James Maybrick Jack the Ripper Suspect

It is twenty five years since a diary surfaced which was claimed to have been written by Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick confessing to be Jack the Ripper. Significant doubt was cast on the authenticity of the diary at the time. However researchers now say they have uncovered further evidence to suggest it is genuine, as reported in the Daily Telegraph.

James Maybrick Jack the Ripper

The son of an engineer, Maybrick was born in Church Alley, Liverpool in 1838 and educated at Liverpool Collegiate. Along with his brothers, Maybrick went into cotton trading and in the 1870s went to live in America, setting up a branch of the firm in Norfolk Virginia. It was while there that he contracted malaria, leading him to taking medication that contained arsenic and he became addicted to this drug for the rest of his life.

Maybrick was sailing back to Liverpool in March 1880 when he met Florence Chandler, daughter of a banker from Alabama, on board the ship. Despite him being 42 and her just 17, they fell in love and married the following year in London. In 1882 Florence gave birth to a son John, then four years later a daughter Gladys was born.

After the birth of Gladys relations became strained between the Maybricks. James was spending a lot of time away from home due to his business and resumed affairs with previous mistresses. Florence then engaged in an illicit liaison with another cotton broker, Alfred Brierley, who lived in Hope Street.  They even spent time in a hotel in London together and went to the Grand National.

In 1889 Maybrick’s health deteriorated and he died on 11th May that year after being treated by doctors for dyspepsia. Maybrick’s brother Michael, a well known singer and composer, was convinced there was more to his death than met the eye. After establishing that Florence had bought arsenic and becoming aware of a letter she sent to Brierly three days before James’s death, he reported the matter to police.

Maybrick’s body was exhumed from Anfield cemetery and traces of arsenic found. Florence was charged with his murder and in one of the most publicised trials ever seen in England, she was found guilty and sentenced to death.

On appeal Florence’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, as the Home Secretary acknowledged that there was sufficient doubt as to whether James died as a result of arsenic administered by Florence. She now found herself facing a life sentence for administering poison, even though she had never been tried for that offence. After serving fifteen years in jail, she was released and returned to America and lived in Connecticut until her death in 1941.

James Maybrick Jack the Ripper

When a the existence of a diary came to light in 1992 that was said to have been written by Maybrick and confessing to being Jack the Ripper, one of the reasons given for its authenticity was that the last Ripper killing was in November 1888. Despite nearly all ‘ripperologists’ claiming it was an elaborate forgery, its publisher Robert Smith has always believed it to be genuine and has now published a new book offering updated evidence.

After his delayed postmortem in 1889 Maybrick was re-interred Anfield cemetery where it remained virtually forgotten about for over one hundred years. However following the publicity of the diary in the 1990s his headstone was vandalised and it is now smashed in two. Maybrick is buried in the grave alongside his parents and youngest brother Edwin.



Sandblasting or Laser Etching

When it comes to adding images to memorials, a consideration that needs to be taken is whether to have them done by sandblasting or laser etching. There are pros and cons of each technique, usually dependent on the type of image you need and the material the headstone is  made from.

Sandblasting is a more modern process used for lettering granite memorials and can be used for adding images to memorials that require being coloured or gilded. A stencil is cut on a rubber tape this can be hand drawn and cut out by hand or used on a computer with a machine similar to a printer using a sharp blade to cut out the desired design. The rubber tape is then lined up and affixed to the memorial. The areas that have been cut are then removed, using compressed air and sandblast grit. With a lot of skill the design is then sandblasted onto the memorial. For lettering and for a coloured design the sandblasting must all be taken to the same depth to give a quality finish.

Sandblasting or Laser Etching

It is possible to do a shaded sandblast design. The initial process is similar but the attention to detail during the sandblasting process is very skilled as it is done in layers. This means only a highly skilled craftsmen can offer this service. Sandblasting is best carried out in workshop conditions in a concealed unit and using dust apparatus in a dry environment. The process can be done in the cemetery for additional lettering or for adding designs but only on a dry day and the area must be enclosed so no harm can be caused to surrounding memorials or to passers by.

