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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Drowned

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 in 1836 in Bridport Dorset. He came from an 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.

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, bit 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.

For more Taphophile Tragic posts, please stop by Taphophile Tragics Blog.


  1. I can well imagine navigating near the weir might have been challenging.

  2. Being unfamiliar with the term weir, I went to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, to learn about them. Here's a quote that may explain Alfred's death:

    "Even though the water around weirs can often appear relatively calm, they can be extremely dangerous places to boat, swim, or wade as the circulation patterns on the downstream side—typically called "hydraulics"-- can submerge a person indefinitely. This phenomenon is so well-known to canoeists, kayakers, and others who spend time on rivers that they even have a rueful name for weirs: "drowning machines"."
    Chilling idea.

    Beautiful photo. I like that it resurrect's Alfred's memory, even for a bit.

  3. Greta post, but a terrible for poor Alfred. We have weirs here in Victoria and I remember being severely warned about them as a child...

  4. The top shot is so beautiful!

  5. Well i can say having boats toss me into the water a few times, its NOT easy to keep one upright! I have always been in shallow enough water to get myself right again...I can swim but I certainly wouldnt want to bet my life on it.

  6. I am afraid I would be one of those with 'water up my sleeve'. Yes, weirs are well-known overy here, especially down in Victoria when Nick resides.

    Interesting that being an accountant would not necessarily qualify you as a 'somebody' nowadays.

    Interesting headstones you continue to unearth (!!) for us.

  7. i very much liked this story! although sad ofcourse someone died by having a fun time...


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