On July 19th 1894 seven Trinity House men from East Cowes lost their lives. They were engaged in blowing up the wreck of the yacht Azalea, which had sunk off Brambles Bank at the entrance to Southampton Water as it was causing an obstruction to shipping.
Guybon Chesney Castell Damant was born in Cowes in 1881. He joined the Royal Navy in 1895 and was a lieutenant by 1903. In 1905 he was training as a gunnery officer at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth and not liking it much. Part of his training involved diving and all officers were expected to do at least one dive.
In 1848 The Local Board of Health Act was passed with the intention of helping to clean up the towns of England which at this time suffered regularly with outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. By 1859 the East Cowes Local Board (ECLB) was formed and one of the founding members of the committee was John Hayles.
The Friends of East Cowes Cemetery was formed in 2004, with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Local Heritage Initiative. Its aims are to promote the heritage of East Cowes and the cemetery. With help from the local community, the project aims to highlight the importance of the site both historically and enviromentally.
If you are tracing your family tree and looking for information on the people buried in this cemetery please visit the websit; w.w.w.friendsofeastcowes.org.uk where you will find a list of burial of burials as well as links to other sites that may be of help. A visit to the Heritage Centre in Clarence Road may also be useful.
Upkeep of the Project
Work continues recording and researching the people buried in the cemetery. As information comes to light it will be added to our website. Enviromentally, the recording of flora and fauna will take place on a season by season basis and the findings will be posted on line.
How to get Involved
Visit w.w.w.friendsofeastcowes.org.uk where you can e-mail F.O.E.C.C. directly with any information you may wish to pass on to us. Alternatively call in at the Heritage Centre at 8 Clarence Road. Open Mon - Sat 10 am - 1 pm. Tel 01983 280310. Photographs and documents can be scanned and linked to the names on the website. All of our members are volunteers and any offer of help with both research and physical upkeep of the cemetery will be considered.
We Would Like to Thank
The Heritage Lottery Fund. Local Heritage Initiative. The Isle of Wight County Press archives. East Cowes Heritage Centre. K. Perkins for the information on Guybon Damant. S. Bull for photos of The Bradings. J. Griffin, M. Prior, J. Elliot, S. Burdett and other members of F.O.E.C.C. for resrearch and everyone who has helped with the project.
Original photography K. Wheeler and A. Matthews. Leaflet designed and produced by K. Wheeler.
Welcome to Old Kingston Cemetery
This booklet is intended to give an insight into the lives of some the people of East Cowes and elsewhere who are buried in this cemetery.
In 1876, a burial board was set up to decide on a new cemetery in the town as St James' churchyard was full and space was limited at St Mildred's in Whippingham.
A Queen's Gift
On 10th August 1876 Queen Victoria gave 3.5 acres of land that was part of Kingston Farm on the Osborne Estate, for use as a cemetery. The burial board were to enclose the grounds by walls with suitable entrance gates and a build a lodge. William Henry Grading submitted the lowest tender for the work, £495, although the total cost including the lodge and gates was estimated at £1,200. He was Clerk of Works and his name is carved on the date stone.
The Gates came from East Cowes Park which used to stretch from opposite the Osborne House entrance near the present Prince of Wales public house down to the River Medina. This huge area of land was a proposed development of elegant villas in large plots backing onto botanical gardens but only a few houses were built and in 1874 it was put up for sale. When, in 1876 the roads of East Cowes were made public highways the gates were given to the newly built cemetery.
The Lodge's first keeper was James Jackman who lived here with his wife Ellen. Their daughter Mabel was born in 1886 and married Ernest Burgess. They lived in Clarence Road and were killed in an air raid in 1942. The Lodge is now a private residence.
The Chapel and Mortuary
A small chapel stood in the central area of the cemetery which was used for funeral services. It was built in 1908 for £307 but is now demolished. The mortuary stood near the entrance and was used for the preparation of the dead prior to a funeral. It fell into disuse when the crematorium was built and it was demolished in 1994.
