If you've come here looking for my taphophile and graveyard posts, they can now be found at my new blog, Beneath Thy Feet. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Winged Heads, Skulls, Crossbones

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

All photographs taken at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Cookham Berkshire.

For more Taphophile Tragic posts, please click here.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Freaky Friday - The Sewer of Babies

For thousands of years they held their dark and grisly secrets.

In 1912 archaeologists excavating the remains of Yewden Villa in Hambleden Buckinghamshire stumbled across the skeletal remains of 97 babies in a Roman sewer.  Examination of the bones found that all the babies had died at around 40 weeks gestation, ruling out death by disease or natural disaster.  If the deaths had been due to natural causes then a range of ages would be expected.  These deaths were anything but natural. 

In roman times infanticide was seen as an effective method of contraception.  With males being favoured over females many female babies were killed soon after birth or simply abandoned to the elements.  As this letter from a roman to his wife demonstrates:

'I am still in Alexandria. ... I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.'

But surely this grisly discovery was a one off.  Just how many roman sewers stuffed full of dead babies can their be?

In 1988 another discovery was made in Ashkelon, Israel.  Hundreds of tiny skeletons in a sewer belonging to a roman bath house.  Again it was found that the babies had all died around the same age, soon after birth.  DNA examination of the bones found that the proportion of male babies was significantly higher with 14 of the successfully tested femurs being male and only five female.  This brought about the speculation that the babies were that of the prostitutes working in the bath house.  The males were of no value and a financial burden, so were disposed of.  Where as the majority of the girls were raised to become servants and to later work in the bath house themselves.  Of course this is all speculation and no one knows the real reason for the discovery of hundreds of infants in the sewers of Buckinghamshire and Israel, but it doesn't make it any less horrifying.

For more information on the discovery in Ashkelon please click here.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Gallery

This week's theme for The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers is:  Family

I think this picture of Amy (left) and Ana (right) perfectly sums up my family for me.  It was taken at the end of a game of crazy golf.  Guess who won...

Amy (left) and Ana (right)
at Maidenhead Adventure Golf.

Yes that's right, Amy.

This major sulk started because daddy told her she couldn't shout down the golf holes. Apparently it's all to do with etticate. I would have let her shout down the holes until she was hoarse, but that's just me.

All I want to know is...

Who the fuck invited Where's Wally in the background?

For more Gallery posts, please stop over at Sticky Fingers.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Sir Stanley Spencer

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

Gravestone of Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Cookham Berkshire.

"To The Memory Of
Stanley Spencer
1891 - 1959
And his wife
Buried in Cookham Cemetery 1950

Everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love - 1 John 4:7"

Sir Stanley Spencer was born at Fernlea, High Street, Cookham on 30th June 1891 to William, a music teacher and Anne Caroline Spencer nee Slack.  On the that day a crow fell down the chimney and flapped about the living room until released. The family thought it a good omen and named Stanley after Stanley Spencer, a prominent balloonist of the era.


Much of Stanley's early education was at the village school run by his sisters, he eventually attended Maidenhead Technical School where his artistic training began, before enrolling at Slade School of Fine Art at University College, London.  Here he won the Composition Prize for ‘The Nativity’, and oil on canvas painted in 1912

The Nativity - 1912

In 1915 Stanley volunteered to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps where he served as a orderly at The Beaufort War Hospital.  In 1916 he volunteered to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Macedonia where he served with the 68th Field Ambulance Unit.  He later requested to be transferred to the Berkshire Regiment.  Stanley's experience of the horrors of war were to forever mark his attitude towards live and death, an influence that can be seen in many of his religious paintings.

Towards the end of the Great War Stanley was commissioned by the the War Artists Advisory Committee to paint visions of war from Macedonia.  Stanley painted what is now referred to as 'Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol.'  The painting is kept at the Imperial War Museum.

Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol

In 1925 Stanley married Hilda Carline, who at that time was a student of Slade School of Fine Art.  They had two daughters together, Shirin and Unity. 

Hilda, Unity and Dolls - 1937

However Hilda and Stanley were to divorce in 1837 when the girls were 7 and 11 due to Stanley's obsession with another woman, Patricia Preece.  A week after his divorce Stanley had married Patricia, but it was not to be a happy marriage.  Patricia was a con artist and a lesbian, whose interest in Stanley only extended as far as his money.  She somehow managed to persuade Stanley to sign over his house to her.  Patricia continued to live with her lover Dorothy Hepworth and the marriage was never consummated, yet when her 'relationship' with Stanley fell apart she refused to grant him a divorce. 

