The majority of the stained glass in Lincoln Cathedral dates from the 19th century and quite a large number are commemorative windows celebrating the life of a dear loved one.
Most of these sizable commemorative windows are vibrant and full of colour, often commanding a prominent position in the building being in direct competition with a neighbouring window in order to be seen. But not all windows stand out by being loud and brash. Two of the rather more subtle, unobtrusive memorial windows which have been sitting quietly and discreetly in St. Hugh’s south choir aisle since 1902 are the windows ‘Birth, Baptism, Death & Resurrection’ (sXVII*) and ‘Birth and After Life’ (sXVIII*). Both windows were made by the well-known London firm of Clayton & Bell and the choice of the densely painted clear silvery glass with sections of deep pot metal colours, the rich yellow staining and the adaptation of a 14th century canopy is rather typical of their work at the turn of the 19th century.
After the excitement of being overwhelmed by the intimacy of St. Hugh’s Choir and having seen the east end with its magnificent great window, and having (finally) found the Imp, the visitor often just walks past these two rather sober windows with their muted colours, not giving the memorials a second glance. It is quite remarkable that, although the windows are on the south side, due to their architectural positioning the sun only ever illuminates the hidden richness of these two windows for a short period of time at about noon.
Behind every commemorative window lies a human story and over 100 years on we may no longer have a direct link to the person who is remembered in many of our memorial windows and it appears that an inscription may be the only information which reminds us of the persons life.
‘To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Rosamond, only daughter of HS Acworth, vicar of Chobham. She died in Lincoln Gymnasium April 6th 1899 aged 17.’
As part of the glass restoration and maintenance program in 2010 the glazing department set up scaffolding in St. Hugh’s south choir aisle to carry out some routine cleaning and repairs on the two Clayton & Bell windows. This was the moment to leap into the murky pool of history to find out more about the girl called Rosamond who so mysteriously and prematurely died at Lincoln Gymnasium.
FULL OF SPIRIT AND BREEZY ORIGINALITY
Rosamond Acworth was a pupil at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School, formerly located on Lindum Hill, Lincoln. Although the beautiful 19th century William Watkins designed brick building, with its moulded decorative ornamentation of the unusual red Ruabon terracotta still exists, the former Girls’ High School is now used by the University of Lincoln and leased from Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. In 1974 the Girls’ High School closed and was amalgamated with four other schools in the area to form Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School which is a modern comprehensive school situated on Wragby Road.
Rosamond was a boarder and although she attended Lincoln Girls’ High School for only a brief time, she clearly made a very positive impact, not losing any time in identifying herself with the school or the school interests. In a tribute entitled, ‘In Memoriam’, it is recorded in the school magazine of 1899 that she never seemed like a ‘new girl’, and took her place in the Fifth as one of the leading girls. It was her good literary taste that resulted in her becoming the Librarian of the Fifth, and a member of the newly constituted School Magazine Committee. She was also the first ever Captain of the School Hockey Team, and was praised in the magazine as ‘…an excellent dribbler and dodger’, who ‘might be a little faster, and do rather more back work sometimes’. Among many other tributes, she is described as ‘…full of spirit and breezy originality’, and that she ’…just ended her life in the full swing of its interests and enjoyment in the straightforward day’s work’.
The Headmistress of the School, Miss Body, celebrated her happiness, genuine joy, and wholesome sweetness. Another member of staff, who had visited her home in Chobham, wrote that she was held in universal love and affection, and that on the day of her funeral on Monday April 10th 1899, the whole village was in mourning and in universal sorrow as she was laid to rest in the bright spring sunshine.
SUDDEN DEATH IN A LINCOLN GYMNASIUM
Rosamond died quite suddenly in the afternoon on Thursday 6th April whilst engaging in physical exercises at the gymnasium which in 1899 was located in the Lincoln Drill Hall. The Lincolnshire Echo reported that the Coroner described the case as a particularly sad one, as the deceased had suffered a seizure while climbing a rope. Miss Lilias Marr, a teacher at the school, described the incident in some detail giving evidence that Rosamond was good at this kind of exercise and usually got to the top of the rope. In fact she was one of the best. She never complained of any distress after exercises and she had been working on the parallel bars five minutes earlier. According to the Lincolnshire Echo report April 8th 1899, ’… Rosamond was about three yards up the rope when she slowly slid down, and on reaching the floor collapsed. She then became unconscious and a doctor was immediately called for. Despite efforts by Dr Carline to revive her, these were unsuccessful, and Rosamond passed away.’
During the inquest he described how he had found the girl ‘…quite dead and livid’, and that his attempts to resuscitate her for an hour were unavailing. He informed the Coroner that Rosamond had suffered a somewhat similar epileptic fit on a previous occasion, and this was later confirmed by Dr WHB Brook, who had attended the deceased in July 1898.
After hearing all the evidence the Coroner, in recommending to the jury a verdict of death by natural causes, thought that this was only just to those in charge of the girl at the school, who seemed to have taken every care of her, and who had only allowed her to embark upon the exercises after seeking medical advice.
The Acworth family was represented by the Revd. CA Skelton. Also present were the Governors of the School, Sub-Dean Leake and Mr Richard Hall, Clerk to the Governors, Mr JG Williams, and Mr B Vicars. The Foreman of the Jury was Mr WS Williams. Reading through the inquest report the coroner decided that it was not necessary to ascertain whether Rosamond’s death was due to epilepsy or to syncope and recommended not to carry out a post mortem on the body.
