Some helpful hints
The gravestones and memorials in Wycombe Cemetery very often commemorate family members who are not actually
buried there. This is usually made clear by the inscription but not always. The only way to confirm if a
family member is actually there is to ask for a list of those buried within that particular plot. A good
example of this is the gravestone for Mr James Kingston, Ann Langford Kingston and Henry Kingston, shown in the
photos here. The inscriptions are very worn and it is a good idea to visit the plot at various times of the day,
and in various weather conditions, to see if the inscription reveals different letter forms at different times –
see the photographs below.
Finally, having made no progress in ascertaining when James and Ann died I asked the cemetery staff
for help. The grave was actually that of Ephraim Kingston, gardener, and none of the other family members
are actually buried there at all. I suspect that these Kingston names probably paid for the headstone and
thought they might as well get their full money’s worth.
It was when I struck upon this particular gravestone difficulty
that the cemetery staff realised the problems that I faced and,
although they had always been supportive of my work, they have been even more than helpful since.
|Gravestone on a cloudy day ||Gravestone in sun|
You wouldn’t be allowed to add surplus names to a gravestone today. The
cemetery only allow the names of those buried beneath to be inscribed on
any headstone erected now. However, it
became common practice in Victorian times, and even earlier than this,
to include family members who were buried elsewhere, particularly
if that family member had done something of distinction during their
life time. This trend continued during the First World
War for fathers, brothers and sons killed in action abroad. Regardless
of whether they had a grave elsewhere their names were
added to the inscriptions on family headstones and memorials back in
Wycombe. A large number of these survive,
providing a wealth of interest for the local amateur historian. The photograph of
the soldier's inscription, left, tells us that Frederick William Gibbs, brother of Lily and son of William and Emma Gibbs,
was killed in action in France on 22nd August 1917 aged 29 years.
|A soldier's inscription|
|Further details of relatives|
Although the cemetery regulations now rule this out
(because it confuses later generations) it does, indeed, have its
advantages for such inscriptions open up further avenues of research.
So always take a photograph of the headstone, from various angles
if necessary, enabling you to decipher everything still visible.
And always look on the sides or back of the stone for further
inscriptions, only if it's just to see whether it carries a grave number which some of them bear.
Sometimes it helps to spray the inscription with water so
that the letters appear clearer, or to take a torch and shine it on the text from various angles.
Alternatively take plenty of thin paper and soft coloured pastels with you and do some rubbings.
Always take note of who is buried in the adjoining plots, left
and right, in front and behind. It's amazing how ofen you find the plot of
a further relative. These names may appear, at first, to
bear no relation to the family you are researching but a widowed spouse may have re-married,
or a sister, daughter or step-daughter may lie next door
under a different name. The possibilities are endless.
Plot Spotting can also have some very pleasing consequences.
When the cemetery decided that the monument to the Railway Six (see Tomb with a View cemetery tour)
needed to be cleaned and repaired in 2010 they decided to
unveil the new-look column on the anniversary of the tragedy 108 years before (the first week of September 1902).
All the people involved in its repair were invited to
attend but it seemed a great shame not to have any descendants or relatives also present. Harry Morton was the only
local man to have been killed in the disaster. Surely
there were Mortons still to be found today. There were! Several Morton families were contacted and although
the commemoration took place on a weekday three Morton
families were represented. Incidentally, the column is
meant to be broken – a broken column represents life cut short,
as indeed was the case for all six railway navvies
buried in the tunnel collapse at Whitehouse Farm while constructing the Marylebone to Wycombe railway.
But you don’t have to be interested in the graves, or the
people within them, in order to benefit from this tranquil
haven away from the town’s hustle and bustle. There are plenty of vantage points to enjoy the
views over Wycombe, listen to the birds, enjoy the wild flowers, sit and read or simply take the
short cut up the hill.
|Morton representatives at the 2010 commemoration|
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