Hepworth, Preece, Spencer and guest
at Stanley's wedding to Patricia Preece in 1937

Stanley was to forever regret his decision to leave Hilda and his daughters for Patricia.  When Hilda's mental health began to fail, Stanley would visit her, but the damage to their relationship was already done.  In 1950 Hilda died of cancer.  Stanley continued to write love letters to Hilda long after her death.  In 1945 Stanley had moved to Cliveden View House in Cookham Rise, a house built by his builder grandfather Julius Spencer and previously lived in by his sister Annie.

Stanley was to become a familiar sight in Cookham, pushing a battered black pram that contained his canvas and easel.
Sir Stanley Spencer with his pram in Cookham Lane - 1958

In 1959 Stanley was knighted, later that year on 14th December he died of cancer at The Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Taplow Buckinghamshire.

1954 Portrait of Sir Stanley Spencer by Ida Kar
© National Portrait Gallery, London

For more Taphophile Tragics posts, please click here.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Freaky Friday - Screaming Mummies

Screaming Mummy - Saf2285 Flikr

A moment of terrible agony locked forever in death. 

These terrifying tortured faces were made by the natural slackening of the jaw muscles during decomposition.  But that doesn't make them any less freaky.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Witchcraft - The Windsor Witches - Elizabeth Stile, Mother Dutten, Mother Dewell and Mother Margaret

Witches' Familiars
16th Century Illustration showing Elizabeth Stile feeding her familiars

On 26th of February 1579, four woman were tried at Abingdon Assizes.  Their names were Elizabeth Stile, a 65 year old widow from Windsor, Mother Dutten from Clewer, Mother Dewell from Windsor and Mother Margaret, who lived at the almshouses in Old Windsor.

They were accused of killing several people by the means of bewitching with a 'poppet'.

"In folk-magic and witchcraft, a poppet is a doll made to represent a person, for casting spells on that person or to aid that person through magic. These dolls may be fashioned from such materials as a carved root, grain or corn shafts, a fruit, paper, wax, a potato, clay, branches, or cloth stuffed with herbs. The intention is that whatever actions are performed upon the effigy will be transferred to the subject."

Corn Poppet

A pamphlet printed at the time of their execution states the following:

"One father Rosimond, dwelling in Farneham Parish, being a widower, and also a daughter of his, are both Witches or Inchanters, and can transforme himself by Divelishe meanes into the shape and likenesse of any beaste whatsoever he will.

One Mother Dutten dwelling within Cleworthe Parishe, can tell every ones message, as soone as she seeth them approche neare to the place of her abode. And further, she keepeth a Spirite or Fiende in the likenesse of a Toade, and feedeth the same Fiende lying in a border of greene Herbes, within her Garden, with blood whiche she causeth to issue from her owne flank.

One Mother Dewell, dwelling nigh the Ponde in Windsor, being a very poore woman, hath a Spirite in the shape of a Blacke Catte, and calleth it Gille, whereby she is aided in her Witchcrafte, and she daily feedeth it with Milke, mingled with her owne blood.

Mother Dewell's familiar Gille

That one Mother Margaret dwelling in the Almes house at Windsor doeth feede a Fiende named Ginnie, with crumbs of bread and her owne blood.

Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockyngham, of her self confesseth that she the same Elizabeth, until the time of her apprehension, kepte a Ratte, being in very deede a wicked Spirite, naming it Philip, and that she fed the same Ratte with bloode, issuing from her right hand, the markes whereof evidently remaine, and also that she gave her right side to the Devill, and so did the residue of the Witches before named.

Father Rosimond, with his daughter, mother Dutten, mother Dewell, Mother Margaret, and Elizabeth Rockingham, did accustome to meet within the back side of Mister Dodges, and did in that place conclude upon hainous, and villainous practises. They all purposed and agreed, by their Sorceries, and Inchantementes, to dispatche one Lanckforde a Farmer, dwelling in Windsor by the Thames side, and that they murdered him accordinglie. They also by their devillishe arte, killed one Mister Gallis, who in times past had been Mayor of Windsor. Likewise a Butcher named Switcher escaped not their treacherie, but was by their Witchcrafte brought to his grave.

The manner of their Inchantemente, whereby the persones afore named were murdered was thus: Mother Dutten made pictures of Redde Waxe, about a spanne long, and three or four fingers broade. The said Mother Dutten did sticke an Hawthorne pricke, against the left sides of the breastes of the Images, directly there where they thought the heartes of the persones to bee.

Every one of them, if any had angred them, would go to their Spirites and say, Suche a one hath angred me, go do them this mischief. And for their hire would give them a drop of their owne blood, and presently the party was plagued by some lamentable casualtie.

Elizabeth Stile with the Devil

Elizabeth Stile confesseth, herself often times to have gone to Father Rosimond house where she founde him sitting in a Wood, under the body of a Tree, sometimes in the shape of an Ape, and otherwhiles like an Horse. She also confesseth her self to have turned a childes hande in Windsor cleane backwardes.

