Graves of St John’s Church Knotty Ash

The churchyard of St John’s Church Knotty Ash contains a number of notable graves. It is said to have more former mayors of Liverpool buried there than any other church in the city.

The church opened in 1836 but by 1890 the graveyard was full. A local resident, Miss A M Thompson, purchased an adjoining field and donated it to the church, allowing more burials to take place from 1895 onwards. There are now over 4,000 people buried there, a quarter of them children.

St Johns Church Knotty Ash

One of the vaults in the graveyard was owned by the Gladstone family of Court Hey. Among those interred in the vault is Robertson Gladstone, who was Mayor in 1842-43. Robertson was the older brother of William Gladstone, who was Prime Minister on four occasions in the latter part of the 19th Century. Although Robertson attended Eton like his brother, he had no desire to go into politics on a national level and instead became a successful merchant and property developer in Liverpool.

Thomas Littledale was only 32 years old when he became Mayor in 1851.His father, also Thomas, had been one of the founders of the church and was Mayor in 1826-27. Thomas junior was Chairman of the Dock Committee and in his spare time was enthusiastic about watersports. It was whilst following this passion that he died unexpectedly in 1861 at the age of 42. The cause of his death was a ruptured blood vessel and it occurred while he was in London to watch the University Boat Race. He is also interred in a family vault at the church.

One of the most difficult to pronounce graves is that of Ferdinand Schwerdtfeger, who died in 1875 at the age of 53. He was the headmaster of a small school in Haymans Green in West Derby and his memorial was erected by former pupils.

A crew member from the Titanic, whose body was never knowingly recovered, has his name on a memorial in the churchyard. Norman Harrison was a second engineer who lived at Baden Road in Old Swan. He was 38 years old when he died and left a widow but no children.

There are nine war graves at the churchyard maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission;six soldiers, one airman and two sailors.

Finally, one of the most prominent memorials that can be seen clearly from the road is a late 19th Century Celtic cross. This marks the grave of John Bencke, a hemp and flax trader who lived in West Derby. Originally from Germany, he died at the age of 79 in 1894.


Cremation Memorials

The number of people choosing to be cremated when they die is increasing in the United Kingdom, with the current figure being 75% compared to 34% in 1960. Along with this though, there a trend for ashes to be interred in cemeteries rather than scattered. More cemeteries are setting aside separate sections solely for this purpose and cremation memorials at are now a common sight.

cremation memorials

When it comes to remembering a loved one, cremation memorials offer far more flexibility than regular grave plots. Cremated remains plots can be bought and the ashes can be interred months or even years after a death, unlike with most regular burials. It is also possible to scatter some of the ashes at a loved one’s special place, then inter the remainder with a memorial so there is a permanent place to pay respects.

An example of where a lot of cremation memorials are being installed by Sarsfield on behalf of families some years after the death is at Anfield Cemetery, next to one of Liverpool’s two crematoriums. The city council allows for the purchase of colonnade niches there for  the storage of caskets, covered by a memorial plaque. These can be purchased for five or ten years at a time and can be costly to keep renewing. In the longer term, a 75 year lease on a plot works out cheaper.  We are now taking a lot of orders for new cremation memorials here for such circumstances. These memorials can take the form of a simple headstone that will then have the original niche plaque attached to it.

Plots in cemeteries for cremated remains are cheaper than for regular graves, but they are also of a size whereby it is possible to install more than a simple headstone there. There is now scope to add kerbsets and small ornaments to cremation memorials, meaning there is a place to remember the deceased person  that has its own uniqueness, but is also of a small enough size to be easy to maintain.

Of Liverpool city council’s six cemeteries, those at Anfield, Allerton and Kirkdale that have sections specifically for cremated remains plots. If you are considering installing a cremation memorial please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.



The Grave of Sir Andrew Barclay Walker

Sir Andrew Barclay Walker, benefactor of Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, is buried in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Childwall.