The People of East Cowes
The cemetery came into being at the height of the Victorian era when the town was growing at a fast pace. There was work in the many boatyards springing up along the Medina, together with the new businesses, shops and staff on the Osborne Estate it led to a sizable population. All trades are represented in Kingston Road but many lie in unmarked plots.
Stanford was playing cricket on the recreation field nearby when he was accidentally killed by a cricket ball in 1923 aged just ten. His family later came to live at the Lodge, and are buried near the entrance gates.
In 1848 The Local Board of Health Act was passed with the intention of helping to clean up the towns of England which at this time suffered regularly with outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. By 1859 the East Cowes Local Board (ECLB) was formed and one of the founding members of the committee was John Hayles. Local Boards had inspectors of nuisances and officers of health and were able to enforce rules on street cleaning, sewers, water supply, the naming of streets, and the provision of 'public necessities' (toilets). Under the act they were to provide houses for the reception of the dead prior to burial, so possibly they commissioned the building of the mortuary here. Funding for this was from the rates and Hayles was a rate collector. When he died in 1890 he was buried at Kingston Road after a well attended funeral next to his wife Emma. Interestingly the informative inscription on his stone contains a mistake, The first ECLB is dated 1869. Another member of the ECLB, Joseph Wheeler, lies nearby.
The Hollis family ran the ferry from East Cowes to Newport in the 1860s and in 1901 had the contract to run ferry boats between East and West Cowes after the chain ferry had stopped running for the night. Tom and his infant daughter were buried here in 1908.
Eliza and Mary Bailey
Two sisters with very different lives. Eliza, who died aged only seven years in 1881 was finally reunited with her sister, Mary, when she died in 1976 aged 100.
The Brading Family
A prominent family in the town. William Brading Snr. was born in 1817, married Eliza and worked as a builder and stonemason.
He died in 1899 and is buried in the cemetery near the date stone. William Henry Brading, born in 1842, trained as a carpenter. In 1865 he married Lydia Coles, starting the business William Brading and Son in 1866 after the birth of their first son. By 1881 they were living in a large house in Clarence Road and running a very successful business.
They had thirteen children of which only seven survived into adulthood. He was a prolific builder of many of the houses and public buildings which stand in East Cowes today. To quote a newspaper article on the occasion of his diamond wedding anniversary 'His firm have built several hundred houses. Among the buildings, for the erection of which Mr. Brading was responsible, are the Town hall, Post office, the United Methodist Church, and other public edifices. By far the greater number of the houses in the district were built by him, and his firm have carried out important contracts in other parts of the Island, including the construction and alteration of the premises when the County Press offices and works were transferred to High Street and Pyle Street, Newport'.
He was churchwarden at St James's Church for 47 years and when he died in 1928 a large funeral was attended by many town dignitaries and employees of his firm. He was laid to rest in a Masonic ceremony, 'Members stood reverently over the grove with their creped wands crossed, and at the conclusion of the obsequies the Masonic brethren filed past and dropped their sprigs of acacia in the grave', his obituary read.
He left £4083 9s 2d in his will and lies in a plot with his wife and many of his infant children in the cemetery he built.
The Trinity House Disaster
Trinity House owns and runs all the lighthouses and lightships in Britain and its job is to ensure the saftey of ships at sea. On July 19th 1894 seven Trinity House men from East Cowes lost their lives. They were engaged in blowing up the wreck of the yacht Azalea, which had sunk off Brambles Bank at the entrance to Southampton Water as it was causing an obstruction to shipping. The crew of the Trinity House Vessel Mermaid were assigned to clear the wreck. A work boat from the ship was sent away and the men lowered seven or eight 20 pound charges in long tubes down on to the Azalea. Each charge was attached to a long fuse which was lit from the boat.
Some of the wreck was dispersed, but the last charge did not explode. A larger 30 pound charge was prepared, but the crew may have raised one of the charges from the water that had not fired and this exploded in the boat killing all seven men on board. The Burial Board approved a memorial to the men.
