After initially taking the scenic route at the start of our drive to York, we eventually arrived in good time and decided to keep to my original plan of starting the day with a visit to the York Cemetery. Following a map and various road signs, the cemetery seemed to appear out of nowhere. This sudden appearance gave us the opportunity to appraise it in an instant.
Creepy. My brother and I thought the exact same thing. The first look showed a small cemetery (and small historic section – thank goodness!), a tree lined entrance and numerous headstones bordered by wrought iron fences and surrounded by red dirt.
Getting straight down to business, it was fortunate that I happened upon my ancestor’s headstones almost immediately. It was also fortunate that families were buried in plots next to each other. I would find one headstone, take a few steps and find another.
Not wanting to face the possibility of having missed a gravesite, the three of us wandered around the rest of the historical section, looking upon the headstones.
I was struck by a number of things. While some areas were crowded with headstones, other areas would have one headstone sitting in the middle of open space. I haven’t got an answer for this but can only assume that the reason is something similar to that of East Perth Cemetery. There are probably people buried in these areas but either they or their relatives could not afford to pay for the headstone. This contrast of wealth was at times obvious. Some graves were marked by elaborate headstones and surrounded by wrought iron fences but then there were other graves that were lined with bricks and marked with homemade crosses.
Regardless of wealth, families sought to have their loved one’s resting place made recognisable by whatever means they could. I found this incredibly touching.
The historic section also made me realise how vastly different mortality rates were back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were so many tiny gravesites belonging to children, most of whom died in infancy. Then there were people who died in ways that you’re very unlikely to hear of today. An example can be seen below. The Rev. Edward Williams died on 29 September 1899 from injuries received as a result of a carriage accident that occurred whilst he was carrying out his duties.
With the birds chirping, the sun shining and nature everywhere around us, I realised that the creepy feeling had left me long ago and had been replaced with a feeling of peace. Though I suspected we’d probably found all our ancestor’s graves, we continued to walk around a little longer before eventually deciding that it was time to go on with the rest of our exploration of the historic town of York.
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