Some masons will sandblast marble, slate and stone but at Sarsfield we we do not, as it is not the traditional method for adding designs or lettering to these materials. Traditionally these materials are hand cut and hand carved, so at Sarsfields we do like to try and keep to traditional practices as and when we can.

Sandblasting or laser etching

Laser etching is a process for adding designs to granite memorials. This involves a specialist machine which through a computer and a very fine diamond point can remove the polished surface and the process will place a design on the stone. The design cannot be gilded, but it can be highlighted so the design is more visible. Alternatively a highly skilled artistic mason can colour it so that if you run your finger across the design it has no depth to it and, you can barely feel it. This process must be carried out in a clean workshop environment as any dust can effect the process and damage the design or the diamond point.

We at Sarsfields can offer advice regarding ornamentation as to which process is most suitable for your particular choice of memorial. We are able to produce a wide range of bespoke sandblasted and laser etched designs to help personalise your memorial. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide you with a free no obligation quote.

All Saints Church Childwall Graves

All Saints Church Childwall in Liverpool has one of the city’s oldest churchyards and contains the graves of some prominent people. They include some of the most notable Liverpool businessmen of the Victorian era, a famous Everton footballer, poet and the city’s first bishop.

All Saints Church Childwall

Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery is one of the most important art collections outside of London. It opened in the 1870s and the benefactor was Andrew Barclay Walker, who was involved in his father’s business Walkers of Warrington. Walker was twice Mayor of Liverpool that decade and knighted for his public works. He lived at Gateacre Grange and was buried at All Saints when he died in 1893.

Another businessman who died in the 1890s and is buried in All Saints Childwall is Sir Arthur Bower Forwood. He was a shipowner trading with the Americas and India, as well as Conservative MP for Ormskirk. A keen advocate of old age pensions, universal suffrage and council housing, he lived at The Priory in Gateacre. A statue of him stands in St John’s Gardens in Liverpool city centre.

The only player to play for one of the two big Merseyside football clubs and represent England at both football and cricket was Jack Sharp. He signed for Everton from Aston Villa in 1899 and played over 300 times for them in the next eleven years, scoring 68 league goals. After finishing playing he opened a sports shop in Whitechapel in Liverpool, which supplied playing strips and match balls to Everton and Liverpool. He died of heart failure in 1938 aged just 59 and when his funeral took place at All Saints, Childwall, football clubs sent wreaths in their own colours.

All Saints Church Childwall

Sir William Watson was a poet who caused controversy in Liverpool in 1924 when he was invited to write a poem to raise funds for the new cathedral. The diocese did not expect what he eventually came up with, a piece criticising the fact that there were children on the city’s streets that were hardly fed and clothed, yet wealth was being spent on God. Watson was born in Yorkshire in 1858 and had a nomadic childhood, his parents eventually settling in Aigburth. He was knighted in 1917 after his writings in support of the war effort and prime minister Lloyd George. However he had twice been overlooked for poet laureate due to his political leanings. When he died in 1935 he was living in Sussex, but was buried in his parents’ grave in All Saints.

All Saints Church Childwall

Watson’s views on Liverpool Cathedral would not have pleased Bishop John C. Ryle had he still been alive. Ryle was the first bishop of Liverpool and appointed in 1880. He told the prime minister, Lord Beaconsfield, that he was too old at 64 but received the response that he had a good constitution. Ryle was known for his ability to engage with all classes in simple terms and an advocate of church reform. He died  from a stroke in June 1900, three months after he had retired. He worked out of St Peter’s pro-cathedral in Church Street until he retired in March 1900. Three months later he died of a stroke at the age of 84.

All Saints Church Childwall is situated at the junction of Childwall Abbey Road and Score Lane, Liverpool, L16 0JW.



Mosaic Memorials Unique Bespoke Designs

Graves containing mosaic memorials have been around for centuries. However, despite their durability, they are are not commonly seen in cemeteries.


