JOHN DAVIES MEREWEATHER
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GRAVES

Mereweather was appalled by the conditions for burying non-Catholics in Venice. Already in Semele, published in 1867, he lets the heroine, visiting the Lido, express her dismay at the desolate and unenclosed tombstones of British Protestants who had been denied the privilege of being buried in consecrated ground. He also criticizes the British Government for not being paternal enough to obviate such an indignity. (Mereweather adds that, at a comparatively recent date, the mortal remains of the entombed, but not the stones, had been removed to a Protestant cemetery.)

Over the years, Mereweather made several attempts to remedy the situation. The municipality had repeatedly offered to provide a suitable ground but the promises were never kept. In 1879, in connexion with the appointment of a new British consul, Mereweather wrote to the Foreign Office asking for assistance. He said that the available (German) cemetery had "become so disgustingly full that the burial of fresh bodies frequently necessitates the exhumation of long interred remains". The only answer he received was that the new consul was free to use his influence in the matter. This correspondence can be found in the Public Record Office, London, FO 45/394.

The situation in Venice would have troubled Mereweather personally when he thought of his own future burial. And what was happening in Bristol would not have been to his liking either. Mereweather's half-brother Samuel and father John had both been buried in vault No. 70 in the church of St Werburgh, in 1839 and 1845 respectively. But this resting place was soon to be destroyed.

In 1871, Bristol City Council proposed that the church of St Werburgh, whose congregation was dwindling, should be moved to one of the suburbs in need of a church. This would also mean a great improvement in the city with the widening of Corn Street and Small Street. The matter was much debated, and, finally, in 1877 a decision was made and most of the site was sold to London and South Western Bank. John Latimer describes how bodies buried in and below the church were treated: The church "was taken down in the spring of 1878, when forty large chests of human remains, and about a hundred leaden coffins, were removed to Greenbank Cemetery ... ... The foundations of the new bank were carried down to an unusual depth, and bones were found at such a distance from the surface as to lead to a belief that the cemetery of the original church was fully twelve feet below the level of the fifteenth century edifice." (The Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century, Bristol 1887, p. 461).  The church itself was rebuilt in Mina Road, some 2.5 km to the north-east (the building is now a rock-climbing centre).

Mereweather’s neighbours, in Palazzo Contarini Corfù, were George Frederick Greaves, late Captain of the 60th Rifles, rentier, his wife Ann née Richards and their large family. On 3 June 1871, one of the Greaves daughters, Adela, got married to a Swedish lieutenant, Carl Edward Arfwedson, for whom banns had been read in Stockholm one month earlier. Their marriage was performed by Theodor Elze, priest in the German Evangelical Church in Venice. Mereweather and Richard Atkinson were witnesses. (There is a marriage certificate in the National Archives in Stockholm.) The young couple left Venice for Sweden.

In the summer of 1877, if not before, Ann Greaves, decided to visit her daughter and son-in-law in Stockholm where there were now also three grandchildren. Mereweather accompanied her on the trip. Adela and her family lived at Rålambshov on the outskirts of Stockholm. Tragically however, on 27 August 1877 Ann Greaves died of organic heart disease (vitium organicum cordis according to the parish register of Kungsholm). She was buried three days later in a new grave, No. 2760, in Stockholm's Northern Cemetery; the arrangements were made by Carl Edward Arfwedson, her son-in-law.

On the day of the burial, on 30 August 1877, Henrik Gerhard Arfwedson, younger brother of Carl Edward, bought grave No. 2761 for 100 Swedish kronor (£5 10s.). According to a transcript of the deed (in the National Archives in Stockholm), this grave was transferred to John Davies Mereweather on 3 September 1877.

All this happened within one week. Thus Mereweather, in his grief, decided to secure a plot for himself next to Ann Greave's grave. He undoubtedly had great affection for her, but he would also have seen a solution to the problem with his own burial which had tormented him for so long.

On 16 July 1878 Mereweather, being a British and not a Swedish subject, applied, through the Department of Justice, for the approval of the transfer to him of the grave deed. His request was granted by a Royal resolution of 2 August 1878, and on 5 September 1878 the cemetery administration registered the grave in Mereweather's name.

In 1880 Mereweather made a payment of 400 kronor (£22) for the perpetual upkeep of his grave.

In his will Mereweather had written, "… at my decease unless there be many and great obstacles my body shall be cremated and my ashes conveyed to Stockholm the capital of Sweden where in the Cemetery there is a grave belonging to me in perpetuite numbered 2761 in any case my body if not my ashes must be conveyed to the said grave …".

