7 May 2021


By Derbyshire Lane, there's a cemetery that  had not registered with me until Wednesday when Clint and I took Frances and the heavenly babe along that route.

I returned yesterday to spend a pleasant hour exploring the cemetery. It opened in 1869 in response to the fact that the old Norton churchyard had more or less run  out of space for the dead.

Norton Cemetery sits on a ridge above the suburb of Woodseats, looking out to the moors. It is a long, oblong shaped site and I was pleased to find it pretty tidy and well-maintained. 

As the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth century, there must have been an awful lot of skilled stone masons expertly carving gravestones by hand. It would have taken endless hours for very many of the carved adornments are stunning. Take the grave of  Susan Jane Tippett for example. She died at the age of twenty nine in September 1908:-

Another grave that caught my eye was that of  Arthur Hebblethwaite and his wife Ada Beatrice. Arthur died on October 29th 1914 at a military hospital near Southampton. He had been badly injured a month before at The Battle of the Aisne. He was thirty when he passed away. Ada, on the other hand, did not depart this earthy life until 1972 - reaching the ripe old age of eighty six.

Perhaps it is fanciful to imagine that Arthur was never far from Ada's thoughts. She was a widow for almost fifty years. For her, World War One lasted much longer than the history books claim. You can read many similar stories from old gravestones.


  1. We once went on a cemetery tour with a guide. The symbolism of common features in a graveyard was very interesting.

  2. We once went on a cemetery tour with a guide. The symbolism of common features in a graveyard was very interesting.

  3. Half a century of widowhood: Ada's life without Arthur is like the last line of Wilfrid Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth.
    *And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.*

    A Belgium soldier-poet looked back on his life before the Great War and wrote:
    *With emotion to the man I used to be.*
    His words close Barbara Tuchman's great book, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Between 1890-1914.

    1. Barbara Tuchman's title is from a poem by Edgar Allen Poe:
      *While from a proud tower in the town/ Death looks gigantically down.*

      President Kennedy was reading Tuchman's *The Guns of August* during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The lesson of the book is that once armies are deployed and ready for battle, war is inescapable. Kennedy had seen conflict in WWII.

      The men who marched away in August 1914 thought it would all be over by Christmas. Kitchener's army went off as eagerly as the French and Germans.
      There were a few voices of protest; Keir Hardie's in Britain; and the French socialist Jean Jaures, shot in a cafe in Brussels in 1914 by a terrorist.

      Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, took America into Vietnam. Johnson failed to learn from France's involvement in Indo-China; and the defeat of French troops at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, masterminded by Ho Chi Minh.

      We should never forget the words of Liddell Hart in his study of Germany's generals during World War II: *Everything in war looks different at the time from what it looks in the clearer light that comes after the war.*
      (L Hart: The Other Side of the Hill.)

      We can imagine Ada's grief when she received word of Arthur's death in 1914.
      What did she think in the long lonely years of her widowhood?

  4. I adore old cemeteries; I ponder the people's stories and wish I knew more about them. Those hands (the knuckles and the nails) are beautifully crafted.

  5. Anonymous3:36 am

    Cemeteries can be so peaceful and sad, but always good place for a wander.

  6. The headstones often tell a great story about life.

  7. I have to say that I found the clasped hands more moving than the grandeur of the last memorial.

  8. Cemeteries are mirrors of the societies of their times and areas, I find them fascinating and have always liked the Old and New cemeteries in my hometown, from when I was a little girl and my Oma took me along when she was looking after the family grave.
    The monument in the last picture is rather unusual, isn‘t it, with the words ‚at rest‘ at the bottom, made to look like as if they were of made of bits of branches. For Ada, Arthur remained forever a young man. She probably did what I keep doing, try to imagine what her husband would have been like at 40, at 50 and so on.

  9. I find it fascinating wandering around old graveyards, reading the inscriptions and imagining the lives of those therein.
    Regarding the overcrowding issue...when we lived in the Canary Islands the norm was to "rent" a burial niche in the cemetery for a specified number of years. At the end of that period, the casket was removed and the bones taken up to be placed in caves up in the mountains. Presumably they all crumbled up there eventually.

  10. I love looking around old cemeteries and reading the gravestones, I believe the word for people who enjoy this is taphophile. I like to imagine the life the people lying there once had and if their families visit their graves. We have selected our forever home and it has a nice view over the River Tay for anyone who comes to visit. Hopefully we won't be occupying it any time soon!

  11. The stories in graveyards must be legion - I always find the graves of youngsters so poignant - often in great number in the chapels of wales

  12. Those are beautiful gravestones, and they're all so upright, unlike the topsy-turvy ones in Hampstead Cemetery. I've seen a lot of gravestones with tragic family stories, especially involving husbands and sons lost in the Great War. The losses were widespread and profound.

  13. I have been thinking about reincarnation some. About how if one believes in that, what we call the final resting place of a loved one is not, in the least. I wonder if this is why so many Buddhist cultures use cremation over burial. This body we are wearing in this lifetime is far less important than the soul which goes on again and again. I know that we don't really think that the soul resides in the body after we die but we do place importance on the remains of the body, memorializing it, visiting the place where it is buried.
    A lot to think about this early in the morning.

  14. I can spend hours in graveyards looking at stones and pondering about the stories they are trying to tell me.

  15. I also like looking at old churches and graveyards. The best gravestone epitaph I saw in Kent in 2o19 said: Goodnight. See you in the morning.

  16. RIP Norton Woodseats FC

  17. In New Orleans, the old burial vaults are interesting. The vault (which is small and holds only the body not the mourners) is built above ground and when the body is placed within it, after some time, due to the heat of the south, the body decomposes very quickly. When it is time for the next funeral in the family, the floor is opened up under the vault, and the bones of the last deceased individual drop beneath to join the bones of the rest of the family. The new body is slid into the vault.

  18. Or maybe Ada was happy being a widow with no husband to take care of and run her life.

  19. I think the clasped hands are my favourite to. Favourite carver from a long time ago was Daniel Gumb who lived in a cave under a Cornish Tor with his large family. His epitaph...Here I lie by the churchyard door,

    Here I lie because I'm poor
    The further in, the more you pay
    But here lie I as warm as they.
    Daniel Gumb

  20. I think gravestones have a lot of stories to tell. I also like visiting cemeteries when I am on holiday abroad, as that gives an insight into how foreigners remember their dead.


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