Some examples of the earliest mosaic memorials can be found at the Bardo museum in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, which contains Christian tombstones dating back to the 4th or 5th century AD. More recently, at the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris, there is memorial of a giant mosaic cat. This was made by artist Niki de Sant Phalle to mark the grave of her assistant Ricardo Menon, who died of AIDS in 1989.

Recently Sarsfield Memorials has been commissioned by a family to produce a bespoke memorial for a very special little boy. They wanted a mosaic in the design of a star and had found an artist to work with them and Sarsfield to produce a design of their choice.

The artist Tracey spent time with the family discussing their request. She invited them to her studio to make the design, cutting and shaping the glass then positioning it within the star template. They also made their own mosaic pieces to take away and keep to remember their day.

Mosaic memorials

Tracey finished off the design in her studio then brought it to Sarsfield’s workshop and we inlaid the glass mosaic star into the slate headstone. The outer edge of the star and areas within its shape are made of iridescent glass. There is also glass with gold leaf in it, which beautifully reflects the sunlight allowing it to shine so brightly.

Tracey welcomes new commissions and would like to work with families and masons to produce individual designs for glass or ceramic mosaic memorials. These can be inlaid into headstones, leaving a personal design that can be symbolic to a family and add a permanent colour to memorials.

At Sarsfield Memorials we welcome any enquiries regarding bespoke or standard design memorials that include mosaic art, giving you the opportunity to produce something special for your own memorial. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

The Grave of William Ratcliffe VC

Wednesday 14th June 2017 marked one hundred years to the day since William Ratcliffe carried out an act of bravery for which he received the Victoria Cross. To mark the centenary a commemorative stone was unveiled at the Church of Our Lady & St Nicholas in Liverpool.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Sing

Photo courtesy of Catherine Sing

William was born in Newhall Street in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle in 1884 and educated at the nearby St Vincent de Paul school. He worked briefly as a docker but joined the army at the age of seventeen and immediately saw action, serving in the Second Boer War in South Africa.

After twelve years in the army William went back to the docks but enlisted at the outbreak of World War One in 1914. He joined the South Lancashire Regiment, initially fighting in northern France where developed a reputation of somebody who was fearless.


In April 1917 William was awarded the Military Medal after taking out seven snipers who were firing on his company during the Battle of Messines in Belgium. Two months later in the same battle he carried out the action for which he received the Victoria Cross. After an enemy trench had been captured, William located an enemy machine-gun which was firing on his comrades from the rear, and single-handed, on his own initiative, immediately rushed the machine-gun position and bayoneted the crew. He then brought the gun back into action in the front line.williamratcliffe

One of Williams’s comrades, who died shortly afterwards from his wounds, told the Catholic Herald: “We had a hot time of it. We fought our way through a torrent of shell fire, and found ourselves raked flank and rear by machine-guns posted in commanding positions. One of the deadliest of these troublesome guns was posted in the rear and was playing havoc with our troops.  He dashed straight at the position and tackled the crew of the gun on his own. After a fierce struggle he killed or drove them off then picked up the gun and started back with it. He was fired on at once by the enemy and it was a miracle how he got through for all the time the bullets were raining around him and we never expected him to get through it. Once he tripped and fell. We thought he was done for. He wasn’t. He rose again and with a rush covered the last stretch of ground between him and safety.”

In October 1917 William was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V and then attended a dinner in Liverpool given in his honour by the National Union of Dock Labourers. When he returned to civilian life  William went back to the docks to work but had an industrial accident and had to retire.

William Ratcliffe VC

William never married and lived with his sister and her husband in Dingle and then at St Oswald’s Gardens, Old Swan. In 1956, to celebrate its centennial, all living Victoria Cross recipients were invited to attend a review with Queen Elizabeth II in London’s Hyde Park. William initially declined his invitation as he couldn’t afford a suit, but when a local gents outfitters stepped in to provide one he agreed to go. He told reporters that he felt a right toff given he had a top hat as well.

