Ford Madox Brown’s Grave

The PRS has received the following email, which might be of interest:

I live near the cemetery in north London (originally called St Pancras Cemetery but now managed entirely by Islington) where Ford Madox Brown and several of his family are buried.

The headstone is barely visible through the surrounding trees and
undergrowth. It leans forward perilously, pushed by a tree. I, and a few
other neighbours, have been aware of this shamefully neglected grave for more than a decade and have tried to alert the cemetery authorities, English Heritage and the Victorian Society, but to no avail. There is no Friends group for this old cemetery (consecrated in 1854) to take up the cause.

I wonder if any of your members/readers can help in any way? Are there no descendants who would take responsibility for the grave of their distinguished forbear? Would Art historians who specialise in Madox Brown and his period feel any interest or concern?

With huge sums changing hands in the international art market it is possible to imagine, in an ideal world, a fund being established and receiving donations in order to restore the neglected graves of our very best artists.

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1 Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

One response to “Ford Madox Brown’s Grave

  1. Ian Macsporran

    There is an account of Ford Madox Brown’s funeral in St Pancras Cemetary in Angela Thirlwell’s new book “Into the frame: the four loves of Ford Madox Brown”. Society members will recall Angela Thirlwell’s Founder’s Day Lecture on Ford Madox Brown, “Why the worst of times was the best of times”, at the 2009 AGM.

    “The funeral took place in the unconsecrated section of St Pancras Cemetary at East Finchley at 12.30 on Wednesday 11th October … The coffin of polished elm with brass fittings was covered with wreaths and inscribed simply, ‘Ford Madox Brown. Born in Calais, 16th April 1821. Died in London, 6th Oct., 1893.” The cortège consisted of an open car drawn by two horses, followed by sixteen carriages. There was no religious ceremony as the coffin was lowered into the grave, which already held the bodies of Madox Brown’s wife Emma and their two sons …

    Many members of the family, friends, and representatives from Machester Corporation gathered at the graveside. Associates from the old Pre-Rahaelite days were led by William Michael Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Arthur Hughes and Georgie Burne-Jones. Other artists and writers included Mathilde Blind, Richard Garnett, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Walter Crane …

    The Daily Grahic noted the unusual procedure: ‘As soon as the mourners had gathered round under the shade of a fine sycamore, of which the leaves had just faded into a beautiful golden brown, the coffin was lowered.’ Then Moncure Conway, the American freethinker in whose honour Conway Hall in London was later named, delivered a moving and entirely secular address. Many newspapers described mathilde Blind’s beautiful foliage wreath with a line from Blake woven in gold on a ribbon of black silk: ‘Death is the mercy of eternity'”

    (Angela Thirlwell, Into the frame: the four loves of Ford Madox Brown, London: Chatto & Windus, 2010, p248)

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