I have a confession to make – I love wandering around in overgrown cemeteries.
You can rest in peace folks (both above and below), I have not gone all Buffy the Vampire Slayer or teamed up with the Scooby-Doo Gang. I love wandering in overgrown cemeteries in the day time.
One of my favourite places to visit is Rookwood Necropolis (city of the dead) in Sydney, Australia. It’s the largest multicultural necropolis in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s estimated about one million people have been buried in the ‘suburb’ which covers an area of over 300 hectares.
In 1862 the government purchased a large piece of land for the new necropolis on the newly built railway line at what was then known as Haslam’s Creek, 17 kilometres from the Sydney CBD. It was planned out like a suburb with streets, avenues of trees, buildings for contemplation and divided into denominations according to their numbers in the 1861 census.
Rookwood was served by a rail spur from the main line from 1867 until 1948. The train carried mourners and the deceased in special ‘hearse’ carriages and left at 9.30am and 3pm from the small Mortuary Station (recently restored) at central Sydney. It stopped at pre-arranged stations on the journey in order to pick up mourners and coffins.
At the terminus inside the cemetery the coffins were unloaded by funeral directors and finally laid to rest with the appropriate rites and ceremonies.
William Henry SUTTON and his son are in an unmarked grave in the very oldest section of the Anglican area of Rookwood. William Henry, Jr. died of tuberculosis aged 23 years. He was buried at Rookwood just four months after the cemetery was opened in 1868.
His mother, Jane Penelope WELLINGTON and sister Henrietta SUTTON are buried together in a plot with a small flat headstone a few sections away.
In the old Anglican section I also found the family memorial of Robert BUCK. This grave is overgrown and rather crowded – 1 headstone covers 3 plots containing 9 souls:
1 husband, 2 wives and 6 young children. The fading inscription reads:
To the memory of Ann Emma Buck
the beloved daughter of Robert & Sarah Anne Buck
who departed this life December 22nd 1872 aged 10 months
also Sarah Anne
the beloved wife of Robert Buck
died 24th Jan 1876 aged 32 Years
also George Frederick
died March 7th 1876 aged 1 month 11 days
also Charles William
died 28th October 1876 aged 2 years 11 months
Blanch Honor Buck
died Dec 1st 1883, aged 11 months
Walter Sutton Buck
died Oct 20th 1886, aged 13 months
George Harold Buck
died March 7th 1890, aged 7 months
also Robert Buck
beloved husband of Annie & Honor Buck
died 4th July 1895, aged 72 years
also Honor Stretton wife of the above
died 1st March 1926, aged 73 years
In August 2004 I went on holiday to England and enjoyed a couple of weeks driving around the counties staying in B&Bs and researching the branches of our family. I spent a lot of time in libraries, county archives and wandering about in parish churchyards.
“The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury” Friday 13 February 1824
DEATH – At Grantham on Thursday the 5th inst. Mrs BUCK, wife of Mr Hart BUCK,
of that place, aged 33, leaving seven small children, with a disconsolate husband,
to lament the loss of a most valuable wife and tender mother. Her remains were interred
at Grantham on Sunday and six of her children were christened at the same time.
There is no record of an enbloc baptism of BUCKs. The BUCK children’s baptism records are recorded as and when they were born and baptised between 1814 and 1824. Christenings were a different event to a baptism at that time.
Memorialised on the same headstone are two of Jane and Hart’s children. The complete transcript reads:
to the memory of
Jane, the wife of
who died 5th Feb 1824
aged 33 Years.
also Thomas son of the above who
died 19th July 1824, aged 6 months
and Emma daughter of the above
died 16th March 1829, aged 8 years.
William BUCK was the eldest son of Hart BUCK and Jane SMITH and brother to Robert BUCK who emigrated to Sydney, Australia. William was a tailor in Grantham for much of the nineteenth century. We was a well-educated man and very keen on writing and performing comic songs and skits. He was an amateur thespian and put on concerts in the town. I will write more about this life in a few months, but here is a snippet – a poem full of puns he wrote down in his scrapbook about a graveyard and its contents.
A Graveyard and its Contents
Published in Frazer’s Magazine, July 1850
There lies levellers levelled, duns done up in themselves,
There are booksellers finally laid on their shelves;
Horizontally there lie upright politicians,
Dose-a-dose with their patients sleep faultless physicians;
There are slave drivers quietly whipped underground,
There bookbinders done up in boards, are fast bound;
There the babe that’s unborn, is supplied with a berth,
There men without legs get their six feet of earth;
There lawyers repose, each wrapped up in his case,
There seekers of office are sure of a place;
There defendant and plaintiff are equally cast,
There shoemakers quietly stick to their last;
There brokers at length become silent as stocks,
There stage drivers sleep without quitting their box.
Sometimes I actually need to search inside a church to find family memorials. I found our chemists, George WELLINGTON (1781-1847) and his son George Edwards WELLINGTON (1807-1843), inside Yeovil Parish Church of St John the Baptist in Somerset.
Moving on to Leicestershire and the rain set in. Hard to keep your shoes dry rambling about in soggy churchyards, but wet headstones are much easier to read.
who died April 21st 1884 aged 73 years,
also Sarah, wife of the above
who died November 2nd 1893 aged 76 years,
and of Edwin Thomas, second son of the above
who died December 9th 1906 aged 58 years.
– He hath done all things well. Mark 7:37 –