Walker’s father Peter Walker was a brewer from Ayrshire and the family moved to Liverpool in the 1830s when he was in his early teens. The following decade father and son went into business in Warrington, setting up Peter Walker & Sons, which later became Walkers of Warrington.

Walker Art Gallery

In 1873 Walker was elected Mayor of Liverpool and commemorated his year in office by paying for the construction of the Walker Art Gallery, which opened in 1877. The architect was Cornelius Sherlock, who the previous decade had designed Walker’s twenty one bedroom mansion,The Grange, in Gateacre. Walker was coming to the end of his second term as Mayor when the gallery opened and that same year he was also knighted by Queen Victoria.

Walker had wanted to make art accessible to the masses and over a quarter of a million people, mainly from the working classes, visited in the first four months. The gallery was not his only generous gift to Liverpool. He also funded the engineering laboratories at the University of Liverpool.

At the time of his death at the age of 68 in 1893, Walker was estimated to be worth £3,000,000 which is equivalent to over £350 million today. He was buried in the churchyard of All Saints Church in Childwall, Liverpool alongside his first wife.

In 1960 Walkers merged with Joshua Tetley to form Tetley Walker. Further mergers have since seen it become part of the Carlsberg UK group, which produces Tetley Bitter.

The Walker Art Gallery is now one of the finest in Europe, open daily for visitors with no entrance fee. It has paintings dating back to the 14th Century and amongst its exhibits is W F Yeames’s And When Did You Last See Your Father, depicting the questioning of a Royalist family who had been captured by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.



Thank You From Sarsfield Memorials

The past year has been another busy one at Sarsfield Memorials, where we always endeavour to do the best we can for our customers. The death of a loved one is extremely painful but our aim is to provide a service that is as comforting as possible for people choosing how to mark a grave.

One of our most moving tributes was a mosaic in the design of a star that was placed on the headstone of a little boy’s grave.  The finished design was inlaid into the slate memorial and the family were involved in the process right through from initial design to completion. We have also added a smiley flower image onto a granite headstone of a young lady whose life was taken so soon. Images such as these show that memorials nowadays are not necessarily about mourning, but also celebrating the life.

Mosaic memorials

As well as the regular work we undertake installing new headstones , Sarsfield Memorials has again been involved in the renovation of a memorial that has an interesting historical context this year.  In November we completed the restoration of the long lost memorial to William Whitford. He was a local Liberal politician and one of the directors of Everton Football Club who pledged money towards the purchase of land for a new stadium when the club left Anfield in 1892. This follows on from 2016, when we replaced the headstone at the grave of Alex Raisbeck, captain of Liverpool FC’s first title winning side in 1901.

At Sarsfield Memorials we have continued to offer advice on a bespoke basis. Whether it be best to communicate personally through home visits, on the telephone or by email, we have continued to work with what suits our customers individual needs best. We appreciate that for some it is easier to sit with us and go through designs, having the process explained, but for others this may be too upsetting and it is preferable to correspond by email at their pace.

We are always humbled by the feedback that has been received after a memorial has been added or renovated. In December we have received a lovely thank you card which says ‘Thank you so much, my parents grave is lovely. With sincere thanks and very best wishes’. We also receive  a lot of online feedback, the following is an example of one of the many five star reviews we have received over the year on our Facebook page.

We travelled from Yorkshire to meet with Ursula to discuss a memorial for my parents grave. After looking at various memorials it gave us a good idea what we really wanted. Ursula was most helpful and gave us a lot of guidance. We arrived home to make a decision on which memorial to have. Looking at the brochure that Ursula had given us we decided exactly what we wanted. After this everything was done by email, the efficiency of this company has been unbelievable. Thursday this week we received an email from Ursula to let me know the memorial had been fitted. I was completely overwhelmed for the short time they had taken to complete. We travelled over today to meet with Ursula and to see the memorial, all I can say is it is beautiful and the workmanship impeccable. I cannot recommend Sarsfield Memorials enough the way Ursula has organised everything to perfection and very professional. We are both so happy with the easy and pleasant outcome and the friendliness of Ursula.
Thank you Ursula and the Team.

