A Monumental Mason in Seventy Years Ago

Last month Ursula Sarsfield was meeting a customer in Vauxhall in North Liverpool. She was astonished to be introduced to the clients neighbour who told Ursula she remembered her grandfather James, a monumental mason who founded Sarsfield Memorials in 1947.

The lady recalled hoBlack and white photo of a smart man from the 1950'sw as a child seventy years ago James Sarsfield would drive her and her friends around the block in his car, she had really happy memories of a great man, who she recalled was ‘dead posh but lovely’. For Ursula, who now heads Liverpool’s longest running family run masons, it was a special moment to hear such memories from someone who remembered her grandfather so well. It also got her thinking about how different the working day was of a mason back then compared to now.

One of the biggest differences is how contact is made with customers nowadays. Back in James’s day, there was no internet and very few people had telephones. As such much more business was done face to face or by letter. Nowadays Ursula will always seek to meet the customer face to face to have that personal touch, but after that initial meeting much work is done by phone or email and queries can be resolved a lot more quickly than seventy years ago when letters took a day or two to arrive. Both Ursula and her grandfather have one thing in common when dealing with customers and that is the ability to empathise with, sympathise with and understand their wishes at such a difficult time.

Ursula and James both sought to provide a memorial that would be a lasting tribute to customers loved ones. Seventy years apart though the types of memorial differ in part due to changing perceptions of death and cemeteries. Whereas James was providing much more solemn headstones which were often carved marble, Ursula is mainly using polished granite and the memorial wording is not as formal, also providing images and photoplaques especially for children and babies memorials. The relaxation of cemetery rules and a move towards feelings that memorials are where life should be commemorated rather than death be mourned is in part behind this.

Seventy years ago advertisements were placed in newspapers to attract customer, whereas nowadays the internet is the primary advertising tool for Sarsfield’s as well as recommendations. The world wide web has also allowed Ursula to attract customers from all over the world, with many getting in touch from places such as Australia and Canada asking for restoration or renewal of ancestors headstones. One thing that has not changed however, is the number of customers who come through personal recommendation due to the high quality of service we have always striven to achieve.

When it comes to actually shaping the memorial, there are huge differences nowadays to when James started the company. Memorials where all hand carved James’ son Terry (Ursula’s father) had to serve an apprenticeship at Carrara in Italy before he joined the family business. There, at the home of the famous Carrara marble, he studied all aspects of stonemasonry and traditional carving. Today there are more advanced cutting techniques and laser etching, which didn’t come into being for the memorial business until the 1990s. There are occasions though with certain materials and matching additional inscriptions where only the hand carvedblack and white photo of grand daughter of founder of business method can be used and it remains a skill that Sarsfield’s still use today when required.

When comparing the running of Sarsfield Memorials today to how her grandfather would have done seventy years ago, Ursula sees many changes but many similarities. One of the big advances is from using a horse and cart to transport the memorials to the cemetery. Sarsfield’s now use a motorised van and the Health and Safety of both the mason and fixing of memorials is paramount. Sarsfield’s believe in keeping traditional standards around so they still offer raised lead letters, hand cut letters to more modern sandblasted letters. Ursula is proud to be running Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason business and wonders if any of today’s customers will remember her in seventy years?

 

Celtic Cross Memorials

 

Some of the grandest monuments in some of Liverpool’s cemeteries for example are Celtic Cross memorials of the 19th Century. One is in Toxteth Park Cemetery marking the grave of shipping merchant Samuel Graves, Liverpool’s Mayor in 1861 and later representing the as a Member of Parliament.

Nowadays, monuments of the size of Samuel Graves’s would be prohibitively expensive for many people, or exceed local authority guidelines on memorial size. However there are a number of options available if you would like a Celtic cross memorial that remembers your loved ones spiritual beliefs and Irish, Scottish or Welsh roots.

An integral part of Celtic Cross memorials is the Celtic knot symbol. This represents life being  part of a uninterrupted, infinite timeless cycle, the rebirth of tCeltic Cross Memorialshe spirit into the next world. The circle that connects the four pieces of the cross indicates eternity.

