Sarsfield Memorials is Having a Brief Break

For the first time in five years, Sarsfield Memorials has been closed for business recently. The reason for this is that Ursula Sarsfield has been taking a well earned holiday.

Ursula is the managing director of Liverpool’s oldest family run memorial business. She is the third generation to run the company, following on from her father and grandfather. While other staff craft the memorials, it is Ursula who takes the initial enquiries, visits customers at times to suit them, raises orders, processes payments, does the quality checks and completes the tax returns.

Delivering a high quality personal service is what Ursula sees as the key to ensuring the business’s survival. So much of Sarsfield’s custom comes from recommendations from people who have used the company for generations and Ursula ensures the high standards set by her father and grandfather are maintained. This means making herself available for home visits seven days a week, mornings, evenings and weekends to suit the customers needs. She aims to answer all emails within 24 hours and give quotes for work within two days.

Ursula’s ability to communicate with clarity and empathy with bereaved families at extremely difficult times in their lives is one of her best qualities. She understands their needs and can guide them as to what type of memorials work best in their circumstances. The number of thankyou cards and kind comments left on our website and social media pages is a testimony to that.

However, everybody needs a break at some point. After a hectic twelve months that has seen Ursula move home and continue working through illness, she finally took a holiday in the middle of May, leaving the phone unanswered for the first time in five years. On Tuesday 28th May though, she’ll be back and ready to ready to answer the backlog of queries and take new orders.

 

John McKenna Grave Restored

Sarsfield Memorials have recently been honoured to undertake the memorial renovation of John, McKenna, the founding fathers of Liverpool Football Club.

The world famous club was formed in 1892 by John Houlding, when he was left with a football ground but no team to play there. The previous tenants, Everton FC had left for Goodison Park after a dispute over rent levels and Ulsterman John McKenna was one of the board members who remained loyal to Houlding.

McKenna became the new club’s first secretary-manager, sharing duties with William Barclay, a former Everton manager. He used his Scottish connections to bring in a number of players from north of the border. Known as the ‘Team of Macs’, Liverpool won the Lancashire League in their first season.

In the summer of 1893 McKenna made the brave decision to apply for Football League membership and the club were elected to the Second Division. In their first season Liverpool won promotion after a play off victory over Newton Heath, later to become their fierce rivals Manchester United.

Liverpool’s first top flight season ended in relegation, but they bounced back at the first attempt. Determined not to go down again, McKenna and Barclay (the headmaster of an industrial school) stepped aside and the club appointed Tom Watson, who had won the League Championship with Sunderland. The appointment was vindicated with Liverpool winning the title in 1901 and 1906.

McKenna remained at the club in aImage result for john mckenna wikin operational capacity, becoming chairman in 1906. In 1917 he was elected as president of the Football League, a position he held until he died aged 81 in 1936. Although physically ailing by then, his brain remained razor sharp and he never forgot a name and had an amazing memory for facts. Known as ‘Honest John’ he was a very humble man and always looking to help out those in the game who had fallen on hard times.

By the time McKenna died he was a widower and he was buried with his wife Charlotte at Toxteth Park Cemetery. Over the last few decades his grave, situated in a prominent spot next to a path near the chapel, has fallen into disrepair. However, at the request of Liverpool FC, it has now been restored by Sarsfield Memorials.

The decorative urn on top of the grave had either fallen off or been vandalised and on consulting with family members it was decided not to put this back. It has instead been kept by his great grandson for safekeeping. The rest of the memorial has been restored by giving it a through clean and re-gilding the lettering. The ground around it has been levelled and re-turfed.

The restoration of the memorial has been made possible in part thanks to the work of Kieran Smith from the Liverpool FC Graves Society. He has been drawing the club’s attention to the condition of some of their former players memorials and through their museum curator Stephen Done, has been able to secure funding for the project. Photographs of the restored memorial has been widely shared on social media and been well received by Reds fans around the world.

Sarsfield Memorials Customer Feedback

In the last couple of months Sarsfield Memorials has received some really positive customer feedback in various forms. When this happens, it is a lovely feeling to know that we have helped our customers in a very difficult time of their lives.

Last month a couple sent us a lovely handwritten note after we had completed a memorial. Describing it as “absolutely perfect”  it thanked us for helping with hard decisions and concluded by saying ‘I would recommend Sarfields to anyone who needed it without doubt’. Another card received in March said “Thankyou for all you have done for me, the stone is perfect and your kindness was lovely”.

