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Historian Fred Hughes writes....
The Victorian’s had a liking for putting loads of detail on their gravestones. They wanted the living to know how high they’d climbed the ladder of success as aldermen, as commercial icons and pillars of society. And no one held a higher position in the community than the publican.
For the traditional publican the licensed trade was a job for life and the pub was the family home. Keeping a good house was something to be proud of and David’s grandfather was good at it. He dressed the part and customers called him Gentleman Charles.
In Tunstall Cemetery these tenants of the taverns are clustered together around the main entrance.
“Tunstall cemetery is really unique,” says historian Steve Birks. “It lies on the eastern slope of Chatterley Valley and is so steep that you wonder how the graves manage to cling to the side. I mean they’re all laid level which means that often one end is tilted so much higher to accommodate the sheer landfall. But this lends a lot to its charm.”
Tunstall Cemetery was settled on part of an ancient piece of land known as Tunstall Farm in 1868.
“The Sneyd family were the owners of about 1250 acres in the manor of Tunstall in the 18th century,” Steve continues. “This included Holly Wall Farm and Tunstall Farm at Clay Hills, north-west of Tunstall. We know that in 1830 Tunstall Farm was in the occupation of a Mary Younge and the land on the east side of the farm was in the ownership of the Smith Childe family of Newfield Hall. Seven acres of Tunstall Farm were sold to Mr Robert Williamson, coal and ironmaster, who opened Goldendale ironworks with his brother Hugh Henshall Williamson in the 1840s.”
In addition to the regularly apportioned Anglican, Catholic and Non-Conformists, there is these days, a delightful corner that is being used by Tunstall’s large Muslim community; evidence of the town’s cultural assimilation even when life is done.
“The Catholic quarter is headed by two famous priests, Father Welch and Father Ryan. Ryan was held in great esteem throughout North Staffordshire. Legend has it that when he died in 1951, his funeral procession was five miles long bringing the district to a stand still in an amazing show of respect and affection. His genius seemed to be in getting the community involved, a tribute to his energy in constructing the inspiring Church of the Sacred Heart in Queens Avenue Tunstall.”
Another special resting place is that of Hortense Daman Clews, a wartime heroine and concentration camp survivor who received many honours for her bravery during the Second World War.
10 October 2008
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