The Rosary Cemetery in Norwich was founded in 1819, so it was celebrating its 200th birthday this year. As I was in Norwich in November this year, the Cemetery was obvious place to visit. In fact I visited there twice, on 2 and 3 November and photographed the cemetery and the beautiful gravestones both on black and white and colour films. As I don’t like to publish b/w and colour stuff in the same story, I decided to publish two articles at the same time, or the colour one is more or less just a photo collection.
The colour photos can be found in The Rosary Cemetery, Part II: Colour Photographs.
Please note that by clicking the images they will be shown in full size in a new window.
The Rosary Cemetery is divided in half with a brick wall. The newer part was laid out in 1924. My photos are all from the old part that is Grade II* listed. The old part of the cemetery is left largely for the nature and only a needed level of maintenance is done. The paths and some other areas are maintained, grass is cut etc, but the rest is a paradise for flora and fauna. According to the information board at the cemetery gate over 40 different birds have been observed and besides birds there are bats, foxes and small mammals etc. I managed to see something vanishing into the bushes in the area photographed below. The animal was a bigger than a cat and it was definitely not a dog.
The Rosary Cemetery is an earliest garden cemetery in England and it’s also the first non-denominational cemetery in England. It was established on a former market garden known as the Rosary in 1819 by a retired Unitarian clergyman Thomas Drummond. As it was said on the information board, the cemetery “provided a place where people could be buried with the religious service of their choice, or none at all if that was their preference”. This was one reason for founding a new cemetery. But the new cemetery was also needed because of the lack of space in Norwich churchyards, many of them been in use for 800 years. And there was also a worry that the churchyards were contaminating the public water supply. Some of the parish pumps providing drinking water were adjacent to churchyards and thus increasing the risk of waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera. I read on the information board that water from one of those pumps was described as being “almost pure essence of churchyard”.
The first burial took place in November 1821. It was the re-interment of Thomas Drummond’s wife, Ann, who had died two years earlier and been buried originally at the Octagon Chapel Cemetery. Ann had died in childbirth. Thomas Drummond died in 1852 and was buried in the same plot. It’s the last resting place of some other family members, too.
In the early years there were only few burials, one reason might have been the fear of grave robbers. When I was searching information about the cemetery, I found something interesting: The Rosary is mentioned in ‘A Parody on “Mary’s Ghost;” or, The Doctors and Body-snatchers. A Pathetic Tale, With Numerous Additions’ (1829). This version of Thomas Hood’s poem was modified with Norwich locations and medical men. The fifth verse goes like this: You thought that I was buried deep,/Quite decent to the eye;/With roses growing o’er my grave,/In Dr-mm-nd’s Rosary. (If you want to read the whole poem, you find it here.) But by the end of the century it was accepted “as the preferred place of burial for many prominent non-conformist families” – (from the leaflet).
The main entrance is from the Thorpe Road side and the first thing you see is the mortuary chapel. The current chapel is not the one that was first erected on the site when the cemetery was established. The current Gothic Revival style mortuary chapel is designed in 1879 by architect Edward Boardman who is also buried in the cemetery.
I had planned to visit the cemetery on Saturday, the second of November. It didn’t look very promising. I was hoping to reach the cemetery and do some shooting before the rain. But it started raining already before I reached the cemetery gate. I found a shelter under the roof of the mortuary chapel and started to study the map of the cemetery.
– Big thanks to Mark Shopland, the secretary of the Friends of The Rosary, who kindly answered my enquiries and was ready to send me a map, and Jez Miller, who acted as a middleman and delivered the map to me (it would have never reached me in time if sent to me to my home in Finland).
I decided that I try to find first all the graves marked on the map and thus get an idea of the area, directions. In the end I had found them all except the one of a tea merchant Frederick Ringer as I somehow forgot it. I found most of them very easily, but was then wondering where the stone of writer Ralph Hale Mottram had gone. It was not there where it was supposed to be. But I guess I have found explanation. The plot was reserved for all the family members and there are already buried his wife and two sons. The name of his daughter Ada Sophia with the year of birth has also been carved on the gravestone. Ada Sophia Hankinson died on 18 June this year (2019), so I think that the grave stone had been taken away for carving her death year on it. Even though the Mottram’s stone was not there, I want to mention one thing about R. H. Mottram. The Mottrams were non-conformists and worshipped at the Octagon Chapel and R. H. Mottram had once said: “I knew, when I was four years old, exactly where I could be buried.” I don’t know if this is just a legend as I couldn’t find the original source. Who knows.