William Ratcliffe died in 1963, falling ill whilst on his way to a public house in Old Swan. He was 79 years old. A requiem mass was held at St Oswald’s Church and he was buried in Allerton cemetery alongside his niece.

William’s VC medal is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. His name is commemorated on a Roll of Honour in Liverpool Town Hall that contains the names of all fourteen recipients of the Victoria Cross born in the city. A tablet and portrait of him that used to be on display in the TGWU building in St James Place was lost when it was demolished. He is now remembered again though thanks to the memorial that has been unveiled at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas.






Chinese Labour Corps Graves

In April 2017 a was launched to raise awareness of the role played by Chinese workers during the First World War. The eighteen month project aims to leave a lasting legacy of remembrance for an estimated 100,000 Chinese Labour Corps who assisted British forces on the Western Front.


The project was launched on 19th April by the Meridian Society, which aims to promote Chinese culture. The date was important as it was the centenary of the first contingent of Chinese Labour Corps (CLCs) arriving in France during World War I. Director Peng Whelan told those who attended “Our purpose is to honour this vast body of men who went to the Front and contributed to the cause. A labourer with his shovel is no less a man, no less a hero, than a soldier with his gun. And his work is no less a contribution to the cause.”

For nineteen months CLCs carried out a number of essential tasks for a British army that was severely depleted after more than two years of heavy fighting and losses.  They included digging the trenches and unloading munitions and supplies, putting themselves at risk of being caught in the crossfire. The CLCs had already endured a hazardous voyage to Europe taking up to three months which involved crossing the Pacific Ocean, journeying through Canada by rail, then taking another ship from Halifax to Liverpool.

When armistice was signed in November 1918 CLCs, who had been contracted for three years, remained in France and Belgium to clear munitions from battlefields, recover dead soldiers and lay out cemeteries. It was estimated that 2,000 CLCs died in Europe, many of them as a result of the Spanish Flu pandemic that came soon after peace was declared.

Chinese Labour Corps Graves Anfield Cemetery (5)

There are five CLC graves in Liverpool’s Anfield Cemetery, three of them having died at Belmont Road Military Hospital after falling victim to a mumps outbreak. On 28th March 2017, representatives from the academies of Liverpool and Everton football clubs attended a special service there along with members of the See Yep Association. White flowers were laid at the graves, the Last Post was played on a Chinese flute and candles lit adorned with the crests of both clubs.

The CLC Project has been awarded a lottery grant of just under £100,000 and is supported by the Chinese Embassy, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Imperial War Museum. It aims to produce a film and booklet for distribution to libraries, museums and schools so the contribution of the CLCs can be remembered for generations to come.


Billy Scott – Everton’s 1st Cup Winning keeper

Billy Scott, who kept goal for Everton when they won the FA Cup for the first time in 1906, has recently had his grave rededicated in Anfield Cemetery.


Born in Belfast in 1882, Billy won the Irish League and Irish Cup with Linfield before joining Everton in 1904. An Irish international, he competed with Welshman Leigh Roose during his first season when Everton finished second in the league. However in 1905-06 established himself as the club’s first choice keeper.

In the semi-final of the FA Cup, Everton beat rivals Liverpool 2-0 to set up a clash with Newcastle United at the Crystal Palace.  Newcastle were the favourites, but struggled to cope with the windy conditions and Billy had very little to do.  Alex Young, who had already had one goal ruled out for offside, scored after an hour and it was enough to win the game for Everton.

Billy helped Everton to the cup final again the following year but they were beaten in the final by Sheffield Wednesday. He was also part of the Everton side that finished second in the league in 1909 and 1912. In total he played 289 times for the club.

billy scott

Photo by Kieran Smith

In the summer of 1912 Billy made a controversial move to Leeds City. They were in the second division and paid him a full year’s salary at a time when players were meant to receive less wages  during summer. He was eventually forced by the football authorities to pay the excess money back and during his two years in Yorkshire he failed to win promotion.

