Warstone Cemetery

A visit to Warstone Cemetery today I came across these to set of interesting grave markers. The first is a highly symbolic marker of possibly a middle-class professional individual

The urn was used by Pagans and Romans to store cremated remains.   The draped urn represents the clothing of the deceased being shed to move from the Earthly realm to the Heavenly realm. The boundary between the living world and the dead.

A broken column indicates a life cut short, a memorial to the death of someone who died young or in the prime of life, before reaching old age.

The caduceus is a symbol comprised of two snakes twining around a rod surmounted with wings. The staff carried by Mercury as messenger of the gods and was later used as a representation of this staff used as an emblem of the medical profession.

Anchors appear on the graves of sailors; however, you may be surprised to learn that this is the exception, not the rule. The anchor is also a Christian symbol representing faith set in strong foundations, hope in troubled times and steadfastness.

The palm frond is an ancient symbol of victory, dating back to Roman times when victors were presented with palm fronds. The palm fronds were also laid in the path of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. So, for many Christians, the palm represents righteousness, resurrection, and martyrdom, symbolizing the spiritual victory over death associated with the Easter story.

A grave marker such as this would have cost in the region of £30 – 40k in today’s money.

To juxtapose this marker, we have a row of guinea graves. One pound and one shilling (£1.05p). These are a common shared grave of four burials either side of the headstone, and both sides were headed ‘In Memory Of’ followed by the list of names and dates of death. Up to one hundred people in one common plot, with multiple plots in a row. The headstone containing just a bare minimal identifying commemorative detail.

If a poor family could scrape together £1.1s, (£1.05), or half-price for under 7’s, it would cover the cost of a shared grave and shared headstone, with up to 36 letters inscribed.

These were not classified as paupers’ graves, as there would still be the shame of a ‘pauper’s grave’ for the many penniless people buried in Warstone and Key Hill Cemetery, but the poor but not destitute people, who could afford a Guinea Grave, were at least spared that shame.

A pauper was a penniless person buried by the Board of Guardians (i.e., at public expense). Any common grave would probably contain some paupers as well as some people whose families had managed to pay for the burial, so there is really no such thing as a ‘pauper’s grave’, and the term is never used officially.

About Morturn

Historian – Photographer – Filmmaker Retired construction professional with a passion for public, social and industrial history. I believe in equality, dignity and integrity for all. Don’t like people who try to belittle the ambitions of others. I am of the opinion that my now life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.
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