Friends of Broadwater and Worthing Cemetery

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Maintaining Our Memories and Memorials

I have always had an interest in Broadwater and Worthing cemetery as my Three year old sister was buried there in 1950, I was eight years old. I also have a daughter buried there who died in 1970. I initially paid to have my daughter’s grave cleaned regularly but just as I retired from the Army the old boy who had kept it maintained for years, retired.

On returning to Worthing I started to maintain my daughter’s grave and when doing so got interested in the war graves. During my military service I had the opportunity to visit most of the CWGC cemeteries located on the Western Front and had corresponded with the CWGC many times. I visited their web site and discovered that there was 82 War Graves in the cemetery and I set about finding them. Much to my horror nearly half of them were “lost”. I then started a programme of works with the ex-servicemen of CESA. We started locating the graves and generally cleaning them and removing the overgrowth. I did shame WBC into assisting with the removal of the large bushes/trees and a local building contractor donated a lorry load of gravel which helped us give the graves a nice tidy look. Within Six months all the war graves were cleared and could easily be identified. During this period I managed to get the 2nd Durrington Sea Scouts interested and they proved a great help with the cleaning operation. CESA also cleared the Eight War Graves located in the Heene cemetery. We then decided to hold a Remembrance Service at the Cross of Sacrifice in the cemetery, initially organised by CESA but latterly taken over completely by the Sea Scouts. This service continues to this day and is part of the civic Remembrance week end as we conduct the service on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday. We have had as many as 40 people at a time attending our clean up parties and it is tremendous that so many Mums and Dads helping. What motivated me? I thought it was hypocritical to hold services of Remembrance for our War Dead when their graves were so badly neglected. I am pleased that many others agreed with me.

While this operation was going on I really got interested in researching the war graves and there local history. We have at least Two sets of Three brothers who were killed in conflict; the Slaughter brothers in the Great War and the Morgan boys during the second. There are many memorials to two brothers being killed. As you would expect the Regiment with most burials is the Royal Sussex Regiment with 23 graves. Many long lost Regiments are also represented such as; The Post Office Rifles, Machine Gun Corps, Army Cycling Regiment and a plethora of County Regiments, We have both the RFC and the RAF with all sections of our Naval services represented. As you know Worthing was bombed during the war and the civilian casualties are also buried in the cemetery. We also have Canadian and Australian War Graves in the cemetery but what many people do not know is that they are of Worthing boys who were wounded, and died of their wounds, while serving with the countries they adopted.

The story of the Slaughter brothers is a truly tragic storey that was repeated in many towns during the Great War.

Sergeant Drummer Walter Henry of the 4th Royal Sussex Regiment was killed in action at Gallipoli on 14th August 1915, he was 34 years old.

Sgt Leonard aged 29, of the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment died on 7th July 1916 at Oxford from wounds received in France.

The third brother, Sapper Hubert Melville, aged 24, had recently been sent home to attend the funeral of his brother Leonard. On returning to Canterbury, prior to being posted overseas he died of appendicitis. He was married to Edith Slaughter of 46 Park Road.

The family had lived at 15 Gordon Road but their mother and sister immigrated to Canada soon after the death of her third son.

Our cemeteries and especially our memorials are an important part of the town’s history. Broadwater cemetery was opened in 1863 and there are 24,888 burials in it. Recently the cemetery records have been made available and they certainly provide a record of Worthing’s history. On scanning through one section I came across such “occupations” as; Lodging house keeper, groom, brick maker, butler, charwomen, gentlewomen, ladysmaid, professor of oriental languages, Chief Justice of Jamaica, manservant, beer shop keeper, tea dealer (died in the Workhouse), letter carrier, lamplighter, clerk in holy orders, gentleman, Bengal Civil servant and many other long lost trades and class distinctions. The records list the “abodes” and they make interesting reading; poor Jane Thomas is listed as having lived in the “Workhouse – East Preston”; she was a 62 year old spinster when she died. While “spinster” is used throughout the records for single women, those who died in the workhouse are described as a “single women”. The abode of 4 month old George Denyer is given as “the workhouse”. The moral code of the times is also to be found as the records inform us of the death 18 month old child whose mother was a “Spinster”. The fact that political correctness was not about in the 19th century can be found in many records where the occupation is listed as “a lunatic” and the abode as “the asylum – Hayward’s Heath”. The state of the living conditions for the poor is also evident in the records as they show that Sarah Rudd’ abode was “Back of Chapel Street” while another poor soul is recorded as living at “Back of Bedford Row”.