Anyway, with the map I stepped into the rain. The first grave I found was the one of Isaac Wiseman, wine merchant (below). I read that before becoming wine merchant he was a successful textile merchant and a politician. He had a sad life as seven of his children and both wives died before him (source).
I found a shelter under big trees when photographing Thomas Drummond’s grave (the second photo in the article). And from there I saw this:
The last resting place of an obstetrician and eye specialist Emanuel Cooper (died in 1878) is the only mausoleum in the cemetery (below). You can read about his life in article in the article in Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!
Little by little it stopped raining. The rain had added some beautiful decorations in the statues in the shape of drain drops:
Nearby is the monument of John Barker. You cannot miss it:
John Barker’s death was tragic. This is copied from Evelyn Simak’s photo project: “John Barker died in 1897 in an accident at the old Cattle Market in Norwich whilst setting up his steam roundabout (circular railway) for the forthcoming fair. He was crushed between two wagons and suffered 14 broken ribs, fractures to the breastbone and spine, and both lungs were punctured. He was declared dead on arrival at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.” You can read more here.
By the way, Barker’s Amusements is still around.
The next two graves belong to two names in Norwich industrial life. The first one of them is definitely a household name, Colman. I am pretty sure that the name is known also in my home country, Finland, and the red and yellow mustard tins with the bull’s head (first used in 1855) are also found in the spice shelves at least in those households where the self-made mustard is liked. In fact the only thing I knew about the Rosary Cemetery before visiting there was the fact that this mustard king was buried there. Because I wanted to find his grave, I contacted Friends of the Rosary Cemetery.
Here is a little bit about the Colman’s (sources are Nick Williams’ Norwich. City of Industries and Christopher Armstrong’s Mustard, Boots & Beer). In the end of the 19th century Colman’s was the largest industrial company in Norwich. The story of the company had begun in the very early years of that century. It was founded by Jeremiah Colman, but the company started blooming in the mid century when the son of his adopted nephew, Jeremiah James Colman, came into the leading position of the company. He had joined the company at the age of seventeen. Under the 44 years of managing he turned the small business into a vast organization.
The father of Jeremiah James Colman died in 1854 and now Jeremiah James was in charge. “He had inherited from his parents both a devotion to the Baptist faith and a strong sense of his responsibilities as an employer.” (Armstrong, p. 98). Because the textile industry had declined there was no short of labour. By 1905 around 2500 people were working at the Carrow works. The basic products at Colman’s Carrow plant were flour, mustard, starch and washing blue. When the factory moved to the Carrow site, the Colmans established school for workers’ children. There were other employee benefits, too, like modesty priced midday means and a dispensary. The company was also one of the first to have industrial nurses and they were the first one to have a female industrial nurse, Phillipa Flowerday, in the country.
Jeremiah James Colman served for twelve years in Norwich City Council before becoming a Member of Parliament (Liberal Party). He died in September 1898 at the age of 68. His body was brought by a special train to Norwich. “When the mournful cortège left Corton for Somerleyton, the windows of every house were shaded, and everyone was outside to pay the last token of respect to his memory.” (Armstrong, p. 115) “His funeral was a major event with crowds in mourning lining the streets from the Congregational chapel in Princes Street to the Rosary cemetery as the cortège made its way followed by over 1,200 Colman employees. (William, p. 79)
The other industrial name I studied a bit more closely was a shoe manufacturer George White. Norwich was one of the biggest shoe making areas in the UK. Sadly, the shoe-making industry came to end as the Van Dal factory ceased the production in Norwich in 2018.
Here is something about the shoe making industry in Norwich, George White also mentioned. In the first part of the 19th century boot and shoe-making became one of the city’s most important industries.
George White started as a junior clerk in 1856 in Howlett & Tillyard. Grace’s Guide tells how that happened: In the 1850’s John Howlett “went on the road, travelling by pony and trap, collecting orders and covering vast distances. It was during a trip to Bourne in Lincolnshire that he met customer Thomas White and his 14-year-old son, George. George White was to become a famous Norwich man, a real working class hero.”