The Celtic Cross can form part of the memorial, not all of it. Recently Sarsfield Memorials have completed a Sarsfield have recently completed a hand carved Celtic Cross and added it to a black granite headstone, which we also textured around the edge and base (right image).

Sarsfield Memorials is Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason and  over the years we have provided a large number of Celtic Cross memorials. Advances in technology now mean that there is Celtic Cross Memorialsa much wider scope and custom designs are far more straightforward to produce.  An example is on the image below left, a two plate memorial we did in September 2017. One plate has a Celtic Cross carved onto it and the other with lettering. Celtic crosses don’t have to be carved, they can be laser etched as well in some circumstances.

If you would like to discuss a having a Celtic Cross memorial for your loved one’s grave, whether it be one of our standard designs or a bespoke one, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss requirements.

 

Ogee Headstones Special Offer May 2018

Ogee headstones are amongst the most popular designs for memorials today due their size, low maintenance and easy customisation.

Falling well within the size guidelines that many cemeteries now implement ogee headstones are made of polished black granite. This material is extremely durable against the elements and needs very little cleaning.

All Polished Ogee head stone

The shape of ogee headstones, which have a curve at the top, makes them suitable for verses and epitaphs of varying length. When made of black granite, both gold and silver lettering works just as well.

Ogee headstones are also suitable for photo plaques, keeping the memory of your loved one alive or laser etched images, whether they be of  a religious nature or a reflection of the deceased’s career or favourite pastime.

For the month of May 2018 Sarsfield Memorials, Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental masons, are running an offer on ogee headstones . For just £600 we are offering a polished black granite ogee headstone, the dimensions of which are 27 inches high, 21 inches wide and 3 inches thick. The base is 24 inches wide, 12 inches front to back, 3 inches thick, 2.6 inches high and contains one flower container.

The £600 cost for this special offer includes 80 letters, fixing to NAMM standards and VAT. Cemetery fees, which vary between local authorities, are extra. There is also an additional cost for any extras such as photo plaques, images or extra lettering.

For the month of May 2018 Sarsfield are also offering 10% off all memorial cleaning services. Now spring is well and truly here, it is the ideal time to have your memorial restored to pristine condition.

If you would like to speak to somebody regarding the ogee headstones offer, or make use of our 10% off headstone cleaning, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements. Please note that these offers will not apply from 1st June 2018.

 

Unsafe Memorials Are Owners Responsibility

Unsafe memorials can cause serious injury or even death if they topple over. Many wrongly assume that in such incidences the local authority is responsible, but in reality it is actually the grave owner who has to accept liability.

Unsafe memorials

Two months ago Liverpool city council responded to a complaint about headstones lying flat in West Derby cemetery after it was featured in the Liverpool Echo newspaper. The council explained how in many cases it was impossible to trace the grave owners who were responsible, and that they had been laud flat in line with national safety guidelines.

Over the years legislation regarding unsafe memorials has changed but it is not applied retrospectively. This simply means cemeteries test and push over any unsafe ones, writing to the grave owners if they can be identified.

The current guidelines are that headstones should be able to withstand a force of 70kg, so if your memorial wobble when pushed, it is almost certainly unsafe. This standard was introduced in 2012 and has already been updated a number of times this millennium.  If your memorial is twenty years or older and leans or wobbles when pushed, then more than likely it will not meet current specifications.

Most local authorities nowadays will only allow masons who are members of BRAMM, the British Association of Memorial Masons, to work in their cemeteries. BRAMM members are committed to applying the BS8415 Standard, specifying minimum anchor lengths to ensure safety.

As a BRAMM member, Sarsfield Memorials are able to re-fix unsafe memorials to the current specifications. This involves anchoring into a reinforced concrete foundation, giving you a secure memorial and total peace of mind. We can also clean your memorial for little extra charge. If you are worried about the safety of your memorial, please contact us and we will be happy to  check it for you and provide a free no obligation quote for re-fixing it.

 

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.