05 October 2008

On reused graves and Englishmen

I've been poking around at NOAH, the Norfolk (UK) Online Access to Heritage website, which has information and images from the Library Service, The Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service.

The poster shown, found at the site, is for a 1862 pre-Christmas musical soiree sponsored by the Gorleston and Southtown Seaman's and Working Men's Institution. The patriotic program included "O the Roast Beef of Old England" and "A song, a song for England" I was especially interest in the third item on the program "My Ancestors were Englishmen."

A Google search on the title found an article in the January 2004 issue newsletter of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery on the song's composer John William Hobbs (1799-1877).

It was surprising to see the article mention that in 1987 Hobbs' gravesite was illegally resold and reused by another family whose tombstone now stands in place of the Hobbs monument. I'd encountered a database of these illegally sold gravesites at West Norwood while preparing my talk at the GENEALOGY IN LONDON conference in Toronto on November 8, but hadn't expected to find the database useful.

The database search didn't work when I tried it, but Hobbs showed up in a list of grave owners, his address given as 29, Upper Stamford Street, Lambeth, and six other relatives named buried in the plot.

Google books supplied the words to "My ancestors were Englishmen", maudlin but satisfyingly short on jingoism, written by W H Bellamy.

My ancestors were Englishmen,
An Englishman am I,
And 'tis my boast that I was born
Beneath a British sky ;

I prize my peerless birthplace for
Its freedom and its fame ;
In it my father lived and died ;
I hope to do the same.

I've heard of foreign countries that
Are very fair to see ;
But England, " dear old England," is
Quite fair enough for me ;

Find the rest of the words on page 111 of A Book of Popular Songs.

I'd hoped to find an online source for Hobbs music, I didn't. In lieu you might enjoy a staple from the Last Night of the Proms.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The link to "Last Night of the Proms" which led to You Tube and the tune Jerusalem that was composed by Charles H H Parry in 1916, reminds me that the hymn has been barred from several English churches. To quote - the lyrics written by William Blake in 1804 "do not give praise to God and are too nationalistic"

My old church St Mary's in Cheadle Cheshire was amongst first to institute a ban on the singing of Jerusalem in 2001, and as a result of the ban a couple whose wedding had been booked for 18 months chose to get married at another church

More recently St Mary's have been joined by Southwark Cathedral and St Margaret's Westminster (the parish church of Parliament) although Gordon Brown has declared that Jerusalem is amongst his top 10 tunes

As a result of the ban on Jerusalem at St Mary's Cheadle, Martyn Barrow (Director of Music) chose to write some new lyrics to Parry's music that were suitable for a marriage service, and our family were the first to sing them at our Ruby Wedding service in 2005. Here are Martyn Barrow's lyrics
On this our joyful wedding day,
gathered with friends and family,
we come to you, Lord God of all,
your blessing here we ask to see.
We thank you for the gift of life,
the world and all your hand has made
help us to trust your promises,
to know your love that does not fade.

God sent his Son into the world
so that we all might live through him:
dying for us and rising too,
he paid the price for all our sin.
We thank you for this gift of love,
and as these lives now join as one,
Lord, may Your Spirit’s fruit of love
grow in their hearts and in their home.