Sarsfield Memorials Customer Feedback

Just as thoughtful was a simple email from another customer which said “We are very pleased with the headstone and would highly recommend you to anyone who needs a memorial”. A lady who lives abroad emailed us to say “Even though I live in Italy you made the procedure easy for me, the final work on my parents grave is fantastic”.

As well as getting in touch directly, we also received a couple of lovely online reviews last month. On Google, one from a customer whose family headstone had been cleaned up by us said “The stone was over thirty years old and I was amazed how it looked afterwards. Ursula came to my home and organised everything. Highly recommended”. Another review, this time on Facebook, said “My daughter’s memorial is perfect. It is one of  the hardest things I have ever had to do but you made it easier. Ursula listened to all our stories and helped pick the right stone for her. I could not recommend Sarsfields enough, they are thoughtful, helpful and sympathetic”.

At Sarsfield Memorials we feel it is so kind when customers take the trouble to contact us with messages of thanks and show their appreciation for our workmanship. We pride ourselves on what we do. Although we are a business, it is most important to us to provide exemplary service to customers at a very difficult time of their lives.

Receiving messages and feedback is why Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason continues as we do. If you are interested in a new memorial or renovation of an existing one, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.

 

Liverpool Crimean War Memorial

Standing near the entrance to Liverpool Cathedral and St James Cemetery is a Crimea War Memorial, dedicated to seven serviceman who died in hospital there.

Liverpool Crimean War Memorial

At 1230pm on 16th January 1855 the Cunard steamer Cambria arrived at Huskisson Dock carrying 213 wounded soldiers from the battles of Alma and Inkerman. They had endured a three week journey from Constantinople and were due to be taken to the Chatham Naval Hospital in Kent.

Thirty eight of the men were too ill to travel and were instead taken to the workhouse hospital on Brownlow Hill. Three wards were st aside for them and they were well looked after, being visited by the Mayor and receiving donations of port wine, shaving utensils and clothing.

Most of the soldiers made a full recovery but seven of those died of fever and dysentery. They were interred at St James Cemetery with full military honours, with large crowds lining the funeral route to pay their respects. Back at the warehouse, members of the Military were provided with ale, bread and butter in the dining hall. A recruiting sergeant thanked the people of Liverpool for their help, saying that the arrangements for the soldiers comfort could not be surpassed.

In 1856 a memorial was unveiled at the cemetery containing the names of the seven men lost and with the inscription “Erected  by public subscription to record the courage and endurance displayed by the privates of the British Army who at the call of duty devoted their lives to maintain the honour of their country and the fidelity of England and her allies”.

It was not such an unusual occurrence for servicemen to die away from combat situations. Of the 20,000 British soldiers who died in the Crimean war, around three quarters of those did so of illness rather than as a result of battle. However it must have been awful for their relatives to realise their loved ones had survived the conditions there and a sea voyage, only to die on English soil.

Cremation Plots

Over the last few decades there has been an increasing shift towards cremation rather than burials, the figure being around 75%. As such, sections reserved solely for cremation plots are becoming a commons sight in cemeteries.

Unlike with burials, cremation allows families more time to consider what to do with their loved ones remains. Many will prefer to see the ashes scattered in a favourites place, but others may wish for a memorial where they can visit and remember their loved one.

Cremation plots

In the longer term, cremation plots can be cheaper than colonnade niches at crematoriums. These niches, where urns can be stored with a memorial plaque, are for a limited number of years and can be more costly than plots once you have renewed two or three times.

Cremation plots allow for a small to medium sized headstone and flower container to be placed there. This also allows you to add a personal touch to your loved one, such as laser etched images and photo plaques. The memorial needn’t be in a traditional upright or ogee style either, with heart and book shapes being possible. Although available, religious symbols are not so commonly see at cremation plots as cremation tends to be favoured by those who are more secular.

In the Liverpool city council area, Allerton, Anfield and Kirkdale cemeteries allow the purchase of cremation plots on a seventy five year lease.  A height restriction of three feet six inches is placed on the memorial. In Knowsley, cremation plots are only available for purchase at Whiston Cemetery. It needs to be remembered that they are rarely available in churchyards. Churches tend to have a small memorial garden instead, although there are some in the Merseyside area that allow for them.