Thomas White was himself a shoe-maker, but as George’s brother had already joined in, the company was not of sufficient size for both sons. George was said to be very intelligent and it could be seen through the progress of his career, how he worked his way to the top being a full partner of the company (1876), now Howlett and White. “In the company there was little doubt who was the dominant partner, White ran the factory while JGH [John Godfrey Howlett —] concerned himself mainly with the financial aspects of the business, White was the driving force, which Howlett acknowledged and seemed content that it should be so.” (Armstrong, p. 78)
“By the end of the nineteenth century, Howlett and White was one of five companies dominating the shoe industry. The factory at St George’s Plain grew to become one of the great shoe-making centres in the country, employing almost 2,000 people and producing 25,000 pairs of shoes a week.” (Norwich Shoemaking: From Howlett and White to Norvic)
John Howlett and George White, who both had worked on the shop-floor during their career, were concerned with the welfare of the employees and they also accepted the organization of labour. I want to tell one story from 1897 when 1500 workers in this industry staged a six month strike:
One week the Operatives Union [National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives] did not manage to deliver the strike pay on which their members depended to provide for their families. The local Union official, James Mason, a fellow Liberal Councillor, approached George White, who personally guaranteed the amount necessary to fill the gap. [—] When the strike was over Mason found himself blacklisted by employers in the industry. White gave him a job and later Mason’s son also joined the firm. [Armstrong, p. 81]
So, he was a believer of trade-unionism, and two things that were very close to his heart were education and temperance. He was also politician. By the time of the age of eighteen he was already a secretary of a Liberal Ward Association in Norwich and elected to the Council in 1876. Finally he also stepped in national politics. In 1900 he was elected MP for North West Norfolk and stayed in that position until his death. Sir George White – he was knighted in 1907 – died of lung cancer in 1912. Over 3000 were said to have been present at the funeral and there were representatives of all churches, even those which he had vigorously opposed in his lifetime, writes Armstrong.
According to what I have read about him, George White seemed to have been a very decent man and even radical at the time.
I mentioned in the beginning of the story that the architect of the mortuary chapel, Edward Boardman, was buried in the Rosary, too. (He was also the architect for Howlett and White’s factory on Colegate.) Below is a monument for him.
This angel monument for three year old Beryl Cushion caught my eye and I took several photos of the statue that was made by J. R. Childs. If you want to know more about the statue and the Cushion family, you find more information here.
A very different kind of memorial is mounted for Charles Hines (died in 1895) and his family. It is a cast iron sculpture:
But when you get to know that the Hines family had an iron foundry (the Griffin Works), the choice of the memorial is more than suitable.
In the photo below you see a monument (on the right) for John Berney (misspelt “Barney”) Ladbrooke. He was a landscape painter and a son of Robert Ladbrooke, who was one of the founders of the Norwich School of painters. I somehow ignored that monument as I was so fascinated about the Hines monument. I have to study this closer on my next visit to the cemetery.
There are also several other painters buried in the Rosary and I happened to photograph one of the graves, the one of James Sillett. Sillett also belonged to the Norwich School of painters. I took the photo because of the palette carved on the stone and thought that this grave has to belong to a painter.
The cast iron memorial sarcophagus below belongs to Jeremiah Cozens. It must have come from Govan Iron Works, says the document (behind the link I gave). In that document there is lots of information about this memorial.
The Cozens were not on my map but these two were: graves for John Prior and James Light:
John Prior was an engine driver and James Light the fireman. They died on 10 September 1874 in the Thorpe railway disaster. The number of casualties varied from 23 to 27 in the sources I checked and over 70 people were injured. There is lots of material on internet, but this article written on Eastern Daily Press written for the 140th anniversary of the disaster is very detailed. Another one worth reading, if you are interested in historic events, can be found here.
Naturally I tried to capture on a film a general look of the cemetery as well as just interesting looking graves.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article, I visited there twice. I was already on my way away from the cemetery, when I decided to see if I still can find one grave marked on the map; the grave of Corporal George Wilde, a Crimean veteran. And I found it. The marker next to the grave helped a lot:
On my second visit, on 3 November, I took some additional shots on a black and white film, including these two:
I know there is still a lot to explore. I have for example seen photographs of two steam locomotive headstone carvings. I want to see them myself. So that means another visit to Norwich and to the Rosary sometimes (hopefully near) future.
On my latter visit I finally loaded a colour film on my camera. I am not a big fan of colour photography, but sometimes when colour is essential for the subject, I use colour film. When processing the colour photos for the second part, I started playing with the colours when working on this photo below (originally a colour negative shot). It was somehow asking a bit extra treat, so this is the result and a good link to the colour part of the Rosary story:
Text and photos © Katriina Etholén
The website of the Friends of the Rosary Cemetery.
The Rosary Cemetery, Norwich. An Introduction. (A leaflet published by the Friends of the Rosary, 2019.)
Christopher Armstrong: Mustard, Boots & Beer – the inside stories of eight Norfolk men of business in the 19th century. Larks Press, 2014.
Nick Williams: Norwich. City of Industries. Norwich HEART, 2013.
https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Rosary-Cemetery. (A fantastic contribute by Evelyn Simak to the Geograph project is for everyone who wants to know more about the graves and people buried in the cemetery.)
And a couple of articles worth mentioning even not used as sources: