Sunday, 6 May 2012

Falmouth Cemetery

I've always had a bit of a thing for cemeteries. Not all cemeteries; just the old ones. I find newer cemeteries a bit depressing because their tombstones generally aren't characterized by nearly as much variety and artistry, and because they don't seem to meld as well with the environment around them. Antique tombstones and cemeteries have a much stronger sense of "personality," which I think makes them all the more accessible and poignant; you can't help but be aware that each piece of weathered rock represents an actual person.

At the Falmouth Cemetery, or at least in the older section that I visited today, there are many tombstones representing people whose stories I would love to hear: counts and earls and dukes, fallen soldiers of many nationalities, seamen (including a good number who died very young), and countless more departed with old-fashioned names and beautifully ornate headstones:

(Chiseled bouquet)

(One of the many headstones belonging to a sailor; the majority of these--sailors, not headstones--seemed to have died between the ages of 15 and 20. The surname of this sailor, Trevillian, indicates that he was a native of Cornwall and not just passing through when he died.)

(Many of the stones hosted some very tenacious vines, lichens, and/or mosses. The cemetery in general was very lush, full to brimming with daisies, three-cornered leeks, bluebells, primroses, and various other wildflowers.)

(This headstone was one of my favorites; years of exposure have given it very dramatic coloration.) 

 (A close-up of the headstone and its elegant engraving--it reminds me of something from Lord of the Rings.)

(One of the feet supporting a stone sarcophagus in the cemetery.)

(Monument to fallen WWI soldiers. There are also 86 WWI graves, some of which belong to non-British soldiers. Each is marked by an insignia indicating where the soldier originated and/or with whom he fought; a rampant lion marked the grave of a Belgian soldier, for instance, while men from Cornwall and other areas of Britain had their own regional symbols.)

(This headstone was located near the WWI section; the relatively young evergreen that it nestled up against probably wasn't even a seed when the tombstone was first erected.)

(Exterior of one of the cemetery's twin chapels, approved for construction in early 1855.)

(Landscape shot of the cemetery. The facilities were originally divided into two sections: one for Anglicans and one for "nonconformists." Now, the most obvious distinction is between the older section where I was photographing, and the newer area across the road; birth dates on tombstones in the former were often early- to mid-19th century, while those in the latter are more commonly 20th century.)

 (A row of headstones, many of which had weathered to an unusual rust-colored hue.)

 (A small rhododendron was growing in the middle of one nearly empty field--empty except for wildflowers, that is--clearly unaware that bright red is not normally considered an acceptable color for cemetery decorations.)

(Another great headstone engraving)

(A row of Christian graves in one especially quiet corner of the cemetery.)

(The upper half of one of the most touching monuments I saw today. The bottom half is a large block of stone with an inscription that reads: "Here rests all that was mortal of William Ulick O'Connor, Fourth Earl of Desart, Born July 10, 1845, Died September 15, 1898, and Ellen Odette, his wife, Born September 1, 1857, died June 29, 1933. They were together in their lives, and in their deaths they shall not be divided.")

(The grieving statue, as seen from another angle)

(I ran across another poignant--and slightly eerie--statue nearby. I could see where the name on the grave had once been, but it had been worn away by wind and rain and was no longer legible.)

The cemetery is so large that I only had time to walk through a portion of it today; on top of that, it was rather overcast and the lighting wasn't great for photography. I hope to go back soon on a nicer day and get some more images. I also hope to visit Falmouth's even older (and apparently now "retired") Jewish cemetery, the existence of which I only just discovered this evening despite the fact that I walk past it daily on my way home from work. Just goes to show that Falmouth has lots of hidden gems, tucked away in surprising places.

Click here for an incredibly detailed account of the history of the Falmouth Cemetery, and here for more information on the Jewish cemetery.

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