Thursday, October 22, 2020

Gravestone memorials: Sydney Bartle and Maud Alice Gadsden, Stellawood, Durban


The Gadsden family plot at Stellawood Cemetery Durban. The side visible in the photo shows the names of Maud Alice Gadsden (my grandmother) and Ernest Alfred Rhodes (her great uncle). Sydney Bartle Gadsden's name appears on the other side of the memorial.


draped urn cemetery tombstone symbols

Kimberly Powell Photo

After the cross, the urn is one of the most commonly used cemetery monuments. The design represents a funeral urn and may symbolize immortality.

Cremation was an early form of preparing the dead for burial. In some periods, especially classical times, it was more common than burial. The shape of the container in which the ashes were placed may have taken the form of a simple box or a marble vase, but no matter what it looked like it was called an urn.

As burial became a more common practice, the urn continued to be closely associated with death. The urn is commonly believed to testify to the death of the body and the dust into which the dead body will change, while the spirit of the departed eternally rests with God.

The cloth draping the urn symbolically guarded the ashes. The shroud-draped urn is believed by some to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its trip to heaven. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Cape Colombine Lighthouse, Paternoster


                 Japie Greeff's last station ...  

                                                          Keep the Light Burning Bright ...


Acknowledgement: Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Japie Greeff: In Memoriam


                                           Japie Greeff at Cape Columbine Lighthouse

Photo: Keri Harvey –

Japie Greeff, veteran South African lighthousekeeper and contributor to these pages, sadly passed away yesterday morning. He will be much missed by all who knew him as will his wonderful stories about his life as a Keeper at various lighthouses along our dangerous coastline.

Keep the Light Shining Bright, Japie.  Totsiens.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

John Gadsden and family at West Ham


West Ham lies on the east bank of the River Lea and so before inexorable growth ... it was the last place in Essex before London and the first staging post in Essex from London … The great Roman road between London and Colchester was diverted through Stratford in the 12th century when Bow Bridge was built. 

The largest settlement in West Ham, Stratford, developed due to two factors: bread and cattle. Corn from Essex was brought to the many windmills and watermills along the Lea and its back rivers. Flour from the corn was turned into bread using ovens fired with wood from Epping Forest, which then stretched down almost to the Romford RoadStratford bakers were exempt from City guild controls and were frequently in court for giving short measure. Cattle were brought to Stratford from the eastern counties for slaughter or onward transit to London, and tanning and other leather-based industries developed there. The presence of a large monastic foundation with many royal connections, Stratford Langthorne Abbey, no doubt attracted further wealth to the area.

The River Lea was the stimulus for further early industrial activity. Silk-weaving and calico-printing were undertaken in the 17th and 18th centuries and Bow porcelain was made in Stratford in the mid-18th century. Distilling and gunpowder-making were also important. 

The rest of the parish comprised a scattering of small agricultural hamlets which included Plaistow, Church Lane, Forest Gate and Upton. The marshland in the south of the parish was used for grazing cattle and pasturing horses. Places like Upton and Plaistow were pleasant enough rural retreats to attract City merchants who built substantial houses there. By the late 19th century the separate hamlets of Plaistow, Stratford, Upton, Canning Town and Forest Gate had merged in a sea of bricks and mortar and West Ham was the eighth largest town in Britain.’

It would be unrecognizable today to John and Mary Ann Gadsden as the picturesque rural spot where they spent the halcyon days of their early married life, and where their first two children were born. By 7 November 1828 they spent some time at Clapton, as shown in the register of St John Hackney, where their daughter Mary Rochenda was baptised, having been born in the July of that year.  She died aged only four months and was buried 24 November 1828, also recorded at St John Hackney.

Their next child, another daughter, Emily, was born in July 1830 in WaterfordIreland, where a new chapter of this Gadsden family unfolded.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

John Gadsden at Upton House, West Ham


My great great grandparents, John Gadsden (1794-1853) and Mary Ann Bone, were married at St John Hackney on 27 March, 1821. However, by that year there was a ‘New Church’.* At the time the couple were living at Upton House, West Ham [see watercolour, partly after a photograph, partly after a sketch by Mary Lister; source Wellcome Library]. Their eldest son, Moreton Champness Nevins Gadsden was born at Upton House.

