FRIENDS OF BEDFORD CEMETERY
Foster Hill Road
INTERESTING GRAVES 1
THE GRAVE OF
CHRISTOPHER NEIL MLYNARCZYK.
A grave that has intrigued many of us for some while is that of Christopher Neil Mlynarczyk. He is buried in plot H7, on the left hand side, close to the path that leads up to the well known Wyatt enclosure.
We have done some research on him and discovered he was born in 1951, and died aged 21 years. As his grave depicted a boxer, we thought he may have died in a boxing accident. Looking into the local papers of that time we have put together his life.
He lived in King Edward Road with his parents Stefan and Dorothy. He was a talented boxer who boxed under the name of ‘Destar’. He was an amateur, who only turned professional one month before his death, and had his first professional fight two weeks before that. He was tipped to have a great future in the sport.
He had boxed from the age of 14, first at Goldington Road Secondary School and then joined Bedford Boys Club. He trained every day and had had 135 amateur fights, of which he won 80. Two years before his death he won his way through to the final of the
National Association of Boys Clubs Championship, but lost on points. He had been picked to represent Britain against America. His trainer, Paul Kine, said of him “Chris was a fine boxer, who showed a great natural ability and we had great hopes for him. He was a good all-rounder and his death is a sad loss”. His death was sadly prosaic, as he was killed on the way to the Co-op shop where he worked as Butchery Manager.
It seems probable that his father was Polish, and could perhaps have been one of the Polish Armed Forces that came to this country at the start of the 2nd World War and married an English girl. His father Stefan died on 5th August 1981 aged 61 years and his mother Dorothy Elizabeth died on 28th July 1991 aged 77 years. If anyone knows more about Christopher we should be delighted to hear from you.
THE GRAVE OF
FRANCIS HENRY DRAPER FREEMAN.
THE ORGAN BLOWER.
The following was the report in the local paper of his death.
“On Tuesday January 24 1882 there passed away from among us one whose services though of the humblest, were so faithfully and heartily rendered that they would seem to deserve a recall in our columns.
Francis Henry Draper Freeman, for more than 15 years, organ blower to Holy Trinity Church was well known as a most enthusiastic lover of music in his way. He was rarely absent from any organ opening or recital, and his criticisms on music and musicians generally, were often as shrewd as they were uncompromising .The pride he took in the organ and choir of Holy Trinity, and his devotion to Mr Diemer was very remarkable, while to his ‘pupils’ on the organ as he called them, he performed his duties most faithfully and took a liveliest interest in their progress.
He was put into his grave last Saturday, when the Rev G.A.Willan performed the ceremonies. Several of the Trinity Church Choir were present and flowers were thrown on the coffin. Last Sunday Mr Willan made a very feeling allusion to Henry after the morning sermon, and after the service the poor fellows favourite hymns were sung. In the evening Mr Diemer played the dirge from ‘Bethany’ before the service and’ The dead march in Saul’ afterwards.
One of the hymns being ‘Brother thou hast gone before us’ also from ‘Bethany’. To use Mr Diemer’s words ‘ A more devoted blower than poor Henry never existed."
It is now very difficult to read the engraving on the stone which is of a very fine shape. It does however recall that Henry was organ blower to the church for 15 years and died at the young age of 34.
The stone was paid for by the choir and organist, which explains who Mr Diemer was. The grave is situated in the higher area of the cemetery, not far from The Wyatt enclosure.
NUNS BURIED AT FOSTER HILL ROAD CEMETERY
By Richard Wildman and John Gibbons.
The Daughters of the Holy Ghost (DHG) were a teaching order of nuns based in a convent at St Brieuc in Brittany. When, in the early 1900s, the French government introduced severe anti-clerical laws intended to prevent Catholic religious orders from teaching, nuns were sent to the UK to establish Catholic schools for girls, in Abergavenny, Bedford and Ingsdon (Devon).
In Bedford, the nuns (who first settled in Lansdowne Road) took over (in 1914) the premises of the Crescent House Ladies’ College at 112-114 Bromham Road, which became the Convent of the Holy Ghost School, as well as the Bedford Convent. In 1958, the DHG acquired the former Manor House Hospital at Clapham Park, which became the main Bedford Convent, though some nuns continued to live at the School or nearby.
The Convent School had a preparatory department (also admitting boys), called St Mary’s, at 118 Bromham Road (formerly Stamford House, a Bedford Modern School boarding house). The Convent School closed in 1974, and was replaced by St Bede’s Voluntary Aided RC Middle School, which itself closed in 2006. The site is now being developed as retirement flats, retaining Nos 112-114 as well as the smaller (older) house at 116. No 118 was sold in the 1980s, and is now the offices of an estate agent.
Clapham Park was sold for conversion into apartments in the early 1980s. New houses were built in the grounds, and the main house is now a single dwelling again. Among the nuns who are buried in Bedford Cemetery will be some of the teachers at the School. All the DHG Schools in the UK had closed by 1974.
The CENTRAL grave is Sister Therese Du St Esprit Queouron (Mother Therese). She was born in 1860 in France. She came to England in 1903 and worked for 18 years in the Holy Ghost Convent in Abergavenny. This was Followed by 5 years in Pontypool. She arrived In Bedford in 1926 and retired in 1938, when she was a partial invalid. She died, aged 91 years, on 25th February 1951 while still in the convent. A Requiem Mass was held at the Roman Catholic Church in Midland Road on 27th February 1951. This was followed by interment in Foster Hill Road Cemetery.
The grave to the LEFT has 2 inscriptions, one on the front and one on the back The front one is to Sister Athanese de Jesus Furic. She died on 13th April 1950 aged 74 years. The death is registered in Holborn as Anne Furic.
