Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Tales of the Rosary

I've been wanting to write this all down for a couple of weeks now. 
I have a tale to tell about my dad's family. It's an interesting story I think, but I'll try to keep it as brief as possible so you don't nod off.
As I've said before, I'm adopted, so although I don't have a blood link to my dad's family they're still linked to me by love and experience and for that reason they fascinate me.  I'm  also really passionate about history. I love putting together all the pieces of lives and stories left here and there by previous generations.

My dad led an interesting life, but rarely talked about it as he thought the past was where the past should stay. He was in his 40's when they got me so he was an older dad with a young wife. I think there were a few things that troubled him too and for that I wish he could have talked, but they were a different generation.  It was only after about 40 years of marriage that he said quite nonchalantly how he had come by his money. My mum had never thought to ask, me I'm really inquisitive, so I asked. Turns out his Great-aunt Millie left him all her money and six five bedroomed houses when he was 21. You'd think calling our youngest Millie might have sparked that kind of a conversation before wouldn't you.

It all started when my mum found a locked tin in the bottom of dad's wardrobe. I'd seen inside the tin when I was small and then forgotten about it.

Amazingly she found the right key to open it up and inside where all sorts of treasure. Family jewellry and coins dating back to the 1600's along with beautiful boxes of jewellers long gone from Oxford Street.

It was the Rosary Cemetary certificate that really caught our interest. My man and I love visiting there and now we found my dad's grandfather was buried there. 
It's a famous cemetary being as it's the first non-denominational one in the country, first opened in 1851. Walking around Norwich past high church walls you might wonder why the graveyard is at the top of those walls. Well bodies were buried often four deep and they were running out of room, there were fears for the sanitation of it all, those who had different beliefs wanted a burial ground to suit them and also a cemetary befitting their status in C19th Norwich.
As you wander about you find the Colmans, Jarrolds, Boardman the architect, a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade to name but a few.

I also knew that Charles as a middle name was the given in dad's family. Now I knew that tradition came from his Grandfather Charles Clare and also who the owner of the third christening spoon was. I have my dad's, his fathers and his fathers.When I was pregnant with both girls, if they'd been a boy their chosen names were Gabriel Charles Clay S-C. I love a bit of tradition. Also having been born with another name names are very important to me.

When we got home I searched through some of the old photos trying to place Charles.

I think he's the gentleman with the cane in the foreground as I know for a fact that Emma, my dad's Grandmother is in the background and so I guess that the other two women are her sisters. One whose name I don't know, had a son who was an officer in the Great War and never came home. He is strikingly similar to my dad as a young man this uncle he never knew. The other sister, Millie lived with a French lady for many years.

Here is the Grandfather I never met as he died before I was born of an anurism to the brain.
He went to war two years after his father died. For some reason he was in Egypt (again no tales told) so I'll have to do some digging I guess. Unlike his cousin, he came home, married, had two children, played golf and became an Air Raid Warden in the Second World War.

This is my dad's mum. All he ever said of her was she never took that bloody coat off.
She looks lovely to my mind and is the spit of my beloved aunty Betty, dad's sister.
Dad never discussed this, it was my aunt who told my mum who told me what happened after the sudden death of her husband while staying at dad's garage. She sank into depression. She'd never so much as written a cheque before and probably couldn't face the future alone. Dad found her drowned in the Millwater at the bottom of his garden. I understand with this his desire to leave the past where it was.

Before any of this family tragedy, skipping back to 1926, here's my dad as a very chunky ginger baby.

Family tales and faces firmly in mind, we set off to explore the Rosary one sunny afternoon in half-term.
It really is an extraordinary place and one you must visit if you're ever this way and into this kind of thing.

It has a quality of being frozen in time. Nature has been allowed to take over as the visitors to the dead have slowly joined them too.

There is absolutely nothing creepy about the place either. It's fascinating and beautiful.

 The hardest part was going to be finding the grave. Although we had the plot number and had checked on the map of the old part of the cemetary, many were completely overgrown or the names had eroded away.