Upton House was situated on the opposite side of Upton Lane to Ham House, which was also, confusingly, known as Upton House for a short time in the eighteenth-century.  It was typical of a number of fine seventeenth- and eighteenth-century houses built in West Ham as country retreats for City merchants and businessmen.  Upton House (that is, the one the Gadsdens lived in) was rebuilt in 1731 and was the birthplace of (Lord) Joseph Lister (1827-1912), the founder of antiseptic surgery.  It was demolished in 1968.’ [Source: From  ‘Britain in Old Photographs: Stratford West Ham & The Royal Docks’ by Stephen Pewsey  pub: Sutton Publishing Ltd 1996]

Clearly, if Joseph Lister was born at Upton House in 1827 it is reasonable to suppose that the Gadsdens had moved elsewhere by that date. John and Mary Ann re-emerge in the City of Waterford, Ireland, where John was a provision merchant. He and his brothers Charles Edward Gadsden and James Eyre Gadsden apparently left England and went to live in Waterford where all three produced children as baptismal records show. It is possible that John at least 'commuted' between Waterford and London, as ties with West Ham and Hackney continue until 1828 when John and Mary Ann’s daughter, Mary Rochenda, aged only 4 months, was buried at St John Hackney on 13 November of that year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Gaddesden House at Little Gaddesden: various views


Gaddesden House: one of the bedrooms today

Medieval Window

Exterior showing topiary

In the garden, the Allens, recent owners of the 
Gaddesden House

Monday, September 21, 2020

John O'Gaddesden House at Little Gaddesden


Little Gaddesden parish is bordered on three sides by the county of Buckingham. The northern part of the parish lies on a high spur of the Chilterns about 646 feet above the ordnance datum. There is a considerable slope to the south, and on the east the land dips to the valley of the Gade. The Leighton Buzzard and Hemel Hempstead high road strikes across the parish, and forms a sharp dividing line. To the east the county is agricultural, while the pasture and woods of Ashridge Park cover the whole of the western portion. Ashridge House, the seat of Earl Brownlow, stands in the middle of the park, and the village extends along one edge near the high road, which is bordered on either side by a broad green shaded by large trees.

Following the high road north from Hemel Hempstead may be seen near the beginning of the village Robin Hood House, a large old house of timber and stucco. It was once the Robin Hood village publichouse, but has been greatly added to, and is now the residence of Mr. Alexander Murray-Smith. Beyond this is a red-brick house, the residence of Miss Noyes.

Further again is Marian Lodge, built by Lady Marian Alford some thirty years ago. It is now tenanted by Mrs. Denison, under whose care soft cloth is woven, some of which is sent yearly to the queen. In another house lives the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton. The smaller houses and cottages are all well built, and each stands in a good garden. They are mostly of red brick with red tiles, and in the old ones is a good deal of timber. That known as John of Gaddesden's house (he was physician to Edward III, and a doctor of great note) is an interesting mediaeval building of timber and plaster, of two stories, the upper projecting beyond the lower. The body of the house stands north and south, with a fine brick chimney-stack at the north end, its upper story being a hall of two bays with an open timber roof of fifteenth-century style, now used as a reading room. The house has been a good deal repaired, and there is some eighteenth-century panelling in one of the ground-floor rooms. At the north end is a block running east and west, with no old detail of interest.

The parish, which was inclosed in 1846, covers an area of over 2,451 acres, of which (in 1905) 499 acres were arable land, 358 acres permanent pasture, and 86 acres woodland. It includes the hamlet of Ringshall, and since 1885 that of Hudnall, which was formerly a detached portion of the parish of Edlesborough in Buckinghamshire. The soil is clay with flint, and the subsoil chalk. At Hudnall, on the eastern border of the parish, there is a small common.

A windmill is mentioned in 1284 and again in 1305, of which there now seems to be no survival. 

Note: there is no evidence that John of Gaddesden ever lived in this house though there may have been a much earlier structure on the site which could have been his residence.

                                  The Solar Drawing Room - John o Gaddesden House

Acknowledgements: Victoria County History

Saturday, September 19, 2020

John of Gaddesden's 'Rosa Medicinae' 1313 on display in Exeter Cathedral


From the library…

The Rose of Medicine

John of Gaddesden was one of the greatest medieval English physicians. He is even mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales. His most famous book was the Rosa Medicinae (Rose of Medicine), a wonderfully detailed look at diseases and medicine, written in 1313.
The Library’s copy will be on display at Exeter Cathedral for one day only on 22 September, from 11am to 2pm.