The current policy in Highgate Cemeteries is to do battle with the ivy and brambles which ran riot over the cemetery during its many years of neglect and reveal its graves. I must admit to a certain degree of ambivalence over this. I understand the desire to actually see the graves of the star studded occupants of our cemeteries – but I do also love the wild woolliness of the overgrown sections. However, I also wonder, as I dig and cut and heave at the ivy and brambles, whether those who are buried there are pleased to be revealed to the world – or whether they would prefer to be left to slumber on beneath their green blankets.
However, since it is not for us mere volunteers to question the word from on high, my last volunteer session found me working away at this grave. And, of course, as you work away you become curious about who is in there – and then sad when you discover, as in this case, that the first person to be buried here was little Gertrude Mary Sayward who died in 1876 when she was only 4 years old.
However, you will be glad to hear that she does not lie here alone as the grave also includes her father Thomas, her mum Harriet both of whom died in 1916, Thomas aged 77 and Harriet aged 80 – and her aunt Charlotte who had died some years previously in 1889. I hope they were all pleased to be found..
Just across the pathway from the Saywards were the Locket family. The headstone for the Lockets remembers ‘George Locket of Camden Town’ who died in 1862 aged 67 (‘Mark the perfect man and behold the upright: for the end of that man is grace.’) and Mary Ann Locket, ‘wife of the above’ who died in 1870 aged, I think, 76.
On a quick look, that was it – but then I started to sweep away the debris from the rest of the grave. This was nowhere near as overgrown as many but still totally obscured the fact that no less than seven other female Lockets were buried there.
Harriet in 1872 aged 33, Frances Emily in 1890 aged 68, Caroline in 1897 aged 8 (although this may be wrong as the lead lettering had fallen off and I could not really make out the numbers), Sophia in 1901 aged 87, another Mary Anne in 1908 aged 87, Emma in 1911 aged 86 and Eileen Harris in 1916 aged 86.
Who on earth were they all and didn’t any of them have husbands? Or were the husbands not deemed worthy to rest in the Locket grave? Maybe ‘the perfect man’ George Locket had a plethora of sisters who he would not allow to marry – although if so they all had plenty of opportunity after he had shed his mortal coil.