Monday, 20 June 2011

Adventures in a graveyard, Part 2

Dr Elizabeth Boyle writes:

Following my adventure in search of the memorial cross erected at St Fintan's church, Sutton, Co. Dublin, to the Celtic scholar, Whitley Stokes (1830-1909), I decided to find the place where he is actually buried, in Paddington Old Cemetery, London. I was particularly interested to see whether his gravestone was similar in style, or whether it bore a similar inscription, to the cross at St Fintan's.

Stokes' memorial cross at St Fintan's, Sutton, Co. Dublin
Paddington Old Cemetery is located in the diverse district of Kilburn, north of Kensington (where Stokes lived after returning from India in 1882 until his death in 1909).

Paddington Old Cemetery, London
I found Stokes' grave in somewhat better condition than some of the others in its vicinity. The cross was indeed in the Celtic Revival style, although notably less ornate than the memorial cross at Sutton.
 grave of Whitley Stokes (1830-1909), Paddington Old Cemetery
 The inscription was also quite different from that at St Fintan's. First, there was no indication of Stokes' profession or scholarly interests.Where the St Fintan's cross had described him as 'Jurist, Scholar and Philologist', his London gravestone gave only the spare details of his name and dates, reflecting perhaps the more private, family-oriented nature of the memorial, as opposed to the more public, or scholarly, nature of the Sutton cross. The quotation chosen for the inscription was also quite different in tone. Where the St Fintan's cross stated:
DIE WAHRHEIT RUHT IN GOTT
UNS BLEIBT DAS FORSCHEN
('Truth lies with God; for us remains Research')
the Paddington memorial gave a biblical quotation, from Philippians 4:8:
WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE TRUE. WHATSOEVER THINGS
ARE HONEST. WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE JUST.
WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE PURE. WHATSOEVER THINGS
ARE LOVELY. WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE OF GOOD
REPORT. IF THERE BE ANY VIRTUE, AND IF THERE BE
ANY PRAISE, THINK ON THESE THINGS.

Stokes grave inscription
The overall effect was simple, but quite moving, and in striking contrast to the form and content of the St Fintan's memorial.  But having found Stokes' grave I decided that the next challenge would be to find his house. So I left Kilburn, and set off towards one of London's most affluent districts:

Grenville Place, Kensington
Perhaps rather fittingly, Stokes' home at 15 Grenville Place technically no longer exists, since 14 and 15 Grenville Place have been knocked together and turned into separate flats. However, the house still retains the impressive frontage, including the front door (no longer in use), which it would have had in Stokes' day. 
 
 15 Grenville Place, Kensington, formerly the home of Whitley Stokes (1830-1909)

In Stokes' time, as now, this was a prosperous part of London, and emphasises the wealth which Stokes accumulated during his time as a colonial jurist in British India, where he became President of the India Law Commission. A stark contrast indeed to the penniless young barrister who had to sell his furniture in order to buy his passage to India in 1862, and a reminder of the more problematic moral complexities of the life of Ireland's greatest Celtic scholar.

4 comments:

  1. I have found your blog while researching the Stokes family who lived in Carraig Breac House (as you know). A planning application has been submitted to demolish the house and replace it with a large Neo-Georgian dwelling that threatens to tower over the area. Many thanks for your research into the history of this extraordinary family for alerting us to the historical significance of this house.

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    1. Patrick - I am so grateful to you for alerting me to this. It would be a scandal if Carraig Breac were to be demolished. Is it possible to object to the planning application? If so, how? Could you please email me with more information? If you click on my name at the top of this comment it should take you to my departmental webpage with all my contact details, including email address. Many thanks.

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  2. Whitley was a first cousin of my great grandfather, Sir Gabriel Stokes. When I visited the grave, I looked around for any other members of his family, and his son Frank is there too. On another of the four faces at the base of the cross is inscribed "In most loving memory of Francis Ruddle Bazeley Stokes, born 11th June 1879, died 15th July 1939." He was born in Simla, and his mother died 19 days after his birth.

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