Cemeteries and graveyards, full of love, betrayal, tragic deaths, murder, and suicide. What will you find?

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Le Blanc Smith - Sinking of The Tanjong Penang

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Monument to Gladys Le Blanc Smith, All Saint's Cemetery, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

"In Ever Loving Memory of


The Dearly Beloved And Most Devoted Wife Of

Fredrick Stuart Le Blanc Smith

Born January 8th 1884 - Died August 2nd 1913."

Gladys Le Blanc Smith was born Gladys Haig on 8th January 1884 at Bray Court, Windsor Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire to John Haig, a distiller from Scotland and Jane Mary Ann Davis. Gladys's father John was to pass away five months after the birth of his daughter in the June of 1884.

Gladys, her widowed mother, and siblings can be found living at Marlow Place, Station Road, Marlow, Buckinghamshire. A grade I listed Georgian house, built by John Wallop, 1st Earl of Portsmouth.

Marlow Place, Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

The family may have travelled abroad around the time the 1901 Census was taken as Gladys's elder sister Maud Haig was married in India.

On 18th October 1910 Gladys married Frederick Stuart Le Blanc Smith, a member of The London Stock Exchange at All Saints' Church, Boyne Hill, Maidenhead. The Slough, Eton, and Windsor Observer announced to forthcoming marriage on October 8th 1910 as follows:

"The marriage arranged between Frederick Stuart Le Blanc Smith, only son of Stuart Le Blanc Smith, of St George's Lodge, Cookham, and Gladys Haig, youngest daughter of the late John Haig, of Bray Court, Maidenhead, and will take place at Boyn Hill, Maidenhead, on the 18th of October." - Slough, Eton, and Windsor Observer, October 8th 1910.

The 1911 Census shows the couple living at Cairns, 7 Laburnham Road, King's Grove, Maidenhead.  Soon their marriage was blessed by the birth of their daughter Beatrice (Betty). Twin brothers Edward and Graham followed on 2nd August 1913. Tragically Gladys was to pass away that same day due to childbirth complications. The Maidenhead Advertiser reported on Gladys's funeral on August 13th 1913 as follows:

"Funeral Of Mrs. F. S. Le Blanc Smith, 

Amid signs of deep and profound regret, the funeral of the late Mrs. F. S. Le Blanc Smith who died under particularly sad circumstances on 2nd of August at "Cairn," King's Grove, Maidenhead, took place on Wednesday, at the Maidenhead cemetery. A funeral service was first held at All Saints' Church, conducted by the Rev, Dr. A. W. Batchelor, vicar of Cookham, assisted by the Rev. d. S. Chapman. Besides the mourners, relatives and friends, there was a large congregation of persons in the church who desired to pay a last tribute to one who was well-known locally during her professional career (unfortunately I haven't found a reference to Gladys's career in the records available), and who was so highly esteemed. The service was deeply impressive, especially during the rendering of the hymns "For all the Saints, who from their labours rest," and "On the resurrection morning." Mr. J. Gordon Bissley rendered the organ accompaniments. The scene at the cemetery was very impressive, there being a large concourse of sympathisers at the graveside, where the last solemn rites were performed by the Rev. Dr. Batchelor. The chief mourners were: Mr. F. S. Le Blanc Smith (husband), Mr. Hugh Haig and Mr. Edward Haig (brothers of deceased), and Mr. S Le Blanc Smith (father-in-law of deceased). There was a large number of exquisite floral tributes." - Maidenhead Advertiser, Wednesday 13th August 1913. 

Beatrice would later train to become a nurse.

The outbreak of World War II saw Beatrice joining the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, where she served in the Far East on the 'Evacuation Ships'.  Beatrice was on the SS Kuala on 12th February 1942 when it came under enemy aircraft attack, killing many of the nurses, women and children aboard.  When the SS Kuala eventually sank off of Pom Pong Island, Beatrice was one of the few survivors.  However, fate was not kind to her. 

Fellow Nurse Margot Turner recounts -

"During the night of 16-17th February, all women, children and wounded were taken off the island in rowing boats and placed on board the ‘Tanjong Penang’, a small cargo boat which was very crowed.

On the morning of the 17th February 1942. She was hit by gunfire at 9.30 p.m. on that day and sank in about 5 minutes.

I was lying next to Sister Beatrice le Blanc Smith and there were people dead and dying all round us. Beatrice got a nasty wound in the buttock… My first thought was for the women and children in the hold; but a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse) struggling up from there to the deck, her dress covered in blood, said that the hold had had the full force of one of the shells and was absolutely smashed. In any case I realised that there was nothing I could do as the ship was already at a steep angle and obviously just about to turn over. Beatrice and I just stepped into the sea and were very lucky not to be sucked down when the ship suddenly turned over and sank.