The first burials in the cemetery are testament to the class system of the time. The first entry in the records show that Joseph Hardy a 74 year old “gentleman” who was buried on 16th May 1863 had his “plot” purchased on the 18th and his grave, with marker, are located just inside the main entrance. On the same day 44 year old Henry Lelliot, a “cordwonner” who lived at Field Row was buried towards the rear of the cemetery and his “plot” was never purchased and was subsequently reused. The reuse of graves has been common practice since the cemetery was opened, indeed plot A7 Row 7 Grave 72 is the last resting place to no fewer than eight children. Even the British War Dead are buried in previously used graves but because the CWGC purchased the plots in 1923 they will not be reused again. It is interesting to note that the Canadian and Australian war dead are buried in first use graves!

Every now and again the records make a statement, as in the case of a 62 year old lady who died on 6th October 1881; she is recorded as being “a married woman living apart from her husband”.

Our first Mayor, Alfred Cortis has a fine tomb while Ellen Chapman our first lady Mayor has a very modest (and neglected) grave. You will be pleased to know that both have been “adopted” by WBC Councillors and I will be ensuring they are cleaned up this year.

Alfred Cortis was Worthing’s first Mayor (1890). He was a generous man who bankrolled the Museum and Art Gallery to the tune of £5,000. He also funded the search and the drilling of water well in Broadwater to give the town its first clean drinking water following the typhoid outbreak of 1893 when nearly 200 Worthing people died.

He was a splendid shot who represented England 21 times and won some 611 prizes totalling nearly £3,000. In 1866 he won the “World Open” competition in Brussels and was presented with his prize by the King of Belgium.

There is a superb oil painting of him winning the Queens Medal for shooting at Wimbledon in 1887.

Just before he died in 1912 he donated £10 to the Titanic fund; the largest single donation by an individual.

Alfred Cortis was a fine gentleman and Worthing should remember him fondly. He died in the Old Town Hall; South Street after delivering what was described as “an eloquent speech.”

Mrs Ellen Chapman became the first lady Mayor of Worthing in 1920 having been rejected in 1914 after the Council decided “it would be inadvisable, while the country was at war, for a women to hold such high office.” She was such a fine and talented Mayor that the Council took the unprecedented step of appointing her for a second year. She earned the distinction of being the first women in Sussex to serve on a Town Council, the town’s first women magistrate, the town’s first women Alderman and the first women President of Worthing Boy Scouts Association.

She lived in what is now Ardsheal Road in a house (The Shrubbery) located where the fire station now stands. She used her pretty gardens for fund raising, even hosting a tennis tournament for worthy causes.

When she died in 1925 of a heart attack the following tribute was made; “She was detached from everything petty, small or unworthy and, having formed her opinions at an early age on what she believed was best for her country and its constitution, she had the courage of those opinions, and fought for them through thick and thin. There is scarcely a spot in Worthing that will not seem poorer for her passing.”

During 1893 Worthing suffered an outbreak of typhoid that killed nearly 200 residents. You would expect that these would be well recorded in the cemetery but to date we have located only one memorial with any reference to the tragedy. Young Percy Hatcher, of Newland Road, memorial states that he “Died of the fever”, this being the only reference in the cemetery. This can be explained by the fact that most of the casualties were buried in “pauper graves” and no headstones were ever erected. Indeed, most graves have been reused, some many times! It is also interesting to note that young Percy’s records list him as being the “son of his mother”; normally this would be the “son of his father”. On his grave marker it states that the memorial was “erected by his Father” with no mention of his mother. Possibly a little domestic strife I think!

There has been much written recently about the wonderful vaulted tomb located in Broadwater Cemetery of Molly Corbett. Since the burial records have become available on DVD it has been possible to do some further research. As usual with this type of research each answer produces even more questions.

Molly Corbett was born on 11 May 1912 and died on 5th Jan 1928 and the inscription on her tomb states she was 16 years old, obviously this is not so. On checking the burial records we find that Molly had died in Switzerland and had not been buried in the magnificent vault until 13 May 1929, a full 16 months after she died.

Her Father, Maxwell Campbell Corbett was born on 5th Dec 1888 and died 23 Jan 1944. From the burial records we find that he was a Mining Engineer and had died in Mexico City and he was not buried with Molly until 30 Jun 1947, some 30 months after his death.

Molly’s Mother Eileen Kathleen Veronica Corbett died in Brisbane, Australia on 29 May 1985, aged 93, and joined Molly and Maxwell in the family vault on 25 Jun 1985.

