistent…you see some that have been standing for only a handful of decades faring far worst than those that have been standing for well over century!

      Bedford is one of my favourite cemeteries – my profile picture came from a monument within this cemetery. And the choice of trees that have been planted mean that great swathes of the footpaths are covered in pink and purple leaves in the autumn.

      It’s a very small world 🙂

      Have a great week. Brightest Blessings!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Sammi,

    How are you? 🙂 How was Monday?

    I think we share a curious predilection with graveyards and cemeteries Sammi 🙂 When I sat down to reply to your post last evening, many of my thoughts reflected those of yours above, and yet I could not define with certainty why such places are on occasion a draw….there is never a specific reason for going to visit one other than what stirred the impulse, and that is usually a deeper need to pause and breathe. Other than a temple or church, or similar construction, I find the same unfathomable sense of unbounded peace and stillness within a cemetery gazing upwards amongst trees and flowers towards the arching sky and infinity beyond. It is one of the few places I know where one can be alone and yet be amongst so many who warm to your company and who know far more than I about the true mysteries of life after death. And lastly, I find comfort in being closer to those who I have known and lost, and imagine that this is one very real reason why time seems to standstill to me…so that one might remember the timelessness, beauty and magnificence of family and friends passed as they once were. And there is comfort and joy to be found in this.

    So, Bedford cemetery is your favourite haunt eh? 🙂 I’m likely not to know it, but does it come with a name? And yes it is a very small world….perhaps we’ve even passed by on the other side of the road and never even imagined 🙂 Judging from your description and photographs…which I enjoyed, thank you for visuals…your special place sounds delightful…’great swathes of the footpaths are covered in pink and purple leaves in the autumn’, and all bringing life and colour to those that lay at rest. I recall your liking for history and can understand how intrigue and fascination look back at you from each and every headstone. Out of curiosity, what is the earliest headed grave there?

    Bottom row of images…your title image, 2nd from the left? Why did you choose the image you did for your header? Does she look like you?

    Enjoy your evening Sammi sunshine 🙂

    Namaste

    DN – 17/08/2015

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Dewin, I am very well, thank you. How are you? 🙂 Monday was an interesting day…the morning was spent looking at headstones and grotesques in a churchyard in Hertfordshire.

      I love reading your thoughts on cemeteries – they are so much more articulate and deep than mine 🙂 And your words regarding lost loved ones are so poignant and beautiful. I found them very moving.

      Yes, Bedford cemetery – Foster Hill Road Cemetery – is one of my favourite haunts 🙂 The cemetery opened in 1855 but I think the earliest gravestone I have come across is 1856. I love reading the names on headstones and searching out the exotic ones (probably because I wish I had one!), but I also like to read the dates on them too, to see if anyone was born or died on my birthday…not exactly sure why I do that, but I have done it since I was a child…

      I chose the image because I think she has a commanding, graceful bearing…so no, she looks nothing like me. I also her lack wings 😦

      Have a good evening Dewin, and a great rest of the week 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good evening Sammi C 🙂

    How is the published Queen of Words this evening? 😀 So very pleased for your success! Yeah! I hope you are celebrating, as you should? I made a cuppa in your honour, just the way you like it. If you hurry it’ll still be warm enough to drink lol (I don’t mid if you make demands in how you like your tea, or which treat you’d like with it, or even where you might sit…I’ll attend to them all without fuss lol 🙂 )

    Well now, let’s start by talking about the disappointment of not having wings on the outside. Personally, I don’t believe any Air sign truly lacks the power and grace for ‘imaginative flight’ do you? Nor do I imagine an aerated heart could ever be tethered when spirit lifts it so carefully with hands that Love. I think perhaps we were designed to fly in spirit alone so that one day when we do lift off from this mortal coil we’ll know exactly how to fly back home to the stars. I also think that your grace and commanding bearing are found in your writing where such attributes find their most comfortable and natural home. On the basis of this alone, I can’t believe you’re anything other than amazing 🙂

    Foster Hill Road…I’ve never heard of it but a quick look at Google Maps and I know the general area a little although it was some time ago when last I was in the neighbourhood. I read a little more about the Cemetery itself and discovered it has some fascinating history: ‘more than 17,000 Scottish soldiers arrived in Bedford over a 48-hour period shortly after war had been declared. The town was prepared for the influx but the Highlanders were not ready for the childhood diseases they would be exposed to. Between August 1914 and January 1915, more than 1,000 were taken ill with measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. A whole battalion had to be quarantined on the outskirts of the town. Altogether 135 men died as a result of complications they experienced. Of them, 33 are buried at the Foster Hill Road Cemetery where an annual service of remembrance takes place.’ Interesting stuff, and a whole host of ideas there already for the creative mind to enjoy. I can see how and why your graveyard haunts are as inspiring as you suggest.

