I love a good graveyard. So stumbling upon this one rescued a walk-gone-wrong nicely. Also, as I wrote this, I discovered that July 21st marks the beginning of Church Tourism Week. So maybe it was meant to be. Anyway…
The aim of the day wasn’t graveyard discovery, although I’m always up for a bit of that. Plan A was a visit to Highclere castle, better known to some as Downton Abbey. Covid closures meant that wasn’t happening. Plan B involved a country walk that would take us to admire Highclere from afar, but parking in the wrong place and getting a bit lost meant that wasn’t happening either.
So, just walking. Highclere is set in stunning parkland in a beautiful part of the world, and much of it is open to the public all the time. Even Covid can’t cancel the countryside. So we accepted that the days plan had unplanned and settled for a there-and-back-again walk. No hardship. Like I said, its a beautiful part of the world.
After a very nice walk through fields and woodland, I was just about ready to turn back when the husband followed a footpath through some trees and said, ” There’s a graveyard through here for you”. For me. He knows me so well.
‘My’ graveyard turned out to be the Highclere Victorian Cemetery and chapel. I might have known that there’d be a Victorian influence. That was the era that turned grief into an art form, after all. The Chapel was built by the 3rd Countess of Carnarvon as a place of comfort to those who grieve and a service is still held there once a year. Not sure that will be the case this year.
The Chapel itself was closed, but I sneaked a peek through the window on the door and can confirm that the interior is beautiful. And surprisingly cosy, as chapels go. There’s a glimpse inside on the Highclere Castle instagram account.
A flash of colour on the doors in the form of these coats of arms caught my eye, as did the intricate carving on the stone and pillars around the door. There’s been a vast amount of care and craftsmanship put into the creation of it all. I think it really was a gift from the heart of Highclere.
The cemetery itself tumbles down the hillside from the chapel. It’s a beauty. There was something about these monuments or markers…I’m not entirely sure what it is, or really what they are. I have seen similar in an old churchyard closer to home. Answers on a postcard. Perhaps they are just gravestones of a sort?
Thee thing that I find intriguing in any graveyard is how many different ways there are to pay tribute to those who are buried there. This one being no exception, from small stones to elaborate statues and traditional tombs.
Even a single war grave. Being married to a soldier, this one struck a chord with me. I’ll bring a poppy to leave with him when we are back up this way. Lest We Forget.
Set in its own little square amongst the graves, we stumbled upon a sun dial. Looked a relatively modern addition, so I’m not sure if it was set there as a time piece or just a monument. Maybe it’s symbolic, some sort of message about the passage of time or something. Maybe I’m totally overthinking it. Who knows.
What was nice though, was that the kids were interested in it. In the age of digital time keeping, clocks on phones and statement watches I love the idea that a historic time piece is still fascinating to them. But doesn’t that make me sound old?
A large stone caught my eye. It marked the final resting place of Anne. She passed in 1851 aged 77 years and the tribute read , ‘ Twenty Six Years House Keeper To The Earl of Carnarvon’. Had me bristling a bit, a woman deserves to be remembered for more than her role as housekeeper. And her employers title before her own given name… I won’t start, I guess it’s just how it was back then.
Not far away a far more elaborate grave, that of ‘Evelyn Georgina Katherine, wife of Henry Fourth Earl of Carnarvon’. Remembered for her role in life in relation to her husband, but at least she got her name on there. Before his. These two women were probably worlds apart in life, but laid close together in death. Different social positions but probably a lot of limitations in common. It got me thinking, anyway!
It also got me thinking about what would be said about me when I’m gone. Probably something like curious overthinker who couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Never knowingly under-packed or passed a good graveyard. And I’ll take that.
If you liked this one, you might also like Tombstone Tourism @ Glasgow Necropolis