Implore Pace? Are a Poet’s Bones At Rest?

The last sad rites to the illustrious dead were performed upon the remains of this great poet at four o’clock on Friday evening last, in the family vault of the church of Hucknall Torkard, in this county, close to the ancient demesne of the Byons, who held Newstead Abbey for centuries…

On July 16 and an incredible 23 years ago I celebrated the safe arrival of my youngest son Tom and in 1824 a further 194 years ago, the church of St Mary Magdalene in the town of Hucknall in Nottingham welcomed the safe arrival of the remains of the poet Lord Byron for burial after his death at the age of 36 on April 19 in the town of Missolonghi in Greece.

Ten o’clock being the time fixed for the procession to leave Nottingham, the great bell at St Mary’s tolled at that hour.

A quarter before eleven o’clock, the hearse, adorned with the large sable plumes, drawn by six black horses, each bearing a plume of feathers on his head, was ordered to the front of the Blackmoor’s Head Inn, for the purpose of receiving the body of his Lordship, which, on being brought out and placed therein, the first mourning coach and six came up, in which was put the urn, containing the heart, &c., covered with a black silk velvet pall ornamented with escutcheons of the Byron arms, on a white ground.

The utmost silence prevailed during this ceremony. The arrangements having been completed, at eleven o’clock the procession set out.

At half past eleven o’clock, a number of the undertaker’s men arrived, and immediately began to clothe the pulpit and reading desk with black cloth. A large seat next to the pulpit, together with communion table and rails were also covered with black cloth.

An eschutcheon of the poet with the motto, ‘Crede Byron’ underneath, was hung in front of the pulpit below the cushion. All these preparations were finished by half past one, at which hour the minute bell began to toll.

The church and little village were crowded to excess at this hour, and all eyes were fixed on the road which the procession had to pass… Although the procession left Nottingham at 20 minutes past eleven and had only seven miles to traverse, it did not reach Hucknall church until half-past three o’clock.

The Rev. Chas Nixon, the vicar, who was in attendance all day, immediately repaired to the church yard where he received the body…

At a quarter before four o’clock the procession entered the church.

The body and urn being brought in, and placed on two trestles fixed in the aisle, the mourners passed to the seats prepared for them. The coronet and cushion were then placed upon the case of feathers.

The Rev. Chas Nixon, the vicar, clothed in his white surplice, then read a part of the beautiful service of the Church of England’ and in a few minutes the undertaker and his attendants slowly removed the coronet supporting it on the cushion at the head of the tomb, whilst the clergyman read the remainder of the service.

The coffin was then gradually lowered, and placed on an old leaden coffin…. The original intention was that it should have been laid upon his mother’s coffin, but the mutilated and decayed state of the latter rendered that impossible; it rests, however, exactly next to it, with the case containing the urn at the head.

Around the vault stood Col. Leigh, chief mourner (the present Lord Byron was said to be indisposed at Bath); next to him, Mr Hobhouse and Mr Hanson; then Lord Rancliffe and Colonel Wildman; the Household of the deceased in the rear.

The whole ceremony was finished at 20 minutes past four o’clock.

One wish of the late distinguished poet is gratified by his remains being deposited in his native land, and in the tomb of his ancestors, and in his own words, to mingle with ‘The crush’s relics of their vanished might.’

However, before I become too carried away with this wonderful evocative account of Byron’s funeral and the moving processional scenes of the crowds of ordinary people who attended him to his grave; I am reminded of a letter written by Byron to his faithful publisher John Murray in the summer of 1819:

‘I am sure my Bones would not rest in an English grave – or my Clay mix with the earth of that Country: – I believe the thought would drive me mad on my death-bed could I suppose that any of my friends would be base enough to convey my carcase back to your soil – I would not even feed your worms – if I could help it.’

In toto!

And on that note, I’m off to see if I can enjoy a large slice of birthday cake!

 

Sources used:

Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 6 1818-1819 Ed Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1976)

Then and Now What the Papers Said About the Death of Lord Byron (The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene Hucknall)

Peace Under a Scarboro’ Heaven

Clarice Tibbett,

Born on a Tuesday,

Baptised on a Tuesday,

Married on a Tuesday,

Took ill one Saturday,

Died that Tuesday,

Inquest held on the Thursday,

Cremated on the Friday,

That was the end,

Of Clarice Tibbett.

