Saturday, 17 April 2010

Monuments in St Joseph's Churchyard

Thanks to Jamie Evans for sending these photographs taken earlier this week at St Joseph's RC churchyard in Nechells. St Joseph's was the first Roman Catholic cemetary in Birmingham following the Catholic Relief (or Emancipation) Act of 1829. From 1826 Catholics had been interred at St Peter's on Broad Street (Birmingham's first RC church following emancipation), though this was not officially a cemetary and had become over crowded so in 1850 the new cemetary was consecrated at St Joseph's. It is commonly suggested that St Josephs contains many graves of the wave of migrants who settled in Birmingham in the decades following the Great Hunger or potato blight of Ireland in the late 1840s.

In a previous post on this site Jamie related a conversation he had with a priest and archivist at St Josephs in which he was informed that many of the graves in the church yard were destroyed by bombing in the war with some burial records also being lost. So we can assume that there were many more people buried at St Josephs than we know to be here. 

Jamie's photographs show the monuments at the graves of Mary Payne (nee Finn) and her family, which include the stone of her relation John Finn. 




The beautiful cherubic monument above was initially the gravestone of Jane Payne, who was the daughter of Mary Jane Payne and Federick Payne. Mary Jane Payne, nee. Finn was the first cousin of my great grandmother Mary Clayton, nee. Finn. The inscription tells us that Jane Payne died in 1922 at the age of 15.

My grandmother Florence Millington, nee. Clayton, was born in 1899. Florence Clayton and Jane Payne would therefore have been second cousins. The size and striking charm of the monument make it stand out in amongst the more humble stones which surround it and perhaps indicate both the great sadness of the family's loss of 15 year old Jane and also that Mary and Fred were able to afford a more sophisticated and unique monument.  



On another side of the monument the inscription tells us that this grave also became the resting place of Mary and Frederick Payne themselves. Mary died on the 19th April 1936 aged 64and Frederick died on 24th April 1939 aged 67.


A few stones away from Mary and Fred is the grave of John Finn (above). John Finn was the cousin of Mary's father James Finn (John's father Patrick Finn was brother to James' father Martin Finn. James was brother of  my g-g-grandfather Thomas Finn).

John Finn is the man who married Catherine Finn and lived close to Jamie's grandparents in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We believe that the connection is through Jamie's great grandmother whose maiden name was Hogan. John Finn died on 31st October 1924 aged 67, which matches the birthyear we have for John which was 1857.

Also buried in this grave were John Allen Burke who died aged 77 in 1936. We do not at the moment who this gentleman was, although his age was very similar to John Finn's, so can we guess that he is a relation that we don't yet known about such as a cousin to John Finn?

Another person at rest in this grave is John Alfred Hughes who was the husband of Elizabeth nee. Payne - another daughter of Fred and Mary Jane Payne. John Hughes died in 1948 aged 48.

Whilst at St Jospeh's, Jamie took a photograph of the memorial stone of the Wier children. These are not relatives but the story of their death is well known to local historians as they burnt to death in 1932. Jamie said "the story is fully covered on the Birmingham History Forum, a very sad story, all because the kids had to use candles to light the way upstairs to bed!"


Jamie also took a photo of the stone of a Belgian soldier in the cemetery: "the headstone is well looked after, I wonder if relatives or the Belgium government do it? It is without doubt still very smart for something nearly 100 years old".


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