Many who now occupy some 55,000 graves at Arnos Vale Cemetery lived in Bristol during their lifetime and lots of them were acquainted in life.
Some might not actually have known each other by name but lived in Bristol streets that were close or perhaps they were customers or provided services to each other. Now, their earthy remains are ‘locked down’ in their final residences, at least until resurrection day … or perhaps their spirits ‘zoom’ or dance on the paths under a full moon or even sometimes party in the gardens of rest?
Rammohun Roy is probably the most celebrated resident of Arnos Vale Cemetery. His visitors come from many places but particularly from the Indian sub-continent where he is considered ‘the father of modern India’. There he’s known for his work in bringing Hindus together and giving them a sense of unity.
As you walk in through the Bath Road gates, the Rajah’s chattri is hard to miss with its finials rising from its umbrella like roof. When he came to Bristol he met many local people including Mary who was the daughter of his host Dr. Lant Carpenter.
Now if you happen to see an Indian gentleman in traditional dress straying beyond the tomb, it could be the Rajah’s spirit going up to the café to enjoy the aroma of fresh coffee or perhaps beyond to visit Mary on the lower slopes to discuss educational reform.
When Mary met the Rajah in her youth he made a lasting impression on her. So much so that she went to India a number of times to set up schools for girls.
She dedicated her life to education, prison reform and social reform. One of Mary’s many achievements was to set up and run a reformatory for ‘young ladies who had been through the courts’ at what is now The Red Lodge Museum in Bristol.
Drawing was a recreation she enjoyed and she took lessons from the famous Bristol artist Samuel Jackson. If you happen to see a little old lady dressed in black with a mob cap and stick on one of the quiet cemetery paths one evening, it could be Mary going up for another drawing lesson!
Samuel Jackson moved in to Arnos Vale Cemetery in 1869; he rests at the top of the old cemetery just below the wall that separates it from the newer part known as the ‘top plateau’. Born in Bristol’s Wine Street back in 1794, he set aside an accountancy career to paint at various European locations including, of course, his home city. Many of his local pictures are in the Braikenridge collection which is available to view via the ‘Know Your Place’ website and some of his works are also on display at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge painted before it was built!
Samuel was said to have been ‘the best amateur pianist in Bristol’; I like to think of him on a summer’s day, sitting in the fields painting the picturesque St Luke’s church in Brislington and then retiring to the White Hart for a pint or two – entertaining the surprised locals with a Mendelssohn sonata on their out-of-tune piano!
Samuel had four children, three musically gifted daughters and one artist son. Catch an old chap stumbling jauntily down the path by the wall of Holy Souls Cemetery and it might just be Samuel going to visit his Son, Samuel Philip who now resides in a somewhat overgrown residence on the slope.
Samuel’s son, Samuel Philip was given a good start by watching and working with his father and it wasn’t long before he was producing many admired works. He was noted for his seascapes and realistic dramatic clouds. He was also interested in photography and invented an ‘instantaneous shutter’ for which he received a prize from the Royal Photographic Society. Although he had many friends, his special companions were his dogs and when he died he left bequests to two canine charities.
One of Samuel Philips Friends was Charles Branwhite who now rests almost within calling distance in the family grave on the other side of the Anglican chapel.
Charles was a son of Nathan Cooper Branwhite (1775 – 1857), and shares his grave at Arnos Vale. His father was also an artist who, with Samuel Jackson, had helped to arrange the first exhibition at the then new Bristol Institution back in 1824.
Charles started his career as a sculpture artist and one of his subjects was the Bristol Mayor, Sir John Kerle Haberfield (1783 – 1858) who now resides in the crypt of the Anglican chapel – an ideal place perhaps for a ‘lock in’ and Sir John would be delighted so see visitors ‘bringing a bottle’ as his wife takes a dim view of him keeping his own cellar!
Blog written by friend of Arnos Vale, Dave Napier.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the team at Arnos Vale Cemetery has had to suspend their events and close the buildings, making it difficult to generate the funds they need to sustain themselves. They urgently need donations to ensure that they can continue to look after the site – and resume a full range of activities when it is safe to do so.