At this point we'd been looking a fair while, when I said to Miss Millie, if he wants to be found we'll find him.

Then I stopped and started clearing away the cow parsley and bindweed that grew over the top of this  cross and here were all the names we were searching for.

We were so thrilled to find him and put this piece of our family story together.


After that we searched about showing Miss Millie some of the more fascinating graves and she marvelled at all of the extraordinary names.

As you can tell Miss Rosey chose not to come. This really isn't for her, Miss Millie is spiritual and knowledgeable, she gets what it's all about. An old soul you might say.

At the end of this tale there is another story to tell. 

My mum was out with friends who are mediums and believers. They were reading Angel Cards. She randomly chose Abundance. It said the recent find of coins is a gift from a loved one.

Now some of you may say bunkum and that's fine to me, because that's what you believe. 
Hope you enjoyed the tale.


  1. This is a most beautiful story and I appreciate the time you've taken in the telling of it. I understand your fascination with family history as I am too. There is something so very special learning about the people who preceded us here on this earth. The grave yard is beautiful and I love how nature is wending it's way amongst all the headstones, it's very pretty. I love your tale about the Angel cards too, very interesting.
    Anne xx

  2. I think your story is fascinating...

  3. What a fascinating story. I can totally understand why you want to investigate this further and look into your family history. By the way, I think that a family is what you make of a family, love is what counts, not blood. Your Mum and Dad are yours because of love and that will always be the case. xx

  4. What a fascinating tale Lisa. I love unpicking old family stories like this too, and hanging out in old churchyards. They never spook me ... as my Grandfather always said, you've much more to fear from the living! And of course the the dead often have stories to tell :)

  5. How WONDERFUL! I would love to know more about our family. My mother was adopted in 1922, before it was a legal process, and even getting her a passport twenty years ago turned into a sstruIggle as she married under her adoptive parent's surname and the passport people said none of her papers matched. I never told her that they informed me that her marriage was invalid!
    Have you thought of trying a website dealing with genealogy? I joined for 3 months and discovered so many ancestors on Dad's side and Mum's adoptive side of the family and even a couple of living long-lost cousins who were also researching the family and contacted me.
    I believe your Mum's medium experience. LLots of people, including my daughter, think me mad but a medium once turned to me on a London bus and told me something important and she had no financial gain from doing so and I never saw her before or again.

  6. Well, as someone who loves family history, social history, old churches and graveyards, it's lovely to find someone the same! I haven't visited this particular cemetery, but will make a point of doing so if and when I get to Norwich again. It looks such a magical, spiritual, calming place. I discovered by chance, a small private Quaker cemetery in Fakenham. I don't know if you know the town, but where the modern Aldiss and Kinnerton's chocolate factory are, there is a high brick-walled enclosure, and behind it, in the gloomy cool green, headstones. You can't go in and I bet very few people know of it or are nosy enough to scramble up the wall to peer over! Not an elegant thing for a woman in her 50s to be doing (as I was when I discovered it many years ago) but old habits die hard! Lovely stories, thank you for sharing. You are so lucky to have so many family photos. I have barely half a dozen, longevity and an interest in keeping memories doesn't seem to have run in my family. Sadly.

  7. Lisa I wad hooked from beginning to the end! Fantastic story and I loved the photos too. All those lives and history. The graveyard is just beautiful almost ethereal and most certainly magical. I have to say it's my dad's side that interests me the most largely because my nan was always so tight lipped about it. I always think there might be some really interesting stories to be discovered there.

    Thank you for sharing with us some of you're family history. And I never say bunkum about anything spiritual always keep an open mind.

