I was busy thinking what I could write on my blog post today and I decided that maybe it was time to write something a little different instead of moaning about my 2,000 words left on my essay, which as at 2.38pm I’ve done no work on it! So I thought I’d write about a strange hobby of mine that I’ve had awhile now. I like to take photos of gravestones and visit random and often out-of-the-way graveyards, cemeteries and churches. (recently, I’ve also started having an interested in abandoned places.) To this day I’m not sure where this hobby has come from, but one of the earliest memories I’ve got that could be connected is of being a member of Rainbows at the age of 6 – the group below Brownies, for those who don’t know- and since the house where the weekly meetings took place was the old Victors’ house behind the church, we were allowed to play in the attached graveyard. Games like hide and seek, tag ect, spring to mind when I think about it, but yeah we use to run around the graveyard in the fading light and I don’t ever remember being scared about it. That possible is where my interested started really, I liked to look at the headstones and wonder about the dead people.
(Bronte family grave in Howath)
I’m not sure how it then developed and it must have been as an early teenager that I started actually taking photos and exploring graveyards on holidays. My interest has grown from there and now I’ve a mass of photos of headstones from different places in England and Wales – I don’t travel anywhere else, lack of money, lack of car ect. Even so I’ve found some really interesting headstones on my travels and sometimes reading the words placed on by family or themselves can be thought-provoking and you start thinking about the person they once where really. The down side to my hobby is controlling my emotions. This is understandable in graveyards that are still in use or when I go and visit my relatives, but in old graveyards you wouldn’t think the attachment would existed, but it does for me. I try not to think about it and fantasy about the life that person has led because that’s much more positive thinking. One of the places I’d love to visit is Highgate Cemetery in London- take a look at the website below! I’d like to see some cemeteries in Europe and the USA too, just look at the differences between them all.
(Lancs, Pendle. The grave of the Nutter family, which is said to connect to Alice Nutter of the Pendle Witches. I give permission for this photo to be used in a book last year.)
I guess like with most hobbies, there is a bit of risk to it, especially exploring some of the more abandoned cemeteries. The ground is uneven underfoot and though I’ve yet to find any ‘open’ graves, I’ve found ones that have sunk or else the gravestone edging is hidden in the grass and you can trip over and that’s the same for fallen or broken headstones. So I’m always carefully -even in a well looked after cemetery too, because you never know!- with my footing and keeping my eyes down for danger. Wearing the right footwear helps too. I think what is also needed though I never really give it much thought, because it comes so naturally too me, is the respecting of the site and the people buried there. Slightly going off the path here, but I believe in ghosts and I’ve seen and talked to them since I was little. So I always thank the people buried there for letting me take photos and I also have a habit of apologising, if I suddenly walk over a grave or anything like that. I also never take anything off the graves that have been left there by family members, though I’ve been known to pick things up to replace them or slightly reorganise things. Lastly and this is a big one for me, I always make sure that I’m with someone and keep them insight 99% of the time. My family members have had to cope with my hobby, but sometimes it does rub off on them! If that’s not possible I always tell someone where I’m going have a full charged phone. These places are closest to home though.
(Lancs. Pendle. Possible grave of someone connect to a life at sea.)
I can feel myself waffling on now, but I do get passionate about it! Though this isn’t writing my essay and I still need to put some photos up and that’ll take me ages. So, I’m going to make this the last part and then add some links. I’ve been asked before why I do have this strange hobby and frankly no clear answer comes to mind. I’ve a few ideas though- I like connecting to nature and often graveyards allow you to do this and also because they are quiet, sometimes isolated places that the world can easily forget about. I like quietness and escaping from the busy world to get back to natural roots in a sense. I think the second attraction has to be the art work on the headstones themselves. Once you start looking and you’ve visited a few different places, you learn that there is a massive variety of headstones out there and some designs can only be found in certain areas of the country. I like statues of angels and animals and delicate carvings. Lastly, it has to do the epitaphs because some of these are unique, funny, strange and sad. You can learn a lot about a person from reading what’s been put on their headstone. So yeah, that gives you a rough idea of why, but how come a hobby has to be explained anyway?
The very last thing before I go there is actually a name for it; Taphophilia. Which as Wikipedia states “is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.Taphophilia involves epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths. An example of an individual’s expression of taphophilia is the character Harold in the movie Harold and Maude (1971).” (Wiki 2011) and now here are some links –
My headstone photos on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30582799@N04/
Good website, I found a few minutes ago: http://www.graveaddiction.com/
Highgate Cemetery: http://www.highgate-cemetery.org/
Interesting photos of abandoned places: http://abandoned-places.com/
And here are some more photos!
(Liverpool. The sunken cemetry in the heart of Liverpool.)
(Liverpool. An angel bearing a cross statue in the sunken cemetry)
(Bolton Abby graveyard)
(Lancs. Pendle. massive tower headstone with Urn)