Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Sea Shell Collectors in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery

   In Tunbridge Wells Cemetery, one monument towers over the horizon in section B4 near the Chapel. For a while I have resisted investigating its story because I had only been there to capture images, composition was all. Then my camera, which really is an extension of my person was asked to take photographs in a recording fashion rather than a creative composition. What a learning curve. A fast one.

I had to go searching for the graves of named individuals and in the process I walked past hundreds of graves. Looking for particular names I had to read each name, their inscriptions, their grief. So many lives summed up in an instant, in a small sentence, maybe just name and date of death. Not a summary of their living lives, just a statement of its ending.

Then, I came to this grave stone and it tells a love story :

In loving memory of ALFRED HENRY WAGENTREIBER of St Mark's Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells and his betrothed FLORENCE EMILY BREWERTON [the dearly beloved and only daughter of SAMUEL ROBERT and EMILY BREWERTON] drowned together on Conway Sands the 18th July 1887 while collecting shells.

She was only 21 he was 35. Their deaths were reported in the national papers including The Times and the local congregation at St Mark's in Tunbridge Wells, where he was the curate were given inscribed bibles to record their deaths.

Now they have a monument, a towering edifice. But grief can make you shout aloud and make a bold statement.

Beside them in a much smaller plot lies Florence's Mother and Father, and two of her brothers. How poignant.


I researched Florence's Father and found that he was a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.The images I found on line were of seascapes. I don't think I need say more here.

As part of the launch of the Friends of Tunbridge Wells Cemetery you will be able to read more about this couple and the heartbreaking inquest report. So do come along on June 7th at 2.00pm to the Chapel in the Cemetery and become a founder member.

And why not bring them seashells?

 The website is here: Friends of Tunbridge Wells Cemetery at Hawkenbury

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