Henry Clavell, Master. Father of five, he had been master of the Nab lightship
William S. Cook, Seaman. Father of four
Alfred Hutchings, Seaman
John Cotter, Seaman
Albert Snow, Seaman, he had been married three weeks.
William Oatley, Seaman, he had been married just one week.
Alfred Rennie, Apprentice
An inquest returned a verdict of accidental death, adding that in future explosives should be handled more carefully!
Queen Victoria was at Osborne and asked the widows of the victims to visit her. She gave each family £10 and Trinity House gave them a pension.
In an area opposite the Trinity House memorial is a group of graves belonging to members of the coastguard service. These men undoubtedly attended many rescues in their working lives but were fortunate to die of old age. Henry Houghton, Chief Boatman of H.M. Coastguard died in 1877 aged 60 and Thomas Hunter, Chief Officer of H.M.Coastguard died in 1910 aged 86. The inscriptions are only just visible on the weather worn stones.
Guybon Chesney Castell Damant was born in Cowes in 1881. He joined the Royal Navy in 1895 and was a lieutenant by 1903. In 1905 he was training as a gunnery officer at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth and not liking it much. Part of his training involved diving and all officers were expected to do at least one dive. Most disliked this but Damant enjoyed it, he had an interest in natural history and saw it as an opportunity to see what life existed at the bottom of the sea.
Around this timee. Royal Navy was looking at improving its diving techniques as there had been many accidents and failures of salvage operations most notably the loss of the submarine the A1. They realised that submarines were becoming an importanrt weapon and that deep sea diving would aid their development.
Professor John Scott Haldane had devised a theory that would reduce the amount of decompression sickness on deep dives by working out how much pressure the human body could stand at various depths and the reduction of pressure on their way back to the surface. He also crucially calculated the nitrogen intake and the time taken at pressures to safely dissapate it from the body. By rising from the depths in stages the dangerous 'bends' could be avoided, something divers still do today. John Scott Haldane looked to HMS Excellent to find recruits for his diving experiments. Darmant volunteered himself and went with Haldane and his team on HMS Spanker to Loch Striven on the West coast of Scotland. On board was a decompression chamber built under instuctions of Damant in case of accidents.
The Diving Record
Over a number of dives Haldane's theories were put to the test with no ill effects, gradually increasing the depths from 138 feet on August 21st to 180 feet on the 27th a dive which took over an hour with 12 minutes on the bottom ascending in six stages over 40 minutes. The next day Catto, another diver went down, he got caught up in his air and communication hoses and could not free himself for over half an hour. Haldane and Damant gradually brought him back to the surface and although exhausted he was in perfect health. Haldane had proved that working for long periods at depth was now relatively safe and proposed that they try a dive over 200 feet reached by Greek and Swedish divers a year before. On 31st August 1906 Damant descended to the floor of the loch at 210 feet (64 metres), noting in his diary later, 'Quite pitch dark, hands too cold to feel much but could not detect any solid on bottom, nothing but mud'. He had broken the record.
The First Wold War
Now Lt. Commander, Inspector of Diving, his job was to retrieve important documents fron sunken German U-boats. A grisly task as he had to push his way past drowned men to get to the control rooms. Code books, cipher equipment and charts were recovered in this way.
On the 25th January 1917, the White Star Liner, Laurentic, commandeered by the Royal Navy, left Liverpool on its way to Halifax, Canada with payment for American munitions bought by the British Government. Considered fast enough to outrun a submarine, as she had been used in the Trans-Atlantic chase to catch Dr Crippen, she carried 3211 gold bars and thousands of silver coins. At Lough Swilly she hit two mines laid by a U-boat and sank with 354 of her crew.
The Treasure Ship
Damant and a team of divers were given the task of recovering the gold, worth £5 million [£250 million today]. Using HMS. Racer, he hoped to complete the job in a year, but by the first autumn only £800,000 was recovered. His divers worked on the wreck, 30 minutes at a time using explosives to open the strong room, and a “divining spear” an electrical device that could detect the difference between gold and steel. However they also dug in the mud with their hands until they “have scarcely any vestige of fingernails and their fingers were much cut about” putting gold ingots into buckets that were hauled to the surface. Later a pressure water hose was used to remove the layers of silt. In all over 7,000 divers were made without serious incident and by 1923 a total of 3189 gold ingots and much of the silver was recovered.