Billy returned to Merseyside in 1914 and joined Liverpool as reserve keeper, but he never played a competitive fixture for the first team in the 1914-15. The Football League was suspended during World War I but he did play 27 times for Liverpool in regional games before retiring from playing in 1919.

Billy was capped by Ireland 25 times and in 1913 he was a member of the first Irish side to beat England, 2-1 at Windsor Park. After his playing career finished he remained in Liverpool, working alongside his wife in the licensed trade.

After dying of pneumonia in 1936 Billy Scott was buried in Anfield Cemetery in a grave that was left unmarked. The Everton Heritage Society, with the help of the club and relatives, have now arranged for the grave to be rededicated and a new memorial was unveiled on 17th May 2017.



The Grave of Alderman Thomas Menlove

One of Liverpool’s most famous addresses is 251 Menlove Avenue, the childhood home of John Lennon. The boulevard on which he grew up was developed in the 1920s and named after a local councillor who had died the previous decade and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Wavertree.

Menlove wasMenlove Avenue born at Wockley Hall in Ellesmere, Shropshire in 1840 an educated at Shrewsbury School. He came to Liverpool in 1863 and set up a drapery in Church Street, later opening a branch in London Road. He did a lot of trade locally as well as on the trans-Atlantic liners.

Menlove first entered public service in the early 1880s as a member of the Select Vestry, taking an active interest in the care of the aged poor and young children that were looked after by the parochial authorities. In 1886 he was elected as a Conservative to the city council and appointed as a justice of the peace in 1892.

In 1898 Menlove was appointed as Chairman of the Health Committee. Amongst the tasks he had to oversee in his role as Chairman of the Health Committee where the sampling of tinned meats from America, inspecting sanitary conditions in boarding houses and encouraging vaccinations. Menlove continued to be a JP and had an unusual case in 1899 when seven teenagers appeared before him having been caught playing football in Smithdown Road. He told them there were plenty of green spaces nearby and fined them two shillings each.

Menlove retired from his business in 1906 but continued his public duties. Lancashire Lives described him as an excellent city gentleman who was of courtesy and good grace. He lived with his wife and a servant at Aston House, Hunters Lane, Wavertree and was actively involved with the nearby Holy Trinity Church. By 1913 his health Menlove Avenuewas failing and he resigned from the his chairman role, but remained an alderman.  He died at his home on 30th November that year.

When he died his funeral took place at Holy Trinity Church and he was buried in the graveyard. The strong wind and rain meant that Archdeacon Madden struggled to make himself heard as he read the burial service at the graveside. He left a total estate valued at £14,545 the equivalent to £1.5 million today.

In the 1920s, Liverpool Corporation began developing wide boulevard type roads with tram tracks running down the middle. These were developed due to the anticipated expansion of the city into rural areas. One of those was an old track was widened to become Menlove Avenue, where John Lennon lived at number 251 from 1946 to 1963.



Jewish Cemeteries in Liverpool

Over the years there are believed to have been nine Jewish cemeteries in Liverpool. Currently only two are open to new burials and of the others, some are in a poor state and others no longer there at all.

The Liverpool Jewish Archives are held by the Liverpool Record Office and date back to 1780. The first Jewish cemetery of the Old Hebrew Congregation was in the garden of a house in Upper Frederick Street, with the first recorded interment taking place in 1789. The congregation also had a cemetery in Oakes Street, off London Road, which had its first burial in 1802.


Oakes Street closed in 1837 but burials continued at Upper Frederick Street for the rest of the 19th Century. However the more prominent Jewish cemetery during this period was at Deane Road, which was consecrated the year Oakes Street stopped taking burials. Deane Road contains the graves of many eminent Jewish Victorians, including David Lewis who founded the Lewis’s chain of department stores and Charles Mozley, Liverpool’s first Jewish Mayor.