2018 will be the 71st year for Sarsfield Memorials, which has been a family run business for three generations. We are Liverpool’s oldest independent monumental masons and hope we will be around for many more to come providing relief to our customers at an upsetting time.





Ellan Vannin Victim’s Grave

Amongst the graves at St James’ Cemetery, overlooked by Liverpool Cathedral, is a victim of the sinking of the SS Ellan Vannin, which went down during a storm in 1909.

Fifteen year old Ernest Allen was returning to Liverpool from the Isle of Man with his mother. They had been spending a week at their holiday cottage and were looking forward to getting back to their home in Slater Street where they lived with Ernest’s father who was a plumber. 

Ellan Vannin

The SS Ellan Vannin  sailed from Douglas for Liverpool at 0115 on 3rd December 1909. She was carrying fifteen passengers, 21 crew and sixty tons of cargo and mail. The weather was stormy but the captain did not expect this to disrupt the crossing.

The SS Ellan Vannin was the smallest ship of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. She sailed from Douglas for Liverpool at 0115 on 3rd December 1909 carrying 15 passengers, 21 crew and 60 tons of cargo and mail

The weather was stormy but the captain, James Teare, did not anticipate any problems. However there was a deterioration and as she got to the Mersey Bar winds reached eighty miles an hour and waves were 25 feet by 0630 hours. The crew struggled to steer her in the pitch black conditions and driving sleet and she broke up. Temperatures were just two degrees and all on board were drowned, nobody stood a chance.

Divers only recovered three bodies from the wreck, which was under only forty feet of water. Two of those were still in their beds and a crew member was in the boiler room.  It was estimated that the ship, first built in 1860 as the paddle steamer Mona’s Isle, sank in less than thirty seconds.

Not all of the bodies that were washed away were recovered but those that were had their burials and headstones paid for out of the disaster fund. Ernest’s memorial contains reference to his mother Mary, whose body remained lost at sea. 

An enquiry cleared Captain Teare of any blame and concluded that extreme weather was the cause of the disaster. Traditionally the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company reuse names for vessels but have never done so with Ellan Vannin. A song written and recorded by Liverpool folk group The Spinners commemorates the disaster.



William Whitford Grave Restored

The grave of one of the men who contributed to Everton Football Club’s move from Anfield to Goodison Park in 1892 has recently been restored. After being hidden behind bushes for many years the memorial to the club’s director William Whitford is now fully visible again and has beWilliam Whitforden restored by Sarsfield Memorials on behalf of his family.

Whitford was born in 1845 in County Armagh and educated at Queens College, Belfast and London Hospital. He then came to Liverpool, setting up a medical practice at 37 Shaw Street.

In February 1884 Whitford was a key witness in one of Liverpool’s most notorious murder cases. As medical officer for the parish, he had attended to Thomas Higgins the previous October and issued a death certificate after he died of what was believed to be dysentery. After Thomas’s brother raised suspicions due to his brother being a strong healthy man who had recently had his life insured by his wife, Whitford alerted the coroner. Thomas’s funeral was halted and a postmortem found he had died of arsenic poisoning.

This led to the arrest of his wife Margaret and apprehension ten days later of her sister Catherine Flanagan. The bodies of three others, who had died in recent years soon after life insurance policies were taken out against them, including Catherine’s 22 year old son, were exhumed and traces of arsenic found in each one. Whitford was present at these examinations so he could give a corroborating opinion to what was found by Frederick Lowndes. After a trial at St George’s Hall the two sisters were found guilty of murder and hanged at Kirkdale gaol.