Following consultations on the historical accounts of the inquest of Rosamond’s sudden death with a modern medical trained professional, the most likely conclusion is that Rosamond probably died from a congenital heart problem rather than from epilepsy.
In addition to the large stained glass window in Lincoln Cathedral, there are several other memorials to her short life. The School Magazine of 1899 records that a beautiful cupboard in bog oak was donated by her cousin and ‘almost elder sister’, Miss Lilias Oswald Mitchell. The memorial, which will always be associated with Rosamond’s name, was originally situated in the fifth form library at Lincoln Girls’ High School, and was supplied with ‘…some of the most delightful books’, appreciated by the fifth form pupils. It was a fitting tribute as Rosamond did so much to organise the library. It is also recorded that a Prayer Desk was presented to the School from all the pupils in memory of Rosamond. The desk was manufactured by Messrs. Jones and Willis, artistic workers in wood and brass, and its ‘very graceful and effective’ design included some of the School’s symbols, such as ‘most gracefully carved’ lilies. The sum of £10 6s. 2d. was raised ‘in a very few days’, and the desk was placed on the hall platform of the School.
The two Memorials to Rosamond, originally housed in Lincoln Christ’s Hospital High School for Girls, are now on display in the Garton Archive and Oyler Room at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. The bog oak cupboard bears the inscription “In Memory Of Rosamond Acworth From L.O. Mitchell April 6th 1899. Sequamur”. The Prayer Desk, now located in the Oyler Room, adjoining the Garton Archive, bears the message, ‘IN · MEM · ROSAMOND · ACWORTH · APRIL · 6 · 1899’ in beautifully carved lettering.
There are also three further memorials to Rosamond located in Chobham, Surrey where Rosamond was confirmed on April 9th 1897. The first is the east window at Holy Trinity church, West End, Chobham which was originally part of Chobham parish, but is now a separate ecclesiastical parish.
The window is entitled, ‘Thy Brother Shall Rise Again’, designed and created by the eminent artist Arthur J Dix, and donated by her mother and father, the Revd. Acworth, Vicar of Chobham 1881-1911, in memory of their only daughter.
‘To the Glory of God and in Memory of Rosamond Acworth who was Confirmed in this Church April 9 1897 and Died April 6 1899 X the Gift of H S Acworth sometime Vicar of this Parish’
A smaller three light window portraying the ‘Suffering of Daughters’ (Jarius daughter, Jacob’s daughter & Naaman’s servant girl) is located in the south aisle at her home church of St. Lawrence, Chobham and this memorial window was donated by her three brothers William, Bernard and Cecil: ‘To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Rosamond only daughter of H.S. and R.C. Acworth + the gift of her three brothers, William, Bernhard and Cecil + AD1900’
An attractive brass chandelier, known as ‘the globe’, is also located at St. Lawrence church, Chobham and in the Surrey Archaeological Collection, Volume 47 (page 36), it is recorded that the globe chandelier is located in the nave, inscribed: ‘In memory of Rosamond’
The two stained glass windows at St. Lawrence Church and Holy Trinity, Chobham were dedicated on Easter Tuesday, 9th April 1900 by the Venerable Archdeacon J.H. Sapte.
The window in Lincoln Cathedral was dedicated on April 7th 1902 and the Lincolnshire Echo reported the following. ‘…a memorial window in St. Hugh’s south choir aisle of Lincoln Minster has been placed by the Rev. H. S. and Mrs Acworth, of Chobham Vicarage, Surrey, in memory of their daughter, Rosamond, a pupil at the Girls’ High School, Lincoln, who died very suddenly in the Gymnasium at the Drill Hall. The unveiling ceremony took place at the close of evensong on Monday 7th April 1902, being performed by the Ven. Archdeacon Kaye, who delivered a brief, appropriate, and touching address. The mistresses and pupils of the Girls’ High School attended, in addition to Mr and Mrs Acworth and other members of the family’.
This short but poignant prayer concluded the tribute to Rosamond in the Lincoln High School magazine following her sad and untimely death:
‘God grant that we,
who knew and loved her here,
may meet her again in the home beyond.
Tom Küpper, MA ACR is the Team Leader in the Lincoln Cathedral Glazing Department, and a Foundation Governor at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School
Peter Harrod MEd MPhil is the Archive Assistant and a Foundation Governor at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School
With kind assistance from Brigadier Robert Acworth & The Ven. Richard F Acworth
*For locating all the windows in this text the universally recognised Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA) numbering system has been used.
References and Sources
Brigadier Robert Acworth & The Ven. Richard F Acworth, personal accounts and family information.
Peggy Wynter Bee, information regarding St. Lawrence church, Chobham, Surrey.
Richard Still, medical trained professional providing advice.
Lincoln High School Magazines, 1899 (Garton Archive).
Lincoln High School Magazines, Vol. I 1899 (Lincoln Cathedral Library).
Lincoln High School Admissions Register, 1988 (Garton Archive).
The Lincolnshire Echo, Saturday April 8th 1899.
The Lincolnshire Echo, Saturday April 8th 1902.
The Wren Library, Lincoln Cathedral.
Surrey Archaeological Collection. Vol. 47, Surrey Archaeological Society MCMXL1.