Overleigh Cemetery, Chester ~ some history and musings.

©Cymraes2014
©Cymraes2014

This is a complimentary post to the visit I paid to the old part (north) of Overleigh Cemetery, which can be found here ~> Overleigh Old Cemetery, Chester. 

Tip~hover your cursor over the coloured words for further info – click through for sources.

In the 1830’s it was decided Chester needed a new cemetery; the Church yards were full, and with the advent of the Victorian epidemics (caused by insanitary conditions) must have been a huge catalyst in the siting of the cemetery outside of the city, across the river far away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. The fact that the site chosen (and kindly donated by the Grosvenor estate) across the river is not lost on me or those of you, Dear Reader with the eye’s to see! Nor is the consecration date, of 12th November 1850[1] (the 12th being old All Hallows). Traditionally, this is the time of the Wild Hunt [2] ~ when the old Saxon God Woden (and regional variants) rides out with his hounds to claim the Souls of the departed marked by the first of the winter storms. The northern site was originally laid out to a romantic style, complete with a lake (now sadly filled in) furthering the old folk lore of coffins carried over water meant their occupants couldn’t return over the water to bother the living. During my visit I found what I can only assume was the bridge across the lake that was once part of the original design!

©Cymraes2014
©Cymraes2014

I cannot help but see a romantic connection with the classics; in Greek myth, the departed soul pays the Ferryman to take them across the river to the Otherworld, where they are made to drink from the waters of the Lethe [3] in order to forget their former lives. The symbolism of the lake nor the river Dee, could not have been over looked by the Victorian’s, who loved their classical myths and legends. Indeed the local customs and folklore were still prevalent in the folk memory of them as well, no matter how the Church sought to depress the ‘Old Way’s’ they found their way into the folklore and customs of the poor as the folklorists of the era recorded! For those of you who have read the part about my disturbing the Watcher, I shall go into more detail here: as I said, I was in a dream-like state, walking along in the warm sun – I need to explain the day was still with not a breath of wind. Suddenly I was aware of a vague shape to my left, and as quickly as I was aware of it it evaporated in a swirl of (localised) wind and as if someone had tripped, the undergrowth next to the path and across three graces shuddered as if some one had fallen and then got up i.e. flattening and then springing back up! The over all psychic impression was that I had disturbed a man, tall and lanky, dressed in back with a white collar, holding a tall hat in his hand, as he stood – face in the sun, enjoying the warmth of the day… he’d jumped, startled as I went by, and fell backwards and to his left slightly, landing on his hand, catching his hat with his free hand and then over balancing completely before scrabbling to his feet away from me (and the puppy dog) and watched me go by, huffing as I murmured something to him. By the physical eye, all I saw was undergrowth disturbed by a gust of sudden wind; an air phenomenon. Now, I find this: “The cemetery opened on 12 November 1850 with the consecration of the Church of England burial ground by the Bishop of Chester Diocese. The first burial, of a Mr Ayrton, took place on the afternoon of the same day.” [4] I wish I knew where he was buried! I’m sure he’d like a nice bunch of sweet smelling flowers 🙂 as a thank you. There is a body of thought, and indeed the folk lore to accompany it, that the first buried in a grave yard or cemetery act as the Watcher or Guardian of the site, until it’s closed when the role goes on the shoulders of the last person to be buried there. In Cheshire, as well as other parts of the country, these souls are often seen as black dogs; which interestingly are sacred to the Goddess Hekate, who leads the dead out of the underworld and is the Queen of Ghosts and graveyards. Sadly, I did not (as yet) find the graves of Mr & Mrs Christmas, who are in there somewhere as this picture shows! Nor Mr Langtry’s – the long suffering husband of the infamous Lilly, but I’m sure I will in future visits as well as visiting the rest of the cemetery to the south.

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