Deane Road cemetery stopped being used regularly when Broadgreen Cemetery opened in 1904. The last interment was in 1929 but it is still there today and has undergone an extensive restoration thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This has seen the renovation of the archway entrance, cleaning and re-fixing of headstones and the opening of a small visitor centre.

After the opening of Broadgreen Cemetery, all those buried at Oakes Street and Upper Frederick Street were exhumed and re-interred. No trace of those cemeteries exist anymore. Broadgreen remains the cemetery of the Old Hebrew Congregation, who continue to worship at the Princes Road Synagogue, a magnificent structure consecrated in 1874 and the only Grade I listed building in Toxteth.

The Liverpool New Hebrew Congregation was founded after breaking away from the Old Hebrew Congregation in the middle of the 19th Century. For eighty years they worshipped in a synagogue at Hope Place on a site that is now occupied by the Unity Theatre. Their first cemetery was at Green Lane in Tuebrook.

Jewish Cemetery Entrance, Everton

Green Lane Cemetery is still there today with the earliest headstone dating from 1842. However the site is sadly sealed off and overgrown. It has been out of use since 1921, when Long Lane Cemetery was opened, next to the city council run Everton Cemetery in Fazakerley. Amongst the interments at Long Lane is Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles who died in 1967 at the age of just 32. The cemetery has not been used since 2008 when the congregation became defunct.

There are two independent Jewish burial grounds in Liverpool. Rice Lane Jewish Cemetery is situated off Hazeldale Road in Walton and closed in 1983. There is also a dedicated Jewish section at West Derby Cemetery in Lowerhouse Lane which remains open for burials in reserved plots.

Finally in South Liverpool, Springwood Jewish Cemetery is on the other side of Springwood Avenue from Allerton Cemetery. This is used by the Childwall and Allerton congregations, which worship at synagogues in Dunbabin Road and Mather Avenue respectively.

Sarsfield Memorials is proud to provide memorials to all denominations. We can supply headstone and slab covers with inscriptions in both English and Hebrew. Examples of some of the Jewish memorials can be seen here and if you wold like to discuss further please contact us, we will be happy to provide a free no obligation quote.










Cemeteries at Easter

At Easter cemetery visits often take place for the first time of the year by people going to their loved ones graves.  As a Spring holiday, it can be the perfect opportunity to visit the cemetery or churchyard to tend to the graves which have been neglected  during the cold damp winter months.

The weather at Easter is getting warmer and the days are longer and brighter. This is reflected in the types of flowers that are traditionally placed on graves at Easter. Bright lilies and daisies are a common theme in Easter floral arrangements. They signify love, hope and purity  with Christ’s resurrection being reflected by the single flower stem of the lily.

The milder and brighter weather also gives the opportunity to tidy the area around the graves, removing any weeds and dead flowers, and clean out the memorial pots. People may also consider arranging to have the headstone professionally cleaned or have other restoration work carried out.

Around the world, there are some different traditions when it comes to visiting the cemeteries at Easter.  In Russia, where the winters are particularly cold, families regularly use the occasion as the opportunity to visit cemeteries. However the Orthodox Church strongly discourages this, reminding people that Easter is the faith’s most important religious festival and should be spent in worship, not visiting graves.

In Connecticut in the north eastern United States, sunrise services have been taking place at Abington Cemetery on Easter morning for as long as anybody can remember. Despite the often freezing temperatures, scores of people turn out to hear through loudspeakers a sermon given by the minister from the local 18th century congregational church. Prayers are said and hymns sung, then many of the worshippers go to the church to warm up with coffee and donuts.

The Chinese festival of Qingming sometimes coincides with Easter. Sometimes known as Tombsweeping, this is an occasion when Chinese communities around the world visit cemeteries and tidy up the graves, then offer food and drink to their loved ones.

Once Easter is over, summer is on the horizon. That is when cemeteries become much brighter as leaves grown on trees and plants flower. They are open longer, giving families more time to visit their loved ones graves in far more pleasant surroundings that go some way to helping the life be celebrated, rather just the loss be mourned.