Thursday, 20 November 2008

Road Trip - the Brompton Cemetery

I spent most of last week in archives of one sort or another in the south of England. It's given me enough material to write several posts, so this is the start of the "Road Trip" series.

I regard a cemetery as an archive too - all your ancestors are neatly filed away there and if you're lucky they are also indexed correctly on the headstone above them.
I went to the Brompton Cemetery in Kensington, West London in search of the grave of Joseph Henry Fitzhenry.

Joseph was well known in his later life as an extremely wealthy art collector. In fact, he used the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as an overflow storage facility for his huge collection of silverware and fine art, much of which can still be seen at the museum today. But his origins are shrouded in mystery and even his obituary in The Times of London could only hazard a guess that he had been born in France. He never married. I didn't have a date of birth for him, but I did have his Times obituary, and armed with that I made my way to the cemetery.

For those who haven't been to Brompton Cemetery, it's well worth going even if you haven't got a grave to visit. Established in the 1850s to relieve the overcrowded inner London burial grounds, this 16 acre Victorian cemetery is now managed as one of London's Great Parks and is a haven for wildlife, as well as being beautifully atmospheric and fully of lovely architecture and history. The official website for the cemetery is here, and a selection of the photos that I took on that day are here in one of my Picasa webalbums. (Editor's note April 2015 - I've fixed the broken link to this album, but you may have to be logged into your Google account to view it)

Jay, the wonderfully helpful chap in the cemetery office, was able to look up Joseph FH on his computer database and drew me a map - Joseph was buried in the highly desirable inner circle of the burial ground. Jay also found me two other Fitzhenrys that I hadn't been expecting and ran me off their details too.

I don't really know what I had been expecting for Joseph's gravestone, but certainly something more elaborate and "arty" than the very plain flat grave cover that I found. But at least it gave me that all important birthdate detail that I was looking for.
In lead lettering on granite, the text read:

DIED 14th MARCH 1913
If any of you art lovers out there have any more information about Joseph Henry Fitzhenry, then please drop me an email.

So who were the other Fitzhenrys buried at Brompton Cemetery? The details that are held in the cemetery registers are entered below. Both women were buried in common graves rather than private plots. This meant that their family paid for the burial in the cemetery, but didn't have exclusive right to the plot, and in theory up to 8 people could be buried in the same plot. It also meant no headstone, so there were no further details to be found about them.
Elizabeth Fitzhenry of 38 East Street, Red Lion Square, Parish of St George the Martyr, Holborn.
Buried 4 April 1877 aged 65 years.
Ann Fitzhenry of 61 Duffield Street, Battersea, London.
Buried 3 May 1889 aged 53 years.

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  1. Thanks, Jo. What a beautiful and fascinating place! I'm amazed how close together the plots are.

    Thanks for sharing your trip!

  2. Having trouble posting...will this get through??

  3. Thanks for your lovely atmospheric photos Jo, and the very interesting postings too!!
    I can claim at least one of these Fitzhenry ladys... Elizabeth Fitzhenry who was buried 4 April 1877 was my ggrandmother. She was married to Michael Fitzhenry in Chesea (Holy Trinity Chapel, attached to St Lukes). I had her death certificate but had no idea where she was buried, and would not have thought of Brompton as I was told that this was a private cemetery. (I have other relatives there, the Fishers, on the circular drive, fairly close to the office). Elizabeth Fitzhenry died 28 March 1877 at 38 East St Queen Sq, Holborn in the parish of Holborn. The informant was her daughter Jane Fitzhenry, who was shortly to marry Joseph Lines of the Lines Toy family, who were quite well known in London at the turn of the century). The cause of death was listed as Typhoid of the lungs, dilated heart and syncope.

    It is POSSIBLE (though by no means definate) that I might also know the identity of mystery lady number two Ann Fitzhenry....but I will follow that up in a subsequent post...if this one lists successfully!!

    Lesley IN Melbourne !

  4. Mystery lady number two, Ann Fitzhenry MAY be Elizabeth's daughter-in-law, Ann Fitzhenry (nee Currey). The only thing that makes me query it is that I would have thought the age at death would be about 6 years younger for my Ann.
    My Ann married Elizabeth's eldest son George and had 3 children who survived infancy from 1866 to 1875. George was in the army and sent to Ireland but was back in England by 1875. I have been unable to locate either George or Ann in the 1891 census, but am currently awaiting a certificate that is likely to show that George died in 1879. The thing is though, that I HAVE been able to locate two of their three children in 1891, living at 32 Falcon St BATTERSEA.
    Falcon St actually intersects with Duffield St (if I am reading the census correctly!) which is the street that the mystery Ann was living in at the time of her death 2 years previously. Although no Fitzhenrys were living there in 1881, the fact that there were two Fitzhenrys there within 2 years of Ann's death seems to be either a major coincidence, or strong circumsncial evidence that Ann and my two Fitzhenry children were related ! So...although not conclusive, I suspect there may well be a connection to mystery lady number 2 as well.

  5. I've just updated the webalbum and put the burial register scans for Ann, Elizabeth and Joseph Henry FH at the end of the slide show. They're not of the best quality as they've been scanned into the cemetery's archive system, printed out, rescanned in by me and then uploaded here!

  6. It was very interesting to read your Fitzhenry information.

    I thought you might be interested in knowing that Joseph Henry Fitzhenry went to Highgate School in London from September 1848 to July 1853 and his contact details were "c/o Vicomte de Brons, Hornsey Lane".

    With best wishes,

    Luke Schrager

  7. Thanks for that information Luke - do you have any more details about Joseph Henry FH? On the census records it says he was a British Subject born in France, but I've got no further than this on his ancestry.
    And are you a relative of his?
    Best wishes