 

In case you haven’t recognised it, I have corrupted the ballad of poor old Solomon Grundy written by James Orchard Halliwell in 1842 and even though ‘Tuesday’ would be the most prophetic day during the short life of Clarice Tibbett, I have been musing on the fact that in less than a week after she died on June 19 1962, her inquest had been opened, a verdict rendered and on a cloudy afternoon the day following, her funeral had taken place.

It seems incredible that in less than 156 hours since that fateful Saturday lunchtime in which she had appeared ‘normal and cheerful’ to her husband John that her loved ones would gather the Friday following at Woodlands Crematorium in Scarboro to bid her ‘adieu’

Maybe I’m over-thinking this but the events of that week appear to have happened rather quickly and with Clarice there are always more questions than answers, however, as her funeral was held 56 years ago on this very day in 1962, I have taken a look through my archives and in the absence of any Memorial Card, a Letter of Sympathy or an Order of Service; I have discovered some images from my last June visit to Woodlands Crematorium.

The journey to the crematorium is along the leafy Woodlands Drive and having travelled this road on more than one occasion, I have often imagined that the tranquil view as one approaches the long sweeping drive to the entrance must be a reassuring sight to those on their own voyage of sadness.

As Woodlands opened in 1961, Clarice was among one of the first to be cremated here and since 1962, many of the Tibbett family have now joined her and I should add that as many more from the Tibbett clan are buried a stone’s throw away in Woodlands Cemetery; my family history research here has kept me very busy over the years!

As Clarice’s remains were ‘removed’ by the funeral director, I still have no idea of the place where she finally ended up!

Even after I discovered the burial entries for her parents last year in the City of Hull and managed to convince myself that her ashes had been interred with them, but alas, after trawling through more records in the Hull History Centre – another theory had been dashed although I still live in hope!

And, yes, I have asked (or nagged depending on who you ask!) if they have any idea where Clarice is and despite some wild and crazy ideas, I remain determined for being able to locate the final resting place of the individual associated with my research endeavours has always been important to me and when my search is unsuccessful, I usually feel a sense of disappointment as if the final piece of the jigsaw is missing.

I revealed in an earlier post on my ‘Clarice Blog’ that I knew nothing of her for many years other than her name and that she had taken her own life and it would take several more to discover the actual year that she died and with my clan reluctant to tell or feigning poor memory; it took hours of scrawling through the on-line records of one of the first BMD websites and before the discovery of user friendly name searches before my persistence was rewarded.

I can still remember the arrival of that large brown envelope with her death certificate inside and my thoughts when I read the words:

Deceased killed herself whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed… 

However, that story is for another post!

And despite the absence of knowing her final resting place, there is a memorial to her in the Book of Remembrance at Woodlands Crematorium with a two line tribute which reads:

Tibbett, Clarice

Aged 48. Peace perfect peace – 1962

There is no other information available as to the identity of the loved one who commissioned this inscription for Clarice but I for one am delighted that they did and that every year on June 19, her name endures for posterity.

On this visit before it was time for me to leave, I took a stroll through the Garden of Remembrance which is vast space and with the sun shining as I enjoyed an idyllic hour pottering among the tributes, flowers and keepsakes that had been left with affection; the second verse from the magnificent 1914 Rupert Brooke poem The Soldier came to mind…

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

For despite my frustration over the whereabouts of Clarice’s remains, here at least in the grounds of Woodlands Crematorium, there really is ‘some corner of a foreign field’ that will be forever associated with her memory and that’s fine with me.

 

Note to the Reader:

If you have had the melancholy task of arranging the scattering of a loved one’s cremated remains in a place other than the crematorium; please be sure to let them know of this and this information can be given to those who come in search of their loved ones.

To the Vale of the Graves with Lady B.

That eye which had gleam’d as in flashed from Heav’n, –

Whose glances by angles and demons seem’d given. –

It anxiously gaz’d, but its language and lights

As they faded were seal’d from mortality’s sights.