On the REVERSE side of this stone sister Irene de Marie Fragel is commemorated. She died on 19th November 1942 aged 22 years. Her death is registered as Barbara N Fragel, but her obituary in the Bedfordshire Times, she is listed as Irene (Mary) Fragel.
The graves to the RIGHT, facing the path has 3 inscriptions The FRONT one is to remember Sister Imelda Conlan, fille du Saint Esprit. She died on 18th December1925 aged 37 years. Her death is registered as Mary Ellen Conlan.
To the LEFT side is Sister Marie Cecilia. She died on 18th November1932 aged 48 years. Her death is registered as Marie Louise Elien.
On the REVERSE of the stone is Sister Jeanne Raphael Donovan,fille du Saint-Esprit. She died on 21st November 1924 aged 24 years, and is registered as Doris Donovan.
MR. DANN ............ THE CEMETERY MAN.
By John Gibbons
When, in the interests of public health, church and chapel graveyards were closed
for burials, Bedford’s first public cemetery at Foster Hill Road was opened in 1855.
The first appointed Superintendent/Registrar was Thomas Dann. He, together with
Thomas Jobson Jackson (died 1894), had the formidable task of converting an
uninviting landscape (‘two ploughed fields and some arid land’) into a decent place
of burial. That they achieved this is without doubt, as the cemetery was later
described as one of the prettiest in the country.
Thomas Dann was born on 29th March, 1822, the fourth of the five children of Thomas and Philadelphia Dann of Rotherfield, Sussex. He married Ann(e) Adams, a young lady from his native village, in 1850 and came to Bedford around that time. He had been engaged as head gardener to Rev. R. W. Fitzpatrick, the incumbent of Holy Trinity church, who resided at The Lodge on Clapham Road. When the cemetery opened, Thomas and his wife lived in the right-hand side of the gatehouse and a room over the archway (the left-hand part of the building contained the mortuary and Registrar’s office). They produced nine children of whom three – Ellen Elizabeth (1854-93), Mary Jane (1861-72) and William Henry (1862-91) predeceased their parents. They are interred close to them in the cemetery.
Despite these undoubted sorrows and also the solemn nature of his occupation, Thomas was described as being of genial disposition, courteous to visitors to the cemetery and universally esteemed and respected. He was a devout Christian, regularly attending Holy Trinity church where he became clerk to the church and also, for some thirty years, Superintendent of the Sunday School.
He continued as Superintendent/Registrar at the cemetery for forty-three years until, on 13th August, 1898, whilst working near the chapel, he was taken ill with chest pains. He had been in poor health for several years but always made light of his ailments. He recovered sufficiently to pay the men their wages on the Saturday evening and, after supper and his usual bath, retired to bed. However, in the night he became gravely ill and, although his doctor attended him, little could be done and he died on the Sunday morning. The cause of death was stated to be angina pectoris.
His funeral was held on the following Thursday when thirteen members of the clergy led the cortege. The chapel and graveside services were conducted by Rev. R. Greig (curate of Holy Trinity church). Despite Mr. Dann having made it known that he wanted no flowers at his funeral, several wreaths were on the coffin, including a large anchor wreath from the undertakers of the town. A large Calvary Cross adorned the entire lid of the coffin.
Canon Haddock (Rector of Clapham), preaching at Holy Trinity church on the following Sunday, aptly summed up Thomas Dann’s life - “His religion was his duty and his duty his religion”.
His widow, herself in poor health, lived on for over nine years at 14 Foster Hill Road, not so very far from Cemetery Lodge where she had lived with her much-respected husband for 43years.
Photograph of the Dann Graves
SERGEANT WILLIAM GEORGE GIBBS.
312181 - 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge’s Own).
By John Gibbons.
In the years immediately prior to the partition of Ireland, during the Irish War of Independence, the British Army maintained garrisons in many Irish towns One was in Mallow, County Cork, manned by the 17th Lancers, and this was the scene of a raid by the I.R.A. in 1920.
On the morning of September 28th, at a time when the officers were away from the barracks exercising their horses, three I.R.A. men presented themselves at the wicket gate of the barracks, purporting to be conveying a letter for the commanding officer. The sentry’s attention was diverted and the raiders overpowered him and burst into the compound, letting in further I.R.A. men. They made for the guardroom where they knew the weapons would be kept. The senior N.C.O. in charge, Sergeant (Acting Sergeant-Major) Gibbs, who was nearby supervising the shoeing of a horse, realised what was happening and ran for the guardroom, either to arm himself or lock it against the invaders. He was ordered to stop and a warning shot was fired over his head. He did not stop and received two bullets to the heart, the shots coming from one of three I.R.A. men working undercover as painters within the garrison. Sergeant Gibbs, aged 25, died within minutes. The I.R.A. raiders made off in lorries loaded with their haul of weapons but failed in their attempt to set fire to the barracks.
That evening and through the night, the British Army, in retaliation for the killing of Sergeant Gibbs, ran amok in the town. They torched many shops and buildings, including the Town Hall, and destroyed the Cleeve creamery which was the town’s largest employer.
William Gibbs was the son of Mrs Annie Franklin of 82a Westbourne Road, Bedford. (His father had died when William was very young and his mother had re-married). His body was returned to Bedford (Kempston Barracks) accompanied by a detachment of troops from his own regiment On the day of his full military funeral, Monday October 4th 1920, the hearse was preceded to St. Leonard’s Church by the Depot band and a firing party. The service was conducted by the Reverend J.S.Spratt who also officiated at the committal service at Bedford Cemetery. Three volleys were fired over the grave.