Carved in Stone

I have never counted the gravestones in the cemetery. We have a thousand and more on record and many we have not yet cleared and transcribed. This must represent a remarkable amount of work by the various monumental masons who carved them.

In some cases this work must have been a labour of love – those occasions where a mason fashions a memorial for his own family grave. Most poignant of all are those graves where the mason who first created and positioned the memorial, then finds a resting place below the same stone. I cannot help wondering who carved his name, and what would he think of the workmanship?

I know of two such graves in our cemetery. In one case I believe the mason has re-used another gravestone, removing the original inscription and adding another. Is it possible it was in mind that he was saving money by re-using material which no longer had a commercial value.

The other gravestone is on the grave of John Holden (see images above).

I cannot find any other gravestones in the cemetery ‘signed’ by John Holden. Census records describe him as an ‘architectural sculptor’. This may account for the fact that this memorial is in a style which differs from all the others in the cemetery. I think this is a grieving father (the first burial is of his young son) expressing himself through a style that he may have used to decorate buildings rather than gravestones.

I recently found a newspaper article which I think refers to this man. If I’m right, this shows that at least part of his business involved the decoration with stone carvings of churches. In 1895 a fire destroyed most of the Parish Church of St Bartholomew in Old Whittington, near Chesterfield. The church was re-built and re-dedicated in the following year, with, it seems, new carvings sculpted by ‘John Holden of Sheffield’. A newspaper report lists these new works. As well as sculpted portraits the list also includes carvings of flowers and vegetation. It will be interesting, and something I hope to do later this year, to compare these carvings with the floral wreath carved on the family gravestone in our cemetery.

From these artistic considerations I return to the personal events reflected by the words and images created on the gravestone. The picture of the base shows together three aspects of his life and death: his art in the form of stylized flowers, his professional pride in the form of his ‘signature,’ and his name carved by an unknown hand following his death after a long life.

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14 Responses to Carved in Stone

  1. Tony Morton says:

    Congratulations on the launch of the site – I am sure I will be a frequent visitor

  2. Pete Monk says:

    Fascinating and rather touching.

  3. Stephen Woollen says:

    I have relatives buried in there but have never been able to find them. I’d be interested in helping you out with clearing etc.


    • We have transcribed the burial registers, and we should be able to find most graves (sometimes lapses in the original record-keeping make it difficult). If you want to tell me who you are looking for I can see what I can find.

      It would be great if you were able to help us with our work sessions. We try and have one most months, usually on Saturdays, but sometimes on Sundays. The next two are on Sat 25 Feb (10-2) and Sat 24 Mar (10-3). Sometimes we have some ad hoc sessions at shorter notice. Would you like me to add your address to a distribution list for information about work days?

      • Stephen Woollen says:

        Blimey, it seems to have taken me forever to get round to replying to this. My ancestors parish church was St Mary’s on South Road and I’ve always been led to believe that my Great Grandparents Dennis and Alice Johnson were buried there, and very possibly my Great Great Grandfather William S Johnson. I’ love to be kept informed about any short notice events and would love to be added to a distribution list for work days.

  4. Wendy Frowen says:

    This has recently been brought to my attention by ”Hugh” who I am assuming is the same as the writer of this piece. John Holden was my G G Grandfather and I would like to express my thanks and admiration for the dedication to Friends of Walkely Cemetry. Researching a Family Tree can be very daunting and the logistics of getting to many places can be very difficult. This is why this work is so important. Not only does it preserve the historical site but can and has helped me immensely with my research. I do hope to visit the Cemetery this year. Keep up the good work and thankyou all.

  5. Kerry says:

    Wow! I only wish I lived in England, I would be over there in a shot to help with the clean up! I have just found out this is where my Grandfather, Grandmother and my Grandfathers first wife are buried. There is no marker. My Grandfather is Joseph William Martin.

    I am curious to know if there are any other Martins buried there.

    Excellent work!
    By the way, how much would a grave marker cost ?

    • hello Kerry,

      You must be Kathleen’s friend in Canada! Just a bit too far to come for our next work day.

      There are 49 people with the name MARTIN buried in the cemetery. I have since worked out that Joseph William’s parents and one of his brothers are among them. Also buried in the cemetery are the parents and several siblings of his first wife. There are family graves related to your grandmother at City Road cemetery. You can find listings at

      I will email you some more details.

      Hugh Waterhouse (Freinds of Walkley Cemetery)

  6. Samantha Bowskill says:

    Hi, I’ve been researching my family tree and just a flippant remark mentioning a family grave from my Nan yesterday made me walk in pouring wind and rain up to a cemetery that I never really knew existed!

    I spent over an hour looking for the grave. Cold, wet and disheartened I was ready to leave when I decided to look at a gravestone which was obstructed by undergrowth and completely covered in ivy. Can you imagine my delight when, pulling the first bit of ivy off the grave, the surname “Bowskill” appeared! I didn’t care much for the wind and rain at that moment, only to clear the grave stone of my great great grandparents.

    It’s a beautiful cemetery, though you do have your work cut out to clean it up! Therefore I would love to help BUT at the moment I work part time and that includes Saturday and Sundays, is there any other times during weekdays that tidying goes on? Otherwise, once I get a full time job that doesn’t include weekends I’ll gladly lend a hand.

    Kind regards

    Samantha Bowskill

    ps Do you have a photograph of the chapel that once stood in the graveyard?

  7. Sarah Green says:

    I am looking for a family grave belonging to the Twigg family – Family Grave No.138 Section A. I have been twice now & failed to find it. Any information you could provide as to where it is located amongst the undergrowth! would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hello Sarah,

      This grave is close to the main gate. There is no gravestone marked on the plan, but I can’t be certain that this is accurate without checking on the ground.

      If you send us an email (see the contact tab at the top of the page for our address), I will send you a plan to help you find it.


  8. Jean Burton says:

    Hi, I am wondering if you have the record for my great grandmother, Jenny Turton, who was buried in the Walkley part of the cemetary sometime in the late 40’s to the early 50’s, I remember as a child taking a small tree and planting it where her grave appeared to be (no headstone), I think of her often in her small back to back house in upper walkley

  9. hello Jean,
    Jennie Amelia Turton was buried in this cemetery on 29 Feb 1956. Her husband Charles Edward had also been buried here on 30 Oct 1930.

    Now comes the frustrating part. According to our transcription, neither entry in the burial register records the grave reference. Since there is no surviving grave register and no gravestone I am unable to say where they are buried in the cemetery.

    I tried a little detective work – in the 1911 census Jennie had had 5 children of which one had died. I looked for that child in the baptisms and burial records without success. Charles Edward’s father Alfred is buried in grave H32, but that is essentially a DEAN family grave: Charles Edward’s sister Clara had married a William Myers DEAN and the latter is also buried in this grave. Also I can say there are no trees near this grave.

    Sorry I cannot be of more help. The only sure way of pinpointing the grave would be to find some of the paperwork for this grave from family sources.

    Hugh (Friends of Walkley Cemetery)

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