Last Thursday I was late to the opening night of artsrichmond’s Photography Exhibition on Conflict and Remembrance at the Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham – but not too late to collect an award. I was presented the award for Best Photograph matching Theme by Richmond Borough Councillor and Cabinet Member for the Arts, Culture and Sport, Meena Bond. I was surprised and delighted as I hadn't even realised that the entries were to be judged. This was my entry for the exhibitions; I've titled it, 'Grief is Borne when Loss is Born.'
This remarkable tombstone can be found not far from the entrance to the East Sheen and Richmond Cemetery. I’d seen this over a year ago while on an historical tour with the Richmond Historical Society. I’d noted that the sculpture faces east and so would be in the best position for a dusk photograph sometime in early autumn. As the gates to the grounds are locked at 16.30, I had to time my shoot rather precisely.
I think this is one of the most beautiful sculptures I’ve ever seen in person and by that I mean art, not just tombstones. I really haven’t been to many graveyards in my life, save the one in Highgate and passing by a few others from outside. But I wanted to tell you a story about another gravestone I came across around a decade ago. When my children were young I used to drive them to their school which was idyllically situated on the edge of Windsor Great Park. The drive was short, through the suburban tranquillity of Virginia Water and Englefield Green. Towards the end of my younger daughter’s final year, and realising that this short commute would soon to come to an end, I thought it might be a good idea for posterity to take a picture of the pretty statue near the front of St Jude’s Cemetery that we’d passed by twice a day for eight years. I wasn’t even much of a photographer at the time: no dslr, no decent software to speak of, just a point and shoot and a compulsion to capture this particular sculpture. Which was all fine, I snapped away and was about to go when I glanced down at the inscription below. I’m not making this up: the woman who was buried there had died on the day I was born. Not just the day of the year – the day in history.
I did a bit of sleuthing to find out about the woman. Her name was Dora Hedley and she’d moved out to Surrey from London for the health of her children – just as I’d done. She’d lived a short distance from the parade of shops in Virginia Water, just like me. Which is something really. At least to me it is. And so I’m looking forward to finding out more about the Lancaster family and especially why and who chose the stunning grieving woman who drapes over this final resting place.