    P x

  8. Oh my! What a wonderful tale - I love it all. There is something spine tingling when our history speaks to us and I think it is wonderful. There is also something about families from the past - tales of intrigue and sadness that was all kept well hidden. My poor old dad had a terrible time as a child and never knew that people had birthdays until he met our mum. I have a file of family history and it is peppered with sadness and misfortune - I will have to dig it out again now. All part of life rich tapestry

    I look forward to reading more
    Best wishes

  9. i really enjoyed your family history, i have had a few friends that were adopted (luckily into good families) but that search for finding your true identity still lives within them, which i completely understand, i think we all like to know our history and what maybe adds to who we lovely gramps was a babe in arms when his father one winters night was found drowned in a river, sadly his truck had overturned. There was a lot of sadness in the photographs after that time. my great grandmother re-married and had another son but my gramps would have longed to know his real father...often while i'm at my mothers she will dig out all the family albums and box's of photographs~ i love all the camping ones~ my nanny and gramps had a motorbike with side car and their are lots of photographs with my mother in the sidecar. They grew up in London after the war they inherited a huge house and my mother grew up with her cousins all in the same house~ must have been exciting. I love telling my daughter bits and pieces of family history and one day she said "when did the world turn to colour"...because all the photographs are black and white. My mother said i asked the same question when i was her age. lovely post xx

  10. What an interesting tale. How wonderful to follow it through to the cemetery. I don't think the card was at all bunkum. I'm a sucker for anything like that.
    I know quite a lot about my mother's side of the family, sadly less about my father's. He was a prisoner of war in WWII and after the war when he returned to Germany, it was to find that there was no home to return to and his parents had been killed. He kept in touch with his brother, and I am still in touch with his children. I've been meaning to follow up the promise of some photos of my German grandparents. Now you've prompted me, that's what I'll do. Thanks.

  11. lovely, lovely you...
    i just wanted to say *thank you* from the bottom of my heart for your kind and beautiful words, they help SO much xx

  12. That was wonderful to hear some of your family history. I have been researching my family history and have found it fascinating. It was only after my Mum died that I found out she had been engaged to a spitfire pilot who was killed before she met my father. Just after they married my fathers plane crashed and she was mistakenly told that he was dead as well. They lived through such hard times didn't they.

  13. I have so enjoyed reading this - we have done lots of family history research in dusty archives and beautiful graveyards. I love the line from one of my favourite novels The Go-Between 'the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there'. Its wonderful to sometimes cross back into the past and explore a little. xx

  14. Lisa, how lovely to read your fantastic story today. I too am adopted and at 63 and after a 23 year search, I finally got in touch with and met my birth Mum and my half sister. A life changing experience which has changed me as a person in such a positive way. Both my adoptive parents have passed away, I was very much loved and had a wonderful childhood and upbringing. I have told my birth mother this and she was so happy to hear this. Family history is so, so important to me and I am now so blessed to have two wonderful families to call my own. Take care and enjoy new discoveries about your wonderful family. Cath X

  15. Hello mrs B. Ooh I love all this history stuff, secrets and skeletons in the cupboard from families past... And the fabulous photos! I've found some wonderful ones sorting through my mums stuff, each one with a tale attached to it. Today's lives are so different as it's all there at the click of a button, a bit of mystery and intrigue and then finding the headstone is really interesting ..sort of connects it all up properly doesn't it? Xx

  16. Thank you for sharing such a precious piece of your family history.
    I don't tell many people this but I believe in Angels too x

  17. This was all such an amazing post to read, thank you so much. And that's where it gets strange, because on the table beside me is a sample book sent for from (I honestly have no connection with them) I asked to see it after reading an article on them and thought it would be perfect for my mother, 90 in August, hideously expensive but I think she'd like to spend her money on something to be remembered by and she has some amazing tales!

  18. Ooh I believe and I loved the tale..I read avidly through..
    My great grandmother was a Medium of her time, long before it was trendy to read cards and have a gift, she took the chair here at the local Spiritual church,,, I place flowers on her grave, in fact although I've lost (like so many) my Grandparents and my dear parents now....I visit them all together as they rest along side each other..
    Thank you for sharing this special post with us all..You write so incredibly honest and sincere all in one!
    Maria with hugs x


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