Later that decade Whitford qualified became a consulting surgeon at the Stanley Hospital and Liverpool Skin Cancer Hospital. He married and moved to 47 Shaw Street, where the 1891 census shows him as living with his wife, three young children and four servants. By now he was also involved with the Liberal Party and was chWilliam Whitfordairman of its Everton parliamentary division. He was also a justice of the peace, serving on the licencing bench. As a medical man he had seen the effects of excess alcohol consumption in Liverpool’s courts and was very much one of the Temperance Movement.

Whitford also became involved with the city’s only Football League club, Everton, who won their first championship in 1891. In the second half of the 1891-92 football season the club were in a dispute with John Houlding, the owner of their Anfield ground, over the rent.  Matters cam to a head and on 18th April 1892 the Liverpool Echo reported that guarantees of £1,500 had now been received from a number of gentlemen towards the cost of a new ground for the club. Whitford was one of those who had pledged money towards the cost, his contribution being £50 which equates to £5,850 in 2017.

Rent was not the only issue however, as extensive research by Merseyside football historian Peter Lupson demonstrated in 2009. Many of those who made pledges were, like Whitford, members of the Liberal Party and Temperance Movement.  For over a century it was accepted that rent was the sole reason for Everton’s move away from Anfield, but Lupson showed that Houlding’s occupation as a brewer and owner of the Sandon Hotel near the ground was the root cause of the problem. When Goodison Park opened in September 1892 there was significantly no provision made for the sale of alcohol.William Whitford

Whitford remained a director of Everton for over twenty years and retired to  Sandymount Drive in Wallasey. He died on 15th June 1930 at his home, aged 85. The following day at the police court in Dale Street a vote of condolence to his relatives was proposed  by the Chief Magistrate Mr R J Ward.

After several decades of being hidden by bushes William Whitford’s grave in Anfield Cemetery has now been restored on behalf of family members by Sarsfield Memorials. The memorial makes no reference to his Everton connection, simply referring to him as an MD and JP. Also buried there is his youngest son Herbert, who as part of the Manchester Regiment served in Ypres, Gallipoli and Passchendaele during the First World War and died in 1979.


Blue Coat Liverpool Graves

The Blue Coat Liverpool city centre’s oldest building celebrates its 300th birthday in 2017. The building that is now an arts centre was first opened as the Blue Coat School, a place where the town’s poorest children could be accommodated and learn to read and write.

Blue Coat Liverpool

Sadly there were occasions when some of the children became ill and died. After its opening in 1836 they were buried in plots that had been bought by the school in St James cemetery, which is now overlooked by Liverpool Cathedral. Most of the gravestones in the cemetery have now been removed by Liverpool council, but the two Blue Coat ones are among those that have been placed around the edges.

The Blue Coat gravestones contain the names of 23 children who died between 1867 and 1924, ages ranging from nine to fifteen. Even after the school moved to Church Road in Wavertree in 1906, they continued to bury any children who died in St James cemetery

Blue Coat Liverpool

In 1927 things changed when the school bought a plot in the graveyard Holy Trinity Church, just a short distance along Church Road. The reasoning behind the plot was a tragic one, as it was for the burial of a boy who was said to have foretold his own death.

That summer, eleven year old Charles Saggers was on a tram with his mother and sister returning home for the summer. As they passed Holy Trinity, there was a large crowd of mourners and he asked his sister if there would be a large crowd for his funeral. He was told not to be silly but one of his friends, Danny Ross, who was on the tram remained silent. That was because a few weeks earlier they had been looking at lifelines in the yard and Charles’s was very short.

Blue Coat Liverpool A week later Danny returned to his home in Everton after going to church and was met by Charles’s brother, who had some devastating news. Charles had been run over by a bus near Holywell in North Wales, where he had been staying with some relatives.

When Charles funeral took place at Holy Trinity Church, over one hundred boys were in attendance and older pupils carried his coffin. His grave is adorned by one of the largest headstones in the churchyard, but thankfully no more names were added to it prior to the school changing its role in 1948 from an orphanage to a day and boarding school.


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.