The remainder was brought up by Royal navel divers in 1952. He and his team were awarded the CBE. For their efforts and the now Captain Damant retired, living in Cambridge Road at “Thursford” until his death in 1963. He is buried with his wife Eleanor in the cemetery.
Key to Map
1. The Gates
2. Stanford Streets
3. John Hayles
4. The Date Stone
5. William and Lydia Brading
6. The Triniry House Memorial
7. William Brading Snr
8. Eliza and Mary Bailey
9. Reginald Shearburn
10. Robert Cross
11. George Poole
12. Charles Reason
13. Frances Jeffery
14. David Fisher
15. Guybon Damant
16. E. Oatley and E. Ridell
17. William Cowburn
18. Montague Brinton
19. Alfred Corbyn
20. Walter Blake
21. Frederick Campbell
22. Arthur Rackett
23. The Air Raid Memorial
24. Maurice Myram
25. Charles Williams
26. Frank Harvey
27. Kenneth Deacon
28. Vivian Pearson
29. William Abbati
30. Site of Mortuary
31. Nikoloos Mylonas
32. Harry Mist
33. Albert Glasgow
34. Tom Hollis
35. Site of Chapel
36. John Carter
The Decorative Carvings
A walk around the cemetery can be an insight into the symbolism of gravestone motifs and carvings. In Victorian times the way you mourned the passing of a loved one and how you commemorated their lives with a headstone showed to other your wealth and social standing in the community. Periods of mourning had their own rules of etiquette especially for the wives of the wealthy upper class. Mourning could go on for years with women expected to wear mourning dress, jet jewellery and lockets of their husband’s hair most of the time. The widow’s weeds would be phased out gradually with periods of half mourning until she reverted to her normal clothes.
The carvings on the stones all have there meanings. This goes back centuries when skeletons and scythes were pictured to show the frailty and brevity of life. By the 19th Century people were keener on more subtle imagery and also started to use phrases such as 'fell asleep' and was 'taken by god' than rather then the blunter 'died'.
Some Examples of Motifs:
Anchor: Traditionally representing steadfast hope, it was also popular with people whose lives were connected with the sea.
Cherubs: Divide wisdom and justice.
Dove: Purity, love and the holly spirit. This intricate carving is reinforced with a passion flower representing Christ and the apostles.
Ivy: Immortality and underlying friendship.
Lily: Purity and resurrection.
Oak: Purity and resurrection.
Willow: Mourning and grief.
East Cowes naturally has a long and proud connection with the sea and this is reflected in its military memorials in Kingston Road. Most are from the Royal or Merchant Navy, however all the services are represented here.
Harry was an East Cowes boy who joined the Royal Navy. He trained on one of the obsolete sailing ships moored in Portsmouth Harbour. HMS St.Vincent. It was hard work. A typical day would be awake at 5.30am in summer, decks scrubbed, a swim in the sea then breakfast at 6.45. Then clean the mess deck, drills aloft, loosing and furling sails for an hour, assembly and inspection then half the boys went to lessons the others to seamanship and gunnery instruction.
The monkey-topsail yard was a training yard arm close to the deck for youngsters to work on. They were taught how to get in and out, on to the foot rope and furl and loose the sails. They were then to do the same aloft, high in the rigging with the wind blowing and the sea moving the masts back and forth. On September 9th 1890 Harry Mist fell to his death from high in the St Vincent's masts aged just 17. The captain, officers, ship's company and the boys donated the stone for him in the cemetery. It bears the Royal Naval insignia.
Commander of HMS Stag, a revenue cruiser, (customs and excise ship), which patrolled the coast to prevent the smuggling of goods. The Stag was a small sailing frigate built in Devonport in 1830, It may have been involved in the siege of Porto during the Portuguese Civil War before its final days cruising the Solent. It was scrapped in 1866.
