11 May 2015

Departed

St Peter's Church, Tankersley. It sits in splendid isolation, away from the village it serves. I wandered around the neatly-trimmed graveyard and came across this Victorian gravestone. Between the lines it reveals the life of sorrows that must have been led by Thomas Chambers and his wife Joanna. Though he died at the age of seventy one  and she died at the age of ,fifty eight  their offspring were generally not so lucky.

The sons and daughters are all listed.
Thomas 1825-29 (Dead at 4)
Unnamed infant - born and died the same day in 1826
Mary - born in July 1827 and died in September of the same year
Catherine 1828-1830 (Dead at 1)
Henry Thomas 1830-1858 (Dead at 28)
Margaret Maria 1832-1835 (Dead at 2)
Emma - born and died in January 1834 (Dead at 11 days)
Walter - 1841-49 (Dead at 8)
Matthew -  1825-76 (Dead at 51)

Nine children and only two of them reached adulthood. Such private tragedies were not unusual in those days. Looking back from 2015 we can hardly imagine how it must have been for Thomas and Joanna. We expect our children to live. In general, death is something for old people, not for the young.

In another corner of St Peter's churchyard, there was another grave containing yet more babies. The inscription ended with a verse that says much about the stoicism of our Victorian forebears:-

I never more shall see the sun
I go where troubles cease
Father in Heaven, thy will be done
Farewell, I die in peace.

16 comments:

  1. I am not surprised the mother died relatively young, too; nine pregnancies and births surely took their toll on her body, and the deaths of so many of her children on her heart.

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    1. "relatively young". Life expectancy in Victorian England - 42.2 years for women and 40.2 years for men. Without effective contraception, Victorian women were liable to experience multiple pregnancies. Joanna was no different. I guess you had to be very tactful when enquiring about the health of people's families.

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  2. More and more often these days I find myself thinking that I'm glad I was born now and not in those hard times.

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    1. I know that if I had been born back then Helen I would already be dead. For example a few years ago I came back from Turkey with a deadly bug that could only be treated with heavy duty antibiotics delivered from a drip in our local hospital. Without that the worms or the flames would soon have had me.

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    2. I wonder what age you would have reached without the benefit of modern medicine. If you go back through your life and look at how your life was saved from sicknesses that would have been fatal at times past you might not even have reached adulthood. I know I would have died in childbirth if I had made it that far.

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  3. Yes, those times must have been very difficult...the gravestones in the old cemeteries are proof, time and time again.

    To be honest, I'm pleased I was born when I was...the years and decades I've covered were so much simpler, more innocent than these days and what appears the future will be...if you know what I mean. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes. I do know what you mean Lee. Nowadays there is less certainty, more complexity and the feeling that we are being carried along almost helplessly by some kind of raging torrent.

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  4. I think the attitude to death was far more accepting then. I happened. People had little choice but to get on with things.

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    1. Maybe they didn't take life for granted as seems to be the case nowadays.

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  5. Wasnt there up to 160 people in one trave in sheffield cemetary?
    Most of them babies?
    ( i went on the cemetary tour years ago)

    Btw just saw the movie x + y
    I think it was filmed near your house

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the heads up on this John. I now would like to see "x+y" but I am probably too late. Some of the filming happened at my kids' old school - High Storrs which I didn't know till you nudged me.

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  6. You have got me thinking on a bit of a tangent. There are more people on this Earth now than ever, by a huge factor. So the chances are highest that you are here now, if you get my meaning. In 1800 there were about 1 billion people on earth. When I was born, 59 years ago, there were about 2.6 billion people on earth. Today there are about 7.5 billion. Scary thought.

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    1. I understand your arithmetical contemplation Kate. There is a sense in which our hugely improved infant mortality rates are at odds with Nature and are threatening the continuation of the human race and this planet but having said that I am glad that my name wasn't carved on a gravestone when I was a baby.

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  7. My father was one of seven children. All the daughters died between birth and age 5. Only he and his brother survived to adulthood.

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