Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe

Tom Stanier's Query

by Sue Jackson

An interesting enquiry received recently was from a Tom Stanier asking for help in locating the grave of his grandfather Charles Edward Stanier who he knew was buried in Topsham Cemetery in 1936. Sue already knew that burial index cards were on-line for Higher, Exwick and Topsham Cemeteries so it was a case of searching for the record. [Many years ago, these were housed in card index drawers and it was necessary to visit the Civic Centre and undertake a manual search.]

I found the record and forwarded the details on to Tom along with a telephone number to the Bereavement Services office. A helpful lady replied with appropriate plans of the cemetery showing the location of the grave, but with the caveat that although a memorial was originally on the grave, with the passage of time since burial there was no guarantee that it was still there. I had enquired of Tom whether he lived locally and could visit the cemetery himself, or if he would like me to visit and take photographs. As he lives in London, he took me up on the offer and forwarded the plans he had been sent.

My husband and I visited the cemetery on the afternoon of Friday 19 August and did our best to try to locate the grave, took details and photographs of some gravestones which still existed and trusted we were in the right location. Over time, many of the gravestones had either disappeared or fallen over, and many mature trees were confusing the issue where I thought graves should have been. On studying the plans further at home, I realised that I was using the wrong reference point but at least identified the gravestone details against the burial index cards. I went back to the cemetery the following Monday afternoon and walked around (in the rain!) trying to be more accurate in my search area. I took more photos of existing gravestones and was fairly certain that I had the right row, identified two graves in from the path but was disappointed to find that the third location which should have been the right grave was simply a large grassed over area. Back home again I did another search in the burial index cards to cross-check the grave details of the ones I had photographed and emailed Tom with my findings. Rather disappointing to not find an actual grave with the details he was hoping for, but at least a selection of photos to give perspective to the area and showing where the grave had originally been located.

Tom had revealed that his grandfather was brother to Sir William Arthur Stanier (1876-1965) who according to his Wikipedia page “was a British railway engineer, and was chief mechanical engineer of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.” The article lists the 13 LMS Locomotive designs introduced by Sir William. It says of his Legacy “Stanier’s designs were a strong influence on the later British Railways standard classes of steam locomotives designed by R.A.Riddles, who adopted LMS design principles in preference to those of the other ‘Big Four’ railway companies. There is a secondary school in Crewe called Sir William Stanier School.”

All in all, an interesting piece of research and a chance to visit a cemetery I had not previously visited.

[November 2022]

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