 

Mereweather feared that his wishes regarding cremation would not be respected. Therefore, in early1888, he became a member for life of Svenska Likbränningsföreningen (The Swedish Cremation Society) so that, if necessary, his remains could be cremated in Sweden before burial there. This was reported in several Swedish newspapers, and Aftonbladet adds on 2 March: "The old man has allowed that this is brought to the public's attention in order thereby to contribute, according to his ability, to the success of the human cremation reform."

 

But Mereweather's worries were unfounded. When he died, nineteen years after the purchase of his grave, his body was indeed cremated, and the ashes were sent to Sweden with an affidavit issued by the Norwegian-Swedish consul in Venice. Grave No. 2761 was finally opened to be ready for the burial by 1 p.m., Tuesday 28 July 1896.

(The practice of human cremation emanated mainly from Italy where experiments had started around 1870; professor Brunetti of Padua had showed his results at the exhibition in Vienna in 1873. See Modern Cremation, its History and Practice (London, 1889) by Henry Thompson.)

It should be mentioned that, although the family vault in St Werburgh's was doomed to destruction, there would have been a Bristol burial option: the Arnos Vale cemetery situated in Brislington, some 3 km south-east of the city centre. In 1875, Mereweather's half-sister Ann had been buried there in grave No. J143. However, neither Mereweather himself nor Ann had surviving Bristol family, so he may have been concerned about the preservation, especially as Arnos Vale was run by a private company for profit (as distinct from the Stockholm cemetery which is run by the municipality). For recent pictures of Arnos Vale, see below.

In Stockholm on the other hand, Mereweather had his heirs: Carl Edward Arfwedson and his children; one of the children was Mereweather's godson Jacques Arfwedson. Today, one of Jacques's grandsons is registered in the database as contact person for grave No. 2761. And the contract for the perpetual upkeep is still honoured by the cemetery administration. Mereweather could hardly have made a better choice for an eternal resting place.

STOCKHOLM'S NORTHERN CEMETERY
Stockholms norra begravningsplats


Area 12 B

 

 

 

Grave No. 2761 (12 B 55):

Here sleeps the sleep of death
John Davies Mereweather
Knight of the order of the crown of Italy
English chaplain at Venice
from 1855 to 1887
He was born in Bristol
on the 7th day of September 1816
and died in Venice
the 18th day of June 1896
31st Ps. 6th v.

 

The verse reads in King James Version, "I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord".

 


 

 

 

 

Grave No. 2760 (12 B 56):

Ann Greaves
Born at Chester
on the 24th of October 1806
Died at Rålambshof
on the 27th of August 1877
Into thine hand I commit
my spirit. Thou hast
redeemed me, O Lord God
of truth. 31st Ps. 5 v.

 


Motsvarande verser i Karl XII:s bibelöversättning lyder (med numreringen ett steg förskjuten):
Ps 31:7, "Jag hatar dem, som hålla uppå lösaktiga läro; men jag hoppas til Herran" (Mereweather)
Ps 31:6, "Uti dina händer befaller jag min anda; du hafwer mig förlöst, Herre, du trofaste Gud" (Ann Greaves)

Map of the south-eastern corner of Stockholm's Northern Cemetery (Stockholms norra begravningsplats) from a register of the graves, published in 1886 by Gustaf Holmberg

In the beginning of the 19th century, the population of Stockholm had grown so much that the old graveyards of the different parishes no longer sufficed. At this time the Government had also become aware of the hygiene problems related to interments in densely built-up areas. Therefore, in 1815 it was decided that part of the royal estate of Karlberg in Solna, just north of the city boundary, should be made available for the Stockholm parishes as a cemetery. This Northern Cemetery was inaugurated in 1827. Special areas for Roman Catholics and for the Jewish Community were established in 1847 and 1857 respectively.

The blue X indicates the approximate position from where the view of the Solna parish church below was painted. The artist would have stood just off the road to Sundbyberg looking south.


The parish church of Solna, probably 1860
Oil painting by an unknown artist, signed perhaps C. H.

The church dates back to the 1180s.
The Stockholm/Solna border lies some 500 metres further south, beyond the trees in the background.



Norrtull, The old toll gate on the Stockholm/Solna border
View looking north along the Uppsala road
Postcard from c. 1903, undivided address side

Following the Uppsala road, one would reach the south-eastern corner of Stockholm’s Northern Cemetery after about 500 metres. The parish church of Solna lies about 1 km to the north-west, beyond the trees on the hilltop.
 



ARNOS VALE CEMETERY, BRISTOL

The three photographs below were taken in August 2009 by Frances Daniels of Branchlines (who regrettably ceased trading in 2015).

Area J, Path No. 3
 

Grave No. J143
 

ANN MEREWEATHER
Born in Bristol Anno Domini 1800
Died at Clifton on the 14th January 1875
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord  [Rev 14:13]