Although not strictly a military grave, Maurice Myram, Shipwright fourth class, is remembered on his father's stone as he was lost on HMS Hood sunk by the Bismark on the morning of 24th May 1941. He was only 22 and one of 1,418 who died when she sank in the Denmark Strait. (See www.hmshood.com for more information on Maurice Myram.)
The First World War
There are fifteen Commonwealth War Graves in the cemetery. Six are from the 1914 -1918 war. William Abbati of the 3rd Essex Regiment died while recuperating at the rest home at Osborne House in 1916. His memorial is a family bought stone rather than the usual CWG design.
David Fisher of the North Somerset Yeomanry, died 1918
Albert Glasgow, a Royal Engineer, 1917
George Poole, a stoker on HMS Racer, 1916, This wat the same ship used by Guybon Damant. (See page 6)
Charles Reason, Devonshire Regiment, 1918
Pt. Robert Cross, Hampshire Regiment, 1920
There is also Major Reginald Shearburn who died in 1925. His stone is a CWG inter-war pattern with h a different shaped top.
The Second World War
These CWG graves include some, of the victims of the air- raids on the town. (see page 12). Montague Brinton, and William Cowburn, Air Raid Wardens, together with Everett Oatley and Edward Riddell all died on the same night in 1941: Frank Harvey died on 5th May 1942 and is also listed the raid paid memorial.
Alfred Corbyn was in the Home Guard and killed in a motorcycle accident at Osborne House. Walter Blake from the Royal Army Corp died in 1942 and Arthur Rackett was a bomb disposal officer killed in 1946. The only RAF grave is of Vivian Pearson from lver in Buckinghamshire who, died in 1942. Navel personnel buried here are Shipwright Frances Jeffery killed 1941, Kenneth Deacon killed by an explosion on HMS Suffolk a ship which served on the Arctic convoys and later helped to sink the Bismark. Frederick Campbell served and died aboard HMS Manchester, a light cruiser sunk by torpedo while helping with the relief of Malta in 1942 also Charles Williams who died one HMS Malaya, a Queen Elizabeth Class battleship which saw action in the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
The Greek Navy had four Wild Beast Class Destroyers moored at Cowes in March 1924, The Aetes, Lerax, Leon and Panthir (Panther). A fire broke out in the quarters of Petty Officer Mylonas and he was taken to the Frank James Hospital where he died. The funeral cortege included 40 Greek naval officers and 360 petty officers from the four ships as well as Greek Orthodox priests, and 12 Greek sailors carrying wreaths. Captain Vulgaris of The Panthir read the eulogy as 12 Royal Navy Bluejackets fired three volleys over the grave and a bugler blew The Last Post.
The Air Raids on East & West Cowes
During the Second World War, East Cowes was a busy town building ships and aircraft for the armed forces. Consequently it was a target for the Luftwaffe. It was a short flight over from France and there were many 'tip and run' attacks where fighter-bombers would fly over the town and be gone in a few minutes. There were several more serious raids but the worst occurred on the night of...
4th May 1942
At 10.30pm over 150 German aircraft attacked Cowes and East Cowes with the intention of destroying the shipyards. Most of the yards were hit as were the nearby streets. Rescue teams worked hard clearing the wreckage and sending people to the Frank James Hospital. Then the bombers returned at about 3.45am armed with armour piercing bombs hoping to sink the Blyskawica, a Polish warship moored at White's Yard having a refit. Blyskawica's guns were turned onto the incoming aircraft and she used all her ammunition that night. She also put up a smokescreen to obscure the town and force the bombers higher. Though she did not down any of the aircraft it is almost certain she saved the town from more extensive damage. Many of the residents were in air raid shelters as bombs hit several of the town's streets. In Yarborough Road, a shelter on the comer of Kings Road was full of people when it received a direct hit by an armour piercing bomb killing 20 inside. Others were killed at the Victoria Road shelter and Minerva Road, which was badly hit . In the following days teams were at work defusing delayed action timers on unexploded bombs while ambulances were taking injured people to other hospitals out of town.
