PICNIC AT BROOKWOOD FOR THE COLONEL
From Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the August 2007 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Brookwood cemetery was opened in 1854 to relieve the overcrowded cemeteries in central London. 2000 acres of land was purchased in Woking, Surrey from Lord Onslow, to provide services for burial for the next 500 years.
Situated 25 miles from London, trains ran daily from Waterloo to the cemetery directly. Brookwood originally boasted two railway stations, the North station for Nonconformists and the South station for the Anglican section. 400 acres were carefully landscaped with exotic trees and shrubs to provide a spacious and tranquil setting. Areas were provided for different nationalities and groups, such as Swedes, Latvians, Muslims, the Oddfellows and Chelsea Pensioners as well as the Military and religious denominations. Today Brookwood is as peaceful as ever.
In one small section in St Nicholas Ave is an area set aside for a number of Sewell ancestors of member Greta d’Albedyhll Newman. Buried there is her great grandfather, Colonel Henry Fane Haylett Sewell, and three of his sons. Henry Fane Haylett Sewell was born in 1838 and died in Woking in 1910.
On an earlier visit to Brookwood, Greta found her great grandfather’s Celtic Cross on the ground in pieces. Calling on the services of a stone conservator, the Italian marble Celtic Cross was skilfully pieced together. And so on the 20th of May this year I was invited along to a picnic to celebrate the remounting of the cross.
Many of the Colonel’s descendents arrived including a granddaughter (Greta’s mother) four great grandchildren, four x2 great grandchildren, three x3 great grandchildren, and a x4great grandson in ages ranging from one to ninety plus. Sophie the stone conservator prepared the plinth while everyone else prepared the rugs, chairs and food on the grass nearby. Soon Sophie had organised a party of strong and willing men to remove the cross from her car and carry it to the plinth. With care the cross was lowered onto the plinth and into resin and positioned carefully to applause.
By then everyone was ready, particularly the youngest members, for the picnic amid much talk and catching up on family news.
I have never picnicked in a cemetery before but the mood was far from sombre. I am sure the Colonel was looking down and smiling.
A great fun day thanks to Greta’s organisation, even down to warm sunshine.
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