Sarsfield Memorials is Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason business. We have a wide selection of memorials for cremation plots. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and advise on what is feasible depending on the area you live.

 

 

 

Spring is the Time for New Headstones

Winter is almost over and if you are considering a new memorial for a grave or replacing/renovating an existing one, now is a good time to do it. At Sarsfield Memorials, the oldest independent memorial mason in Liverpool headstones are the core part of our business and Spring is always a busy time for us.

Liverpool headstones

In Spring the ground is much firmer and settled providing the perfect conditions for memorial installation. As we leave the dark winter months behind us, a newly erected headstone at your loved one’s grave for the Spring and Summer provides a fitting tribute. It is somewhere where their lives can be commemorated in a perfect way, surrounded by the newly sprouted flowers. We have a wide selection of headstones available to order and examples are here. However if you do not see what you require please contact us as we can usually tailor memorials to suit your wishes.

Erecting new headstones in the winter can be problematic due to the soil being frozen or extremely soggy, making it impossible to pour the cement for the foundation. Inclement weather and the darker nights can also mean that even if you were to install a headstone in November or December, if it is a lighter coloured material it may already be in need of a clean by the time you are visiting in the warmer months.

Spring is naturally a good time to have a headstone cleaned after the battering they can take in the winter months. Even the most durable granite memorials need a clean from time to time, while the softer and lighter materials such as marble and Portland stone can become discoloured especially if they are near falling leaves.

Relatively newer headstones can sometimes be cleaned with just warm water if the right material is used to apply it. We do not recommend cleaning your your memorial yourself though as using the wrong methods can cause lasting damage, damaging the gold leaf or causing staining or chemical corrosion to softer stones. At Sarsfield Memorials we have a range of options available for repair and renovation, from a simple clean to re-gilding of inscriptions, we are always happy to share our knowledge and expertise with you at no cost, if it is something that you can do yourself.

The images on this blog page show how memorials can be made to look as good as new after a clean. If you do not live locally we will update you with progress, providing before and after photographs. If you would like to discuss the installation of a new memorial or cleaning/restoration of an existing one, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.

 

 

Utting Avenue – Sir John Utting

Utting Avenue, one of the boulevard style roads developed by Liverpool Corporation in the 1920s, is named after Sir John Utting, a doctor who was the city’s Mayor during the First World War.

Utting Avenue

Sir John was born in Norfolk in 1852. After qualifying as a surgeon he spent three years travelling abroad before settling in Liverpool in 1877, becoming a general medical practitioner in Anfield. In 1899 he was elected to the City Council as a Conservative member for the Kirkdale ward, putting great energy into serving others despite his already busy work schedule.

The three years that Utting had spent travelling made him an ideal candidate to be on the Port Sanitary Committee and Chairman of the University of Liverpool School of Hygiene. When war broke out i 1914 he joined the Reserve Medical Corps, being attached to the First Western Hospital at Fazakerley.

In 1917 Utting was released from his regiment to be Mayor of Liverpool. During a busy year as Mayor he raised £80,000 for the Red Cross and also set up the Million Shilling Relief Fund. This was established to raise funds for soldiers from Liverpool who were being held as prisoners of war in Germany.

Utting Avenue

After the war Utting became Chairman of the Finance Committee. He proved himself to be very shrewd with public funds and he always put the ratepayers’ interests first. He was knighted in 1924 and the same year it was announced that the new boulevard leading towards the corporation housing developments at Norris Green would be named Utting Avenue. 

After a brave fight against pneumonia and pleurisy Utting died on 17th February 1927 at his home St Annes Hill, Anfield Road. This no longer stands was on the site of what is now a car park for Liverpool Football Club. 

A memorial service took place at St Nicholas Church followed by a burial in Anfield Cemetery, where 5,000 watched his coffin being taken to the grave. Sadly his headstone is now lying flat with the inscription face down

Carrara marble

Carrara Marble is a white marble that is suitable both for memorial headstones and ornamentation.

Quarried in Tuscany, Italy, for over two thousand years, Carrara Marble can be seen on some of Rome’s most famous buildings.  It also forms much of the design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the largest in the world.