The Corbett’s were obviously very rich but to date we have found nothing to connect them to Worthing other than the tomb. In the coming weeks/months Mrs Debra Hillman, a local family historian, will be trying to discover the reason for the long delays between death and burial and what the family connection to Worthing is. The gravediggers who conducted the internment of Molly’s mother claim that Molly was in fact buried in the vault in a glass coffin but we have seen no proof of this claim.

Another interesting piece of research by Paul Holden of the Sentinel informs us of the very eccentric but generous Ann Thwaites. She was a great benefactor to the poor and laid the foundation stone of Worthing s first hospital, The Infirmary, in Chapel Road. In 1861 it is reported that she supplied free coals over the winter to every poor person in the neighbourhood. Ann lived in Charmandean House, but her philanthropism was overshadowed by the fact that in later life she turned into a raving eccentric. Believing herself to the Bride of Christ, Mrs Thwaites turned the bedroom of her London apartment into a reception room for the Saviour. And when the moon was full, she would dress completely in white and order her coachman to drive her along what is today the A27 to the River Adur and back. Precisely why was not explained. Her beautiful gravestone clearly states that she was a Mrs. but there is no mention of her husband in the cemetery records or indeed on the actual gravestone. Also the name of her house is stated as being Charman Dean on her grave.

As you would expect with any seaside town the cemetery records many tragedies. On 19th April 1877 the records inform us that 27 year old Elizabeth Marley, a domestic servant was “found drowned on the beach at Worthing.” No address is recorded.

On Wednesday 14th November 1894, Worthing witnessed a terrible storm that resulted in the total loss of 490 ton steamer named “The Zadne.” It is uncertain what happened to the ship but 11 bodies were washed up on Worthing’s beach. A boat was witnessed by Worthing residents, with a single person board, trying to reach the shore. A mighty wave flipped the boat over and the solitary man was lost to the sea. One body was repatriated to South Wales but the remainder were buried in Broadwater Cemetery and a memorial was paid for from public subscription. The funeral was attended by several thousand people who lined the route of the procession, led by the Salvation Army Band. It was described as “an impressive and pathetic sight”. Unfortunately the fine anchor that adorned it has been vandalised recently.

Famous authors and gifted musicians/singers are interred;

Richard Jeffries was born at Coate, near Swindon in 1848 but suffered ill health and moved to Sussex for the fresh air. He died in Goring in 1887 aged just 38. Today, the house where he died, called Seaview at the time, is in Jeffries Lane, and has a plaque on the façade recording the connection.

The inscription on his grave reads; “To the honoured memory of the prose poet of England’s fields and woodlands” A naturalist, he wrote a plethora of books about the England’s countryside and he is forever linked with William Henry Hudson who is also buried in this cemetery.

William Henry Hudson was one of Britain’s greatest nature writers but was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina of English parents in 1841. His powers of description when writing about the countryside were said to be unrivalled. He died in 1922 and expressed a wish to be buried near Richard Jeffries but this was not possible as that part of the cemetery was full. He claimed to have seen the ghost of Richard Jeffries while walking near Goring Church. He visited Worthing many times and indeed his invalid wife died at 3 Woodlea Road. He also lived at 8 Bedford Row and “The Cottage”, Park Road. His greatest work was “Nature in Downland” and he also helped found the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. There is a memorial to him and Jeffries at the entrance to the cemetery and a Garden of Remembrance in the North West Corner.

Edward Lloyd, known as the “Prince of Tenors” who retired to Worthing to die but said “I found Worthing not a place to die but it is very much a place to keep alive in”. Edward came out of retirement to sing at King George V Coronation in Westminster Abbey in 1911, the very place he had started his singing career. He was a modest man and many did not even know he lived in Worthing; this prompted the Worthing Observer to write; “We trust he may forgive our intruding upon his seclusion but feel justified as a matter of duty to inform the public of the presence of the brilliant personage they have without knowing it, in their midst at his charming residence in the western part of the Borough.” Edward lived in Heene Road in what was to become a guest house known as “Delgany”. He retired to Worthing when he was 55 (1900) and died 31st March 1927.

I have given you a very brief account of what we have discovered so far. There are nearly 25,000 stories to be told, One hundred and forty six years of Worthing’s history to be researched. I have no doubt that it will not be completed in my time but I do hope that the work started by the “Friends of Broadwater and Worthing Cemetery” will continue so that future generations will have the opportunity of discovering what Worthing was like in years gone by and what varied and gifted people lived in the town.

So why bother? Does it really matter? Who cares anyway?

The answers to the above must by now be obvious to you. We, The Friends, do bother because we think it matters and our numbers indicate that a good many people do care. If you would like to join us please complete the applications, we can cater for all interests, all age groups and competences; every one of you will have something to offer.

Tom Wye