The cries and screams of the wounded, the helpless and the dying, were quite terrible."

Before the ship sunk the officers had managed to throw a few small rafts overboard and Le Blanc Smith and Turner got hold of two and tied them together.  Both Beatrice and Margot had managed to save sixteen people from the sea, including six children, two of whom were under a year in age.  Sadly, Sister Beatrice was not to make it, scumming to her wounds whilst still awaiting rescue on the life raft on 18th February 1942

Beatrice is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial Collum 114.

Singapore Memorial

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Grinstead - Death of an Empire

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Angel monument to Charles Grinsted, Daisy Grinsted and Agnes Sarah Grinsted.  All Saint's Cemetery, Maidenhead Berkshire.

"In Ever Loving Memory of -

Charles Grinsted who passed away December 12th 1928 aged 65 years
Also Daisy, his daughter who died October 6th 1908 aged 12 years
Also his beloved wife Agnes Sarah, died Oct 7th 1935 aged 71 years."

Charles Grinsted was born in 1863 in Mile End, Old Town, London to Thomas Place Grinsted and his wife Emma Shakel.  Some time between 1881 and 1891 Charles married Agnes Sarah Bushell and followed in his father's fishmonger footsteps by opening a fishmongers shop at 2 King Street Maidenhead.  Eventually branching out into 4, 6 and 8 King Street.

Their fifth child and fourth daughter Daisy was born at 2 King Street in 1897, sadly she was to die at the age of 12 in 1908.

Charles continued to build his mini empire to become a bookmaker and licensed game dealer until his death in the December of 1928.  Agnes remained at 4 King Street along with her daughter Lily, Lily's husband Freddie Cook and their daughter Norah (who was born on the kitchen table of number 4 King Street on 9th July 1911) until her death in October 1935.  Lily, Freddie and Norah carried on the family business, adding butchery to their skills, until the 1950s when Windsor and Maidenhead Council compulsorily purchased the King Street shops and demolished them to make way for the New Market development.  Norah moved to The Crescent, Maidenhead.

King Street Maidenhead c1950

Sadly Norah Cook passed away on 14th March 2011, just months shy of her 100th birthday.  The last remaining grandchild of Charles and Agnes Grinsted, bringing an end to the empire. 

Norah's Obituary can be found here - The Maidenhead Advertiser:  Obituary: Fun-loving Maidonian, 99, was last granddaughter in dynasty.

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Tuesday 15 May 2012

Weather Worn and Forgotten

? Aged 71 Years

Mary ?

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Two weather worn and eroded gravestones found at St James the Less, Stubbings, Burchetts Green and St Luke's Churchyard, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

The only information that can be gleaned from these stones is, 'Aged 71 Years' and 'Mary'.

An all too common sight in Britain's churchyards and cemeteries.  The poorer classes were not able to afford the marble and granite markers of their rich counterparts.  Having to make do with softer local stone or Limestone.  Sadly decades and even centuries of wind and rain has stripped them of their identities and thrown them into worn obscurity.
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Tuesday 8 May 2012

James, Florence Catherine, Albert George, and Henry, The Nash Children

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Monument to James, Florence Catherine, Albert George and Alfred Henry Nash, St Michael's Churchyard, Bray, Berkshire.

"Sacred To The Memory of
James Nash died Feb.y 9th 1878 aged 3 years

Florence Catherine Nash died Feb.y 3rd 1881 aged 11 months
Albert George Nash died Jan.y 18th 1882 aged 5 years
'Of such is the kingdom of heaven'
Alfred Henry Nash died June 1st 1887 aged 3 years"

James, Florence, Albert, and Alfred were all the children of James, a house painter and decorator, and Martha Catherine Lewis.

James Nash Snr was born in Maidenhead Berkshire in 1853, he later became a house painter before he married Martha Catherine Lewis in 1874. The couple soon moved to King Street in Maidenhead and started their family with the arrival of James in 1875 and followed by Albert George in 1876, Frederick William in 1879, Florence Catherine in 1880 and Alfred Henry in 1884, Frank Edward in 1886 and Bessie Louise in 1889. Tragically three were to die in the space of nine years.

In 1891 their mother Martha Catherine Nash passed away, yet she seems to have been buried elsewhere and not with her children.