Also this is not to be forgotten, that the said Mother Stile, being at the time of her apprehension so well in healthe of body and limbs, that she was able and did go on foote, from Windsor unto Reading unto the Gaile, whiche are twelve miles distant. Shortly after that, she had made the aforesaied confession, the other Witches were apprehended, and were brought to the said Gaile, the said Mother Dewell did so bewitche her and others with her Enchantmentes, that the use of all her senses were taken quite from her, and her Toes did rotte off her feete, and she was laid upon a Barrowe, as a moste uglie creature to beholde, and so brought before the judges, at suche time as she was arraigned."

You can read more about The Windsor Wicthes at Strange Britain.

You can read more about Elizabethan witches at Elizabethan Witchcraft and Witches.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Damaged Angel

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

Angel monument to Kathleen Dunkles, Frances Dunkels and Ernest Dunkles.

"Kathleen Dunkles 15 August 1906
Frances Dunkles 16 December 1953
Ernest Dunkels 12 September 1956"

Ernest Dunkles was born Ernest Dunkelsbuhler in London, Middlesex in 1880 to German parents Anton and Minna Dunkelsbuhler.  Anton was a famous diamond dealer who owned Anton Dunkelsbuhler & Company.  Ernest became a barrister and assumed the surname Dunkles in 1895, perhaps he felt it would be easier for his clients and neighbours than Dunkelsbuhler.

In 1909 Ernest married Frances S Van Nostrand, who travelled to England from New York on the ship Germanic on 9th June 1897.  On the Incoming Passengers List her occupation is listed simply as 'Lady'.  The lived together in Woodhurst Maidenhead and in 1916 Ernest enlisted and served in The Great War.  Frances passed away in the December of 1953, but not before giving Ernest four children.  Ernest was to follow his wife three years later.

Kathleen Dunkles was born Fanny Dunklesbuhler in London, Middlesex in 1878.  She was Ernest's elder sister.  Sometime between 1891 and 1906 Fanny changed her name to Kathleen, possibly a middle name, and took to using it instead of Fanny.  Ernest was to name his first daughter born in 1910, Kathleen after his sister.

For more Taphophile Tragics posts, please click here.

Julie from Taphophile Tragics and Sydney Eye asked a question relating to last week's Manlove post.

But there was another daughter , if I interrpert 'elder & beloved daughter' correctly.  I wonder what happend to the younger daughter.

Joseph and Eleanor had three children during their marriage, two who survived them.  Joseph Swailes Manlove born in October 1881 in Islington Middlesex and Dorothy Mary Manlove born on 27th December 1901 in Maidenhead.

Joseph became a bank cashier and married Alice Gertrude Maunder on 7th October 1909 in Marylebone London.  Joseph died in 1937 Tonbridge Kent.

All that I can find out about Dorothy is that she didn't marry and died a spinster in 1988 in Maidenhead.  It is possible that she rests in the same cemetery as her parents and elder sister.  A challange for my next visit?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Freaky Friday - L'inconnue de la Seine, The Unknown Woman of the Seine

Death Mask of the Unknown Woman

In the late 1880s the discovery of a body in the river Seine was not an uncommon thing, but what happened to the visage of one young woman was anything but common.

The unidentified body of a young woman, thought to be no older than 16 years was pulled from the waters of the Seine.  With no signs of violence on the body suicide was given as a possible cause of death.  Once at the Paris morgue a pathologist was so taken by her beauty and enigmatic smile that he ordered a molder to make a plaster cast death mask of her face.  Her identity was never discovered.  However she was not merely going to fade into obscurity. 

Copies where made of her original death mask and where soon to be found adorning the most fashionable homes in France.  Many likened her smile to that of the Mona Lisa and many more pondered what secrets lay behind her eerily happy expression.

Maybe she was simply at peace with her death.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Windows Into The Past - Ceramic Gravestone Memorials

(c) Headstones and History

Ceramic photograph memorials allow us a peek into the grave and a glimpse into the past.

Ceramic photographs started in 1854 when two french invented patented a method for fixing photographic images onto enamel or porcelain by firing in a kiln.  At first these enamels were used for home viewing before paper photos replaced them.  Soon after the custom of adding ceramic memorials to gravestones spread throughout southern and eastern Europe and into America.

Sadly due to weathering and sometimes vandalism, these wonderful windows into the past are disappearing. Laurel Mellien at Headstones and History has been taking photographs of these vanishing memorials, in the hopes of preserving what remains.

(c) Headstones and History

Showing signs of damamge.
(c) Headstones and History

(c) Headstones and History

(c) Headstones and History

Even pets were memoralised
(c) Headstones and History

For more information on the history of ceramic and enamel photograph memorials please click here.

To more fantastic ceramic memorial photographs and further information on gravestone symbolism, visit Laurel Mellien's Facebook page Headstones and History.

All photographs copyright of Headstones and History and reproduced with permission.


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