In the days following the news of Lord Byron’s death in Greece on April 19 1824; his young widow had written a poem which tells of her sorrow that on his death bed her exiled spouse had asked that a message be brought to her – a message the faithful valet William Fletcher had been unable to understand.

The effort was made, but all, all, was in vain

And dark is that page which he sought to explain…

And some 36 years later on the day before her 68th birthday and with her beloved granddaughter and namesake Anne Isabella Noel King by her side; Annabella died in the early morning hours of Wednesday May 16 1860 while staying at 11 St George’s Terrace in Primrose Hill, North London from Bronchitis and Pleurisy after suffering from the effects of a prolonged illness throughout most of the Spring and NOT from breast cancer as is often erroneously reported.

In a poignant letter to the ‘other’ Mrs Lamb, the ‘Caro George’ of the glittering season of 1812 and the last remaining member of the Melbourne clan; she had been told that ‘My darling suffered very much, except the few hours before the end. The end was in sleep, which passed into the sleep of death – gently and calmly’

Annabella was laid to rest at Kensal Green Cemetery in West London on May 21 1860 and despite the incorrect spelling of her first name and that she had been born in the home of her mother’s great friend Isabella Baker at Elemore Hall, her simple and elegant grave can be discovered in the shadow of the enormous Dissenter’s Chapel.

And it was on a glorious afternoon in October as I took a stroll through this fabulous cemetery as the Graveyard Squirrel that I would finally find my way to the grave of Byron’s spouse.

I say finally as this grave was not one of the easiest to find, hidden as it is by an impressive display of several large obelisks and some rather flamboyant monuments.

The grave itself is in very good condition despite the blanket of bramble which threatened to overwhelm it and some rather nice ferns who were struggling to make themselves seen.

As I was making my way carefully around the grave trying to avoid the large holes in the ground while trying not to trip over the odd piece of  broken monument which lay scattered about; I was surprisingly affected by the lonely appearance of this grave despite it’s beauty when I thought of how she is buried far away from her devoted parents Judith and Ralph and that of her only daughter Ada who had been reunited with her father some 8 years previously in the Byron Vault at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

But far from the scenes of his birth and his youth,

that breath of sweet song died away in the south.

And silent and lone was the vale of the graves

There were none to divine the last tokens he gave! –

However despite having no family near, Annabella is by no means alone as her good friend the author and art critic Anna Jameson is near and she is surrounded by various members of the Lushington clan including Sophia, Mary and Amelia sisters to the ‘Gentlemanlike, clear-headed and clever’ attorney Dr. Stephen Lushington who had acted so decisively for her during the separation saga of 1816.

Reminders of her place in the Byron orbit are everywhere throughout the 72 acres of this cemetery as both the poet’s chum John Cam Hobhouse and his publisher John Murray are buried here along with a Byron servant and niece or three who are scattered nearby.

Byron’s ‘Dearest Sis’ the Hon. Augusta Mary Leigh is also resident here, however her remains along with those of her spouse are enclosed in a lead lined coffin within the huge vaulted catacomb beneath the Dissenter’s  Chapel; which has a delicious touch of irony when you consider her sorry tale of debt, feckless children and scandal.

As a spot in the catacombs has always been more expensive and prestigious than a burial within the grounds of a cemetery – they have long been considered to be the most exclusive resting place for those in the higher echelon of the social strata; however, I was astounded upon reading the final paragraph of The Kindness of Sisters by David Crane who making no secret of his hostility toward Lady B writes of her ‘crusade against the Byrons’ and that the very style of her grave both visible and proud indicates her triumph against the hapless Augusta Leigh who finds herself ‘tucked away on the bottom shelf’ in the darkness of the catacombs.

As I can really find no answer to this absurd contretemps which appears indicative of the misunderstanding surrounding the poet’s spouse and which still dominates some 158 years later; I am more than happy to let the lady herself have the last word:

The one truth then reveal’d, that might save and might bless, –

That hallowed last link ‘twixt, the living and dead. –

‘Twas all speechless and void; – and that word was not said.

Until next time…

Sources Used:

The Real Lady Byron Joan Pierson (London: Robert Hale 1992)