Friday, 31 October 2008

The gravestone of Charles Robinson of Derby, Nottingham Road Cemetery

Occasionally in old photo albums and other family photograph collections, you may come across photographs of old gravestones. Presumably intended originally as another form of memorial for a loved family member, they may now provide clues to who else is pictured in other unannotated photographs in the album.

Image © and collection of C.B. Payne

I have one such image scanned from a photograph in my father's collection. Unfortunately I don't currently have access to the original, and I was rather short-sighted in that I only scanned the photograph, not the mount. However, from the dimensions of the original - determined as 96.6 x 143.8 mm, using Adobe Photoshop's "Image Size" query on the scanned image - it must have been a cabinet card.

Charles Robinson was a younger brother of my great-grandmother Amy Payne née Robinson (1867-1932). He was born on 21 September 1872, the third child of Daniel Robinson (1837-1910) and Emma née Bacon (1842-1900) of 9 New Forester Street, St Werburgh's parish, Derby. His father Daniel was a Derby Borough police constable, promoted to the rank of sergeant in the late 1870s, when they also moved to 74 Fleet Street. The inscription on the headstone states:
In Loving Memory of Charles, son of Daniel and Emma Robinson, Born Sept. 21st 1872. Died Sept. 21st 1889. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord."
From information provided by my father, Charles Robinson was buried in the Nottingham Road Cemetery. I suspect that the photograph was taken at least a year or two after Charles Robinson's death, as the grass has already grown up in front of the headstone.

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A quick Google search of "Nottingham Road Cemetery Derby" brings up several useful hits on the first page, including:

- A Google map and satellite image showing the address, location of, and directions to the Nottingham Road Cemeteries.

- The web site of the Derby City Council, which administers the cemetery - this provides cemetery details and facilities, as well as contact details and opening times for the Cemeteries Office.

- An article by Peter Seddon on the Bygone Derbyshire web site entitled Nottingham Road Cemetery - Derbeians at Rest - this gives some brief historical notes, describing it as having opened in 1855 as Derby's first municipal cemetery, and extended several times - it is still in use.

Image © and courtesy of GoogleMaps

- Mike Smith's Pictures of Derby web site has a page with several images of the cemetery, including the grand main entrance and lodges, and one of the two mortuary chapels, designed by acclaimed Derby architect H.I. Stevens in the gothic style, and which are shown in the portion of satellite image above.

Image © and collection of C.B. Payne

These buildings have a particularly characteristic shape, and it is possible to recognise one of the chapels in the background of the Charles Robinson headstone photograph, as shown in the enlarged image above.

Image © and courtesy of GoogleMaps

Examination of the angle of the roofs, and the position of the chapel in relation to the main entrance - mostly hidden behind the tree - suggests that Charles Robinson's headstone is either to the WNW of the western chapel, or to the ESE of the eastern chapel, as shown approximately in the image above.

Image © and courtesy of GoogleMaps

A closer examination shows that the graves in the western area are facing in the wrong direction in relation to the photographer's view - actually at an oblique angle - but that those in the eastern area would face towards the photographer, roughly as shown in the photograph. It's difficult to estimate the distance away from the chapel, but least with an approximate direction, a search can be made in the graveyard for the headstone. It is likely that the cemetery office will also have a record of the position of this grave.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to alert readers to my new blog, The South Derbyshire Graveyard Rabbit, which will feature graves and graveyards from South Derbyshire. This particular photograph hasn't made it there, because it doesn't fit into my fairly strict definition of "South Derbyshire."


  1. It looks like the direction of the shadows in the original picture support your conclusion of the location.

  2. Yes, I hadn't thought of that, but i think you are right. I presume the photo was taken in the afternoon? Regards, Brett


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