Carrara Marble can be engraved finely and deeply, giving a beautiful finish to inscriptions. Once incised, the letters traditionally are leaded they can be painted with equal effect to provided a high quality finish. Under the sun’s rays, Carrara Marble glistens and looks beautifully tranquil in the cemetery or graveyard, a fitting memorial over your loved one’s grave.

Carrara Marble

One thing that you must be aware of with Carrara Marble is that it is softer than many other materials used for memorials. Whereas this gives an advantage for carving, it does make it more prone to weathering especially on graves that are near to trees or hedges.

Due to its softer texture, Carrara Marble is easier to carve. Traditional Ogee shaped headstones can be enhanced by carvings of flowers or religious symbols. Alternatively it can be used for carved ornamentation such as cherubs or angels, complimenting  memorials made from other materials. Carvings from Carrara Marble can go really well with blue or grey granite memorials as the example in the image, recently completed by us, shows.

Sarsfield Memorials, Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental masons, can supply a range of Carrara Marble memorials and ornamentation. If you would like to discuss what we offer please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements. We will also of course guide you on whether this is a suitable choice of memorial depending on your grave location and be able to provide a free no obligation quote.

New Years Eve at Cemeteries in Chile

New Year traditions vary around the world. In the South American country of Chile New Years Eve is now spent by many families visiting the graves of their loved ones.

The practice is believed to have started in 1995 in the city of Talca, 158 miles south of the capital Santiago. One family climbed into the cemetery on New Years Eve to be beside the grave of their father, who had recently passed away. Rather than enforce the law, local authorities have taken the pragmatic view that it is a practice that should be encouraged rather than stopped.

Chile New Years Eve

The entrance to Talca’s General Cemetery

Cemetery gates now remain open, with families commemorating their deceased members in various ways. For some it is a case of being by the graveside in quiet reflection, while others like to have bring something to eat and drink. To add some warmth and light, small fires are sometimes lit. Its not a case of going home when finished either, as many will then sleep by the graveside until daylight in temperatures that are not uncomfortable due to it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Those that undertake this Chile New Years Eve tradition believe it is a key part of the bereavement process. They feel it can bring luck in the new year and also helps the souls of the deceased, making them at peace knowing they have been visited at this special time. It brings a sense of reunification with their loved ones and helps rekindle the notion that life is valuable and needs to be enjoyed.

It is estimated nowadays that 5,000 families undertake this tradition, in a city of around 200,000 inhabitants. Talca is famous for being where Bernardo O’Higgins signed the Declaration of Independence in 2018, freeing Chile from Spanish rule. Traditionally tourists have visited due to it being a wine producing region and its role in the Catholic church in Chile. However it is also slowly developing a reputation for this unique New Years Eve tradition.

 

 

 

Customer Feedback

As Christmas approaches, its a time to reflect on the year gone by. We are Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason business and we have continued to get great satisfaction from the customer feedback we get when jobs are completed. The memorials and services we supply bring happiness to so many customers, as we are providing a lasting tribute to their loved one.

customer feedback

We take pride in our personal service, engaging with customers at their homes, or wherever else they may feel comfortable, so we can get to know and understand their requirements. In providing two memorials for a lady’s husband and father, we engaged and allowed her to take her time in making the right choices. The result was two kerbed memorials and on completion we received a lovely message form the customer which said ” Absolutely beautiful memorials for my husband and dad, excellent service to our family so kind, caring from the very start to the finish more than a five star service and a very professional service from all the team who fitted them with utter respect. We are so pleased with everything and fully recommend Sarsfields memorials, worth every single penny as the quality of the finished kerb memorials are exceptional and everything we asked for and more! Thank you to Ursula you are a very special lady with a heart of Gold, you would make your grandfather and father so proud.”

We also take pride in receiving feedback from people who have had memorials cleaned and restored, making them look brand new. One such example this year is from the family of a lady who was buried in her parents’ grave, 38 years after the last interment. The white headstone was blackened and lettering beginning to come off. However were able to clean it and do some re-lettering and received the following response – “We can’t believe its the same headstone, the standard of the work you have carried out is exceptional and we are all so pleased. It is now a fitting memorial to a lovely aunt and sister and her parents.”

These are just two examples of the customer feedback we have received over the last year. We have been operating for 71 years. The current owner Ursula Sarsfield is the third generation to run the company and looks forward to doing so for many years to come.