Sir Ken Dodd

Sir Ken Dodd, the last of the great British music hall comedians, has been laid to rest in the family grave at Liverpool’s Allerton Cemetery.

Dodd was born in Thomas Lane, Knotty Ash in 1927. The son of a coal merchant, he attended the Holt School (now Childwall Sports College) until he was fourteen years old before joining his father in his profession. Dodd’s parents were both very supportive of his ambitions to be an entertainer. His mother allowed him to do what he wanted providing he wore a clean shirt and his father bought him a ventriloquist dummy.

Ken Dodd Allerton Cemetery

It was whilst working as a door to door disinfectant salesman that Dodd developed his act, which he then practiced around the clubs of Liverpool and Birkenhead. His professional stage debut was in September 1954 in Nottingham when he appeared as Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty, operatic tenor and sausage knotter. Dodd later reflected that it must have gone well as he didn’t get booed off. By the following summer he was on Blackpool’s Central Pier and went on to spend the rest of the decade appearing in summer seasons and pantomime in summer resorts around the country.

In 1965 Dodd undertook a record breaking 42 week run at the London Palladium, playing twice a night and three times on Saturdays. He also topped the pop charts with Tears and he recorded four top ten hits. He became an OBE in 1982. He wowed audiences with his tales of Knotty Ash, a place of jam butty mines and diddy men. Despite earning enormous fees, he never went on holiday and always tried to avoid staying in hotels always trying to return to his Knotty Ash home.

Dodd was less in demand for television performances by the 1980s but this allowed him to do what he did best; pack out theatres up and down the country. He kept careful notes of all his jokes and where they got the best reactions and his performances could last for four or five hours. At the end of the decade though he faced criminal charges for false accounting, leading to a trial that laid bare intricate details of his private life  which he had fought so hard to protect.

After being acquitted Dodd had a strong of new jokes, such as him not believing he owed a penny to the Inland Revenue as he lived by the seaside. He became in demand for television again and twice recorded ‘An Audience With’. He was given the Freedom of Liverpool in 2001 and continued to perform, saying he wouldn’t know what to do if he retired. He was far more intelligent than he was given credit for, being extremely well read. He could come up with some simple philosophical phrases too that made so much sense, such as not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today, as if you enjoy it, you can then do it again tomorrow.

Ken Dodd Allerton Cemetery

In 2017, the year of his 90th birthday, Dodd finally got his long overdue knighthood. His milestone birthday was celebrated at Liverpool Town Hall, where jam butties were on the menu. In January 2018 however he entered hospital with a chest infection, remaining there six weeks. On discharge he said he was determined to get his legs working again and back on stage, but he passed away on 11th March in the house where he was born.

Two days before his death, Dodd married his long term partner Anne Jones, who he had been with since 1978. His first fiancee Anita Boulin died in 1977 from a brain tumour. Dodd always expressed regret that the couple had never had children together. Floral tributes and cards were left outside Dodd’s home and his horse drawn funeral courtege on 28th March set off from nearby Alder Hey hospital. After a public service at Liverpool Cathedral, he was interred in a  family plot at Allerton Cemetery.




Gertude Langton – St Margaret’s School Liverpool

St Margaret’s School in Liverpool, or St Margaret’s Church of England Academy to give it its correct title nowadays, has been in existence for 139 years. One of its major benefactors was Gertrude Langton, the daughter of a leading Liverpool financier

Gertrude was born in 1835. Her father was Joseph Langton, a former manager of the local branch of the Bank of England, who was appointed the Bank of Liverpool’s first manager when it opened in Water Street in 1831. She grew up in 12 Abercromby Square and in her late teens moved to Paddington in London where she became a teacher in a private ladies school.

St Margaret's School Liverpool

On returning to Liverpool after her father’s death in 1855, Gertrude moved back into the family home with her mother, brother William and servants. When William died in 1876, she was left  the house in Abercromby Square as well as £5,000 in his will, equivalent to over half a million pounds today. Adding this to the income from share dividends left to her by her father, it meant she was financially secure for life.

Gertude never married and dedicated her life to philanthropy, education and religion. She was a generous supporter of St Margaret’s Church in Anfield and when the vicar there Alderman William Preston set up a school, she was one of the first teachers when it opened in 1879. The school has been situated in Aigburth since 1963 and today one of the houses is named Langton.

In the 1880s Gertrude was a benefactor of St Dunstans Church in Earle Road, with her cousin Sir Thomas Earle of Allerton Hall laying the foundation stone. In 1889 Gertrude she donated generously to the Liverpool Rescue Society House of Help in Falkner Street, set up to give temporary shelter to girls who wanted a break from their surroundings and counselling to help rebuild their lives.

St Margaret's School Liverpool

Gertude liberally made donations to the fund for Liverpool Cathedral and was Chair of the Cathedral Ladies Embroidery Committee. The 1911 census has her as ‘living on own means’ with five servants. She died on 5th February 1916 and following a funeral service at the Lady Chapel of Liverpool Cathedral, she was interred alongside her mother, father and brother at Toxteth Park Cemetery.

In her will she left legacies that ensured her servants were provided for and £1,000 to the cathedral fund. Other beneficiaries included the Blue Coat School, Childrens Infirmary and Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge who each got £300.

Granite Headstones

Granite headstones are an ideal material when choosing a memorial for your loved one. They are low cost compared to many other materials and available in various finishings and the strength of granite means it is a very durable and naturalgranite headstones material.

The word granite originates from the Latin granum (grain) and refers to the rock’s coarse grained structure. It comes in a variety of colours and is distributed

around much of the Earth. It is too deep down and therefore comparatively straightforward to excavate. These factors mean that granite headstones compare very well in terms of cost against those made from other materials.

The strength of granite means it is a very durable headstone. However granite memorials only appeared in cemeteries in the 1830s after the invention of the steam powered cutting process by Alexander MacDonald of Aberdeen. Prior to MacDonald’s invention, granite headstones were unfeasible as they simply could not be effectively hand carved.

During the Victorian era, large granite memorials became prominent all over Britain and on seeing them in cemeteries today, it is sometimes difficult to believe they have been exposed to the elements for 150 years or more. Granite remains popular today partly because of this durability but also due to it requiring relatively low maintenance. Providing the right materials are used, it can be cleaned without damaging the surface or increasing the risk of further damage.

granite headstones

If you are considering a granite headstone for somebody buried in a churchyard, they are only allowed at the discretion of the priest or vicar. Depending on the location of the churchyard some will only allow Yorkstone. As such we always seek advice for memorials within churchyards at the earliest stage, especially when they are outside our area. Within the Merseyside area where we primarily work we know more what is allowed and what isn’t.

Granite comes in a variety of colours, including shades of black, red, grey and blue. This means there is plenty of choice when choosing the right memorial made from granite for your loved one. Modern techniques of laser etching and sandblasting mean that there is no limit to what epitaph or images can be placed on granite headstones.

All these factors mean that at Sarsfield Memorials we receive a lot of enquiries for granite headstones and can offer a variety of choices to meet your requirements. Please contact us and we will be happy to have a discussion and provide a free no obligation quote.

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.