    Your graveyard musings are revealing of you and certainly made me smile I a warm way, particularly the part about searching for exotic names and checking birth dates 🙂 I am certain you are not alone in doing that…but it tickled me to remember that I do it as well. I’ve yet to find anyone with the same birth or death date, and no-one sharing my name either, but still I look just in case. As to your name, it is a writer’s name…I like it as it is, short, sweet, and with an X in it! Not many traditional names carry this exotic letter, and that make you somewhat unique don’t you think? May I ask if Sammi is an abbreviation of Samantha or does it stand as a name in its own right? I also wanted to ask what you’d do, feel, or think if ever you found a date on a headstone matching yours? If it were I, then I might well wonder if there death permitted my birth…the universe has to stay in equilibrium somehow, right? 🙂

    You mention a trip today to a site in Hertfordshire. Now that is a county I know much better…home for a dozen years or so…. the longest I have lived in one area all my life. (I am currently resident in my 47th address…the target being 50 before I am 50!) So where did you go on your travels? Also, at the mention of gargoyles (don’t you just love the guttural water churning sound of that self-describing word) I wonder if you have a copy of Gargoyles with a forward by Stephen King? Perhaps you own a copy already given your penchant for these stony little critters. It is a delightful book on an unusual subject, and one that I’m sure you’d find interesting. I’ll try and locate it and pass you the ISBN in case you wanted a treat yourself as reward for being published!! 🙂 As an aside, when I was a young schoolboy, our class took a trip to St. Albans Cathedral where we had a guided tour and chance to talk ‘freely’ with the visiting monks and other church staff. I was fortunate to be ‘assigned’ to a very hospitable soul who was happily persuaded by a 7 year boy old to lead the way to the top of the tower so that ‘we’ (the royal ‘we’ meaning ‘me’ of course 😀 ) could get a look at the rooftop and get closer to the Gargoyles. I can’t recall the details but do recall the youthful exuberance and joy with which I bounded through the door and raced to get the best view. I remember I was held spellbound by these darkly carved fetishes who had been staring down at me when i was beneath them, but who now turned their heads to look up at me instead…a 7 year old fleshy school-attending demon with a mischievous schoolboy streak wearing short trousers and a beaming smile. I have no idea what they must have thought of me, but I’ll not forget the time I spent being up close with ‘them’ as quickly, that is for sure.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and for reminding me of my own. Time does much to slowly erode past memories making reminders such as this ever more relevant and interesting.

    Sweet dreams Sammi C, and congratulations once again on your publishing achievement. You must be very proud and rightly so 🙂

    Namaste

    DN – 19/08/2015

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good evening Dewin,

      Thank you for the cup of tea 🙂 And you are a very gracious host 🙂 lol

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the issue of wings – they are indeed thought-provoking. I don’t think imaginative flight is beyond anyone, if they are determined enough to seek it out. The idea of flying back home to the stars is an interesting one…personally, for myself, I am torn in thinking about what happens when we do shuffle off the mortal coil…the stars, no doubt have a powerful pull and yet I also envisage crossing a body of water…I guess there is only one way I’ll find out…

      I have heard that story of the Scottish soldiers and like so many stories of that time its just so terribly sad and moving.

      Yay! I have a writer’s name! 😀 Sammi is an abbreviation of Samantha – which I am only ever called when I’m in trouble (which luckily at my age, isn’t as often as it once was 🙂 ) I don’t know how I would react should I see my name or my birth date on a gravestone…I really have no idea, though it’s intriguing to think of it in terms of the universe maintaining equilibrium. It would be far more unnerving to see one’s name on a headstone – both first and last name – than a date, I think. It reminds me a little of Dickens A Christmas Carol…

      47th address? What a peripatetic soul you are! That is some achievement – I wish you well in pursuit of 50 before 50 🙂 Monday morning was spent in Hitchin, exploring the churchyard of St Mary’s, which as well as having some interesting stonework had one of the biggest trees I have ever seen in the churchyard.

      The book, I wonder, was it written by Andrew Davidson? If yes, then I have it and loved it, and it is currently sitting in a pile of books waiting to be re-read again. If not, then I would certainly be interested in obtaining a copy.

      Your school trip to St Albans Cathedral sounds amazing – how many people can say they have seen those carvings up close – I am terribly, terribly jealous!!! It’s been many years since I have been to the cathedral (the last time I was in St Albans it was to visit the Roman museum), but if I should go again I shall remember your gargoyles 🙂

      I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening, Dewin, and the rest of your week 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A Favourite Haunt | Sammi Cox

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