With the assistance of Google I decided to briefly research the lives of a few of the 3,000 or so Navy seaman buried in the East Greenwich Pleasaunce. This beautiful and hidden little park cemetery has some amazing gravestones scattered about and I took a few photos of ones I liked the first Saturday in April.
JFH Grant, Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve
Sub-Lieutenant John Francis Haughton Grant was 35 when he died in 1919, and he left wife Ivy Sydney Grant of 2 Kearsney Garage, Kearsney, Dover. Originally from the then-Dutch colony of St. Thomas in the Caribbean (now part of the US Virgin Islands), Grant served in the First World War. His parents were Francis Bell Grant and Emily Jane Grant.
There are a number of very new looking gravestones like this dotted around the Pleasaunce and they all seem to be for those who fought in the First World War. Perhaps they are the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission whose register lists Grant and his grave’s location.
Albert Escott, Head Master of the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich
I could not find much about this gentlemen on Google but I did find a Individual Record on the LDS Family Search site that tells us Escott was 41 in 1881, from Bristol and was married. He “entered on a new life, 28th October 1891” and he has a very cool looking gravestone.
Henry John May, Rear-Admiral, Royal Navy
This guy has the coolest gravestone I have ever seen. His family must have had a lot of money to give him such a cool send-off, unless the Royal Naval College decided to honour him in this way. Courtesy of the Dreadnought Project I was able to find out a bit about May, born 20 February, 1853, died 24 April, 1904.
He was President of the Naval War Course at the Royal Naval College from 1900 to his death, and also fought in the Bombardment of Alexandria on the 11th July, 1882. My favourite encyclopedia tells us how “a fleet of about fifteen Royal Navy ironclad ships… sailed to Alexandria when a riot broke out and Europeans were killed”. May was part of the action in this one day skirmish with local Egyptians which left six British and 700 Egyptians dead.
Amongst others he was promoted from Lieutenant to Commander for his presumably valiant deeds. The London Gazette has scans of its previous issues, and you can read about the honoured Navy personnel on their site.
Coolest grave ever.
This innocuous little head stone is the final resting place of the very interesting Dr, then Sir, John Liddell, born 1794, died 1868. Liddell was the Director General of the Medical Department at the Royal Naval College and worked there from at least 1844. Two events involving Liddell that I have found lead me to believe that he cared a lot about the welfare, before and after death, of those he was responsible for.
Greenwich Hospital’s burial grounds have evolved over time, the first burial site was situated on land that now houses numbers 32-40 Maze Hill. This burial site was open from 1707 to 1749 until Goddard’s Ground became the hospital’s second site. Goddard’s Ground is now King William Walk but was home to 20,000 graves by the time it was closed in 1857 (Pieter van der Merwe of the National Maritime Museum has written a very interesting article here if you would like to read more). In 1847 Liddell voiced concerns that “the effluvia of the graveyard might endanger the health and safety of all [as it was] crowded beyond parallel”, and he recommended that the graveyard be closed.
Pushed by the local Parish Council (with help from the Burial Act of 1852) the hospital eventually closed Goddard’s Ground after new land was purchased. This third burial site was named The Royal Hospital Cemetery and is now better known as the East Greenwich Pleasaunce. Burials were carried out here long after the hospital closed in 1869, and in 1926 the land was sold to Greenwich Council and landscaped. The last burial was in 1981.
Liddell was also responsible for a 1848 report relating to the pollution of the area surrounding the hospital. He was concerned that the area now known as Cubitt Town/Island Gardens would be industrialised and built upon so that the whole area surrounding the hospital would be grey and polluted:
” ‘No casual visitor’ wrote Liddell ‘can fail to be struck with the dull and stupified air of a Greenwich Pensioner, or with the monotony and melancholy that pervade[s] the Hospital, where one dull routine of existence is unchequered by any occupation or incident to beguile its weariness.’ ”
Great stuff eh? His report was championed by the Governor of the hospital Admiral Sir Charles Adam and The Admirality, and after a false start or two William Cubitt leased the land to the hospital’s Commissioners in 1852. The hospital itself did not actually do anything with the land in the end and gave it back to Cubitt in 1858 with “with covenants safeguarding the Hospital’s environmental interests.”
Sounds like a bit of a faff but I think Liddell’s report raised sufficient interest for the land to be saved from industrial development and as any local will know the view towards Island Gardens is beautiful. The eventual development of the land into a park certainly makes my day whenever I exit from the foot tunnel and see the graceful trees and view back across the water.
What a cool bloke.
A few more photos of the Pleasaunce…
Pistachios in the Park Cafe
The quote is from The Bible