24th April 1941
Edward Riddell and Everett Oatley, two adopted brothers, were fire watching from their home in Cambridge Road when a bomb struck the house. There was much damage and they were trapped inside. A rescue attempt by Mr Cowburn and Mr Brinson was made but the men entered the house without a line attached and in a further collapse of walls the two ARP wardens fell down a well and were killed. Riddell and Oatley also died.
28th April 1942
Eight people died in Castle Street and York Avenue as the yards were targeted again.
16th May 1944
The town bombed for the last time and nine more people lost their lives. A total of 63 people were killed in the air raids on East Cowes. 56 are listed on the memorial. You may wish to visit St James' churchyard which contains the town's war memorial together with a seperate ARP memorial.
Flora and Fauna
The cemetery has become an important area for wildlife and plants. It is, by its very nature a fairly undisturbed, large plot of land that is at no risk of being developed, and under proper management rare and unusual species can be observed.
The Managed Meadows
The cemetery has been managed by the council and in some areas are deliberately left uncut until plants have set seed to encourage meadow species and their accompanying wildlife to become established.
A Rich Plant Variety
A visit in early spring will reward you with a sea of primroses, cowslips and dog violets mixing with the daffodils planted by the children of East Cowes Primary. As the year progresses these
make way for ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle, speedwell and hawthorn blossom. Summer brings buttercups, fleabane and birds-foot trefoil, followed by thistles, cinquefoils, knapweed and vetches. The cemetery sits on an area of Bembridge limestone which allows the lime loving plants to flourish.
The cemetery boasts three species of orchid and is regarded as an important site on the island. Early spring sees the flowering of the green-winged orchid with its small purple flowers and bright green leaves. They are spread over the entire site and care is needed to avoid treading on them. The early purple orchid is slightly taller and has spots on its leaves. The bee orchid appears around May and the flowers resemble bumble bees which may help to pollinate them. Once quite common in the cemetery they are a rare sight today.
PLEASE NOTE THE PICKING OF ANY WILD FLOWER IS NOT ALLOWED
The cemetery is home to a huge variety of insects which thrive in the grass meadows. Most noticeable are the butterflies and bees. Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Common Blue and Holly Blue butterflies live and breed here, Red Admirals, Commas, and Speckled Woods use the cemetery as a food source. Several species of bumble bee live here as do Burnet moths, grasshoppers and speckled bush crickets. Dragonflies patrol the gravestones on hot, sunny days.
Large, mature trees on the site make this an ideal habitat for birds to nest in. The introduction of nestboxes to the site as part of the rejuvenation project will hopefully increase the numbers of birds on the site. At present chaffinch, robins, greenfinch, wren, blackbirds and even green woodpeckers are thought to live here.
The Isle of Wight has many of the British bat species and Kingston Road Cemetery will try to encourage some to nest here with the placing of bat boxes high in the trees. It is hoped some of
the rarer species will take up residence.
Species Recorded in East Cowes Cemetery
Beech, Hazel, Yew, Holly, Lime, Sycamore.
Primrose, Cowslip, Dog violet, Lesser celendine, Cuckoo pint, Green-winged orchid, Red clover, Ox-eye daisy, Meadow buttercup, English bluebell, Meadow speedwell, Wood speedwell, Herb Robert, Ribwort plantain, Hogweed, Mouse-ear hawkweed, Creeping cinqufoil, Common fleabane, Self heal, Bee orchid, Agrimony, Tufted vetch, Early purple orchid, Common Knapweed, Dwarf thistle, Lady's bedstraw
Grasshoppers, Bumblebees, Hoverflies, Speckled bush cricket, Brown Hawker dragonfly, Lacewing, Six-spotted burner moth,
Pollen beetles, Butterflies; Common Blue, Holly Blue, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Comma, Speckled Wood.
House sparrow, Hedge sparrow, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Wren, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Robin, Green Woodpecker