1947 – When It All Began For Sarsfield Memorials

This year Sarsfield Memorials commemorates 75 years of providing memorials to our customers in the Merseyside area. We will be marking this milestone with a number of offers throughout the year and also sponsorship of events.

Black and white photo of a smart man from the 1950's

Offers and events will be announced in the coming weeks and months, but firstly we thought it would be nice to take a look back to how things were in 1947. That was the year James Sarsfield (pictured left) set up in business as a monumental mason.

The Second World War had ended two years earlier and a new global order was being created. The Truman Doctrine signalled the start of the Cold War, as the United States president Harry S. Truman, worried about the influence of the Soviet Union on eastern Europe, set about a policy of containing the further spread of communism. The British Empire was further being broken up, with India and Pakistan both being granted independence that year.

At home, it was the coldest winter on record. Snow lay on the ground for two months and temperatures plunged to -20c in some places. This caused havoc with electricity supplies and with rationing still in place, there were fears of food shortages with vegetables being frozen in the ground.

The big freeze meant the football season had to be extended and First Division fixtures were not completed until the middle of June, when Liverpool were crowned the first post war champions. Later that year there was a royal wedding to celebrate, as King George VI’s eldest daughter Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, married Philip Mountbatten, later Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

So there were certainly plenty of goings in the world in 1947 when James set up his business. The youngest of his three sons Terry was fourteen years old and attending St Francis Xavier College which was then based in Salisbury Street, Everton. He would normally have expected to leave school that year, only for the school leaving age to be raised to fifteen. Terry and his two older brothers Bernard and Tony went on to join the business, with Terry travelling to Italy in the 1950s to learn the craft of stonemasonry in Carrara.

Terry, who went on to manage Sarsfield Memorials, is now in his late eighties but is still on hand to offer advice to his daughter Ursula, who has been running the business for the past twenty five years. Ursula is delighted to be at the helm for this milestone year and looks forward to repaying our customers for their loyalty throughout 2022.

Memorials Supply Chain Issues

Despite life in the UK being almost back to normal thanks to the success of the vaccine rollout, the ability of monumental masons to supply memorials in cemeteries remains limited. This is due to ongoing disruptions in the supply chain that have been caused by Covid 19.

The shortage of hauliers in the UK is well documented. However the problems start beyond these shores. Containers are in short supply across Asia, having been stuck on the wrong side of the world during lockdowns. As Sarsfield and many other masons source much of our material from India, this has had an impact.

Due to there being less containers to load their products on to, suppliers have reduced production. In turn, shipping lines have cut capacity, pushing up prices with additional surcharges being introduced to guarantee loading. The end result of this had been the doubling of shipping costs. There have also been added delays due to the Suez Canal being blocked for six days earlier this year when the Ever Given got stuck in it.

The impact for this at Sarsfield Memorials is that whereas we could once have your memorial supplied and fitted within eight weeks of ordering, it is now more likely to be eighteen. Although we have tried to keep our most popular designs in stock, demand has been outstripping supply. We will give you estimated timescales when orders are placed, but cannot offer guaranteed dates for completion at this current time.

We are hopeful the situation will begin to improve in the first few months of 2022, but unfortunately we will have no option but to raise prices at that time. We have managed to hold prices in 2021, but delivery costs have increased and we cannot sustain this.

Despite the difficulties faced, Sarsfield Memorials, Liverpool’s longest established family run monumental mason business, remains committed to providing a high quality and attentive service. We remain open for business and although we may not be able to fulfil your order as quickly as we’d like, you will receive the same standards of care and attention in these difficult times. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements, provide a no obligation quote.

Muslim Memorials

Muslim memorials in Britain’s cemeteries tend not to be over elaborate. If there is a stone marker at all, it is usually of a plain ogee type and sometimes will come with kerbset and slab over the grave space.

In Liverpool’s Allerton cemetery, a dedicated Muslim section was created in 2017 which should have capacity until at least 2035. There is also a dedicated Muslim woodland section. This is a place for eco-friendly burials and only basic wooden markers are allowed. Allerton is thus almost unique, as in addition to the Muslim section there are dedicated sections for Church of England, Roman Catholic, Nonconformist and Jewish burials.

Sometimes Muslim memorials are no more than a simple wooden marker with a plaque. However, for those that prefer their loved ones grave to be marked by a conventional headstone, there are a range of options available. At Sarsfield we have a wide selection of headstones in the finest quality granite, marble and stone to suit all budgets. We are able to carve inscriptions in Arabic or Urdu to create a lasting tribute. We can also supply kerb sets, vases, memorial plaques and other grave ornamentation.

We work with our clients on the design process at your home or at another convenient location, whatever suits best at a difficult time. We are on hand to discuss your needs at a very difficult and sensitive time, making the process as easy as possible. We are Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason, having been in existence for over seventy years and now in its third generation. We pride ourselves in providing memorials for all denominations.

If you would like to discuss the Muslim memorials we have available, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.

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.


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.



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.



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.