Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Some Notable Memorials in the Overleigh Cemetery Chester

old soldier's grave
Here is the story of another fascinating burial which you may encounter strolling back from Overleigh Cemetery into the city...
When Grosvenor Street had been created in 1825 to link the city with Thomas Harrison's new Grosvenor Bridge, it had been necessary to demolish an ancient church dedicated to the Irish saint Bridget that stood for a thousand years opposite St. Michael's Church on Bridge Street. He designed a new church bearing the same dedication, which was erected close to the recently-rebuilt Castle. Harrison himself was laid to rest in the churchyard here.

soldier's grave 2When this church was in turn demolished during the 1960s to make way for a traffic island on the new Inner Ring Road, his remains were transferred to Blacon Cemetery on the edge of the city. The exact location of Harrison's former vault is not certain but is thought to lie somewhere under the pavement in Grosvenor Street- and marked by a manhole cover. Not much of a memorial to such a great man!

Some sorry traces of the second St. Bridget's churchyard do remain with us today, however. Should you ever pass this way, you will observe that a number of gravestones remain, shockingly neglected, still under their yews on a dusty patch of land next to the new magistrate's court building. More surprisingly, some may be seen on the traffic island itself! Numerous burials remain beneath the grass but just two stones are now visible- and only one of these is an actual gravestone. A tall obelisk is a memorial to the great nonconformist biblical commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714) which was paid for by public subscription and erected in St. Bridget's Churchyard in 1860. Henry himself lies in an unmarked grave within Holy Trinity Church- the Guildhall- in Watergate Street.

The other, a humbler affair, unnoticed by virtually all who pass by, is the grave of a truly remarkable old soldier. Its lengthy inscription reads (excuse any mistakes- it is quite faded now),
st bridget's church"In memory of Thomas Gould, late of the 52nd regiment L. I. (Light Infantry). Died 1st November 1865 aged 72 years, 46 of which were spent in the service of his country. He was present at the following engagements: Vimeara, Corunna, crossing the Coa near Almeida, Eusago, Pumbal, Redinha, Condeixe, Foz d'Avoca, Sabugal, Fuentis D'ongle, storming of Ciudral, Rodrigo and Fadajos, Salamanca, San Munos (taken prisoner), St. Millan, Pyrenees, storming of the French entrenchments at Vera (wounded), Nivelle, passage of the Neve, Orthez, Tarrez, Toulouse and WATERLOO. He received the Peninsula Medal with 13 clasps and the Waterloo Medal. This stone is placed over him by a few friends."
It is easy to imagine the old warrior, having, against all odds, surviving all those terrible battles of the Napoleonic Wars, returning to Chester and growing old, enjoying his retirement and sitting in a favoured corner of his local pub (doubtlessly, as befits a military man, somewhere here in the vicinity of the Castle) regailing his friends with all manner of blood-curdling tales from his long career. They, and doubtlessly also the young and as-yet unblooded members of the garrison, would have been glad to buy him a pint or two and, when the time came, give him a good send-off and a decent burial. We wonder what he would make of his present situation!

Our main photograph shows Thomas' grave on the busy traffic island with Matthew Henry's memorial and the Castle behind.



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