Tuesday, 31 July 2012


This memorial in York Cemetery is covered in symbolism, most noticeable is carved ivy for friendship which covers the cross. It has the letters IHS overlaid one another at the centre of the cross, this can be an abbreviation of the name of Jesus, and can also mean 'with this sign we conquer' (death presumably). At the bottom are fern leave (humility and sincerity). There are four names  carved around the square base, the one at the front reads as follows:
Mary Swann
One of the children of S. Stephens
Fell asleep July 13th
Aged 12
I was struck by the elaborate nature of the memorial for a child from an Orphanage. The other three names are all adults so perhaps her name was added later, but her's is most prominent. The memorial is not in the children's section of the cemetery
In 1870 a new childrens' home and orphanage called St Stephen's opened at Precentors Court near the Minster.  It moved location twice, settling on The Mount in 1919 before eventually closing in 1969.
Taking part in Taphophile tragics


  1. It is a lovely memorial and as you state lots of unanswered questions.

  2. Beautiful memorial. Do you know if Mary has any connections with the adults listed or whether they have any connections with the Orphanage? Back in the Victrorian ear it was quite common to place the bodies of porr children in the gaves of other's who had died around the same time to save on burial costs.

    Beneath Thy Feet

    1. I think the adults (who died many years after Mary) were connected with the Orphanage. I need to check the dates on my next visit as I assumed they were employed at the Orphanage, but they may have been children there themselves.

  3. Me, too. To be buried with strangers because you had no kith and kin of your own ... or money.

    However, I do like the cross. Very tactile. There is an expression, yes, that 'art imitates life'. Here I think life is imiatating the art. The jungle encroacheth ...

  4. It does seem a very elaborate cross for an orphan (who would have been very humbled, indeed)


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