Poor James had lost three of his children, and his wife within 17 years of their marriage. James didn't remarry and continued to live and work in King Street with his surviving children until his death at the relatively young age of 51 in 1904. A year later James's eldest surviving child Frederick William married Susan Amelia Hight. The 1911 Census finds the couple and their two children Reginald Lewis, and Winifred Mary living at 3 Risborough Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire. Frederick William is listed as being a Paper Hanger.

Frank Edward Nash never married. He can be found on the 1911 Census living with his sister Bessie Louise at 15 Risborough Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire where Frank is listed at a House Decorator.  After the outbreak of World War I, Frank enlisted with the 1st Surrey Rifles. He served with the 21st County of London Battalion until his death on 10th December 1917

The Maidenhead Advertiser reported on Frank death on 16th January 1918 as follows:

"Of the 1st Surrey Rifles (London Regt.) son of the late Mr. James Nash, of Maidenhead, whose death in action on December 10th we recorded in our issue of 2nd January. He leaves an only brother (who has joined His Majesty's Forces) and a sister to mourn his loss." - Maidenhead Advertiser, 16th January 1918.

The report in the Maidenhead Advertiser on 2nd January 1918 is as follows:

"The Supreme Sacrifice

Rifleman Frank E Nash, 1st Surrey Rifles, London Regiment (son of the late Mr. James Nash), aged 31, was killed in action in France, Dec. 10th, 1917. The deceased had been home on his leave to visit his friends, and a few days after his return to the trenches, a bomb from the enemy exploded, killing him and several other comrades. A letter of sympathy has been received by his sister from H.M. the King, also from his Commanding Officer and the comrades of his platoon, who held him in high esteem and deeply regret the loss of such a reliable soldier from their ranks. The deceased was a well-conducted young man, a good tradesman, and a employer of labour, and greatly respected by all with whom he had business transactions. He was a native of Maidenhead." - Maidenhead Advertiser, 2nd January 1918.

By the 1939 Register, Bessie Louise was a patient at Fair Mile Mental Hospital, Cholsey, Berkshire, where she remained until her death in 1962. Bessie is buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary's Churchyard, Cholsey, now Oxfordshire. 

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Alfred Beague Gundry - Drowned by the Upsetting of a Boat

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Monument of Alfred Beague Gundry, St Michael's Churchyard, Bray, Berkshire

"Sacred to the memory of Alfred Beague Gundry. Youngest son of Walter Eustace Gundry ESQre late of Bridport Dorset who was drowned by the upsetting of a boat on the Thames at Bray Weir on the 18th April 1862 aged 26 years

~ Sincerely beloved and deeply lamented. What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know here after.

I am the resurrection and the life (rest illegible) ~"

Alfred Beague Gundry was indeed the youngest son of Walter Eustace Gundry and Susan Jarvis, born on 7th July 1835 in Bridport Dorset. He came from a rather upper-class family his father being an accountant and his elder brothers employed as Bank of England Clerks, they all lived in the affluent Pembroke Square in Kensington, London.
Alfred fist appears on the 1841 Census living at his grandfather Samuel's home in East Street, Bridport, Dorset, with his parents and siblings.

East Street, Bridport, Dorset c1914

By 1851 the family had moved to 8 Pembroke Square, Kensington, London

On the 1861 Census a year before his tragic and untimely death Alfred is listed as an accountant boarding at 14 Everett Street in Finsbury, London.

Quite what was Alfred doing mucking about in a boat on the river Thames on that fateful day in April? In the Victorian era, mucking about on the river pleasure boating or 'punting' was very much in vogue. Anybody who was anybody was to be seen bobbing about on the river. Pleasure punts in use in England were first built around 1860 and reached the peak of their popularity in the 1910s.
However, punting was not an easy pastime.

 "Punting is not as easy as it looks. As in rowing, you soon learn to get along and handle the craft, but it takes long practice before you can do this with dignity and without getting water up your sleeve." ~ Jerome K Jerome. Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Alfred may have simply been inexperienced and got into difficulties, which the weir only added to. Rather surprisingly at the time, not everyone who partook in the activity of punting on the river was able to swim.

Bray Weir taken in 1883 by Henry W Taunt

So sad that a day of pleasure and mucking about in boats should end so tragically and cut short the life of a young man.

The London Illustrated News reported on Alfred's death on 26th April 1862:

"Drowned, on the 18th of April, by the upsetting of a boat on the Thames at Maidenhead, to the inexpressible grief of his family and friends, Alfred Beague, second surviving son of Walter Eustace Gundry, Esq., Sussex House, Jersey, aged 26 years."

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