Friday, September 30, 2016

Season of mists in Radnor Street Cemetery

As we prepare for our last guided cemetery walk of the 2016 season on October 9 I thought you might like to make a return visit to a series of virtual walks we took sometime ago. 

It is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and time for another virtual walk among the memorials at Radnor Street Cemetery.  I shall don my raincoat and carry an umbrella as the weather forecast is not good, but you can put on the kettle, make a cup of tea and join me from the comfort of your computer.

We begin with a stranger to Swindon and a gravestone in a precarious condition. As you can see there is a crack beginning to creep around the edge.  Invariably when this happens the whole surface of the stone shears off when all record of that person is lost.  Sadly there are a number that have so suffered when you look around the cemetery.

This is the last resting place of Jane Martinelli who died in 1893 aged 65.  From the brief details on the gravestone I wondered if Jane and Thomas might be Italian, but further research has revealed that Jane was born in Worcester, and this is about all  that can be discovered about her.

The Martinelli story, on the other hand, is one of fluctuating fortunes. In the 1891 census Jane is living with husband Thomas at 13 John Street, Swindon.  Thomas worked as a Railway Coach Builder and states his place of birth as St. Pancras, London. He was baptised at Trinity Church on December 26, 1831, the son of Louis Martinelli, also a coach maker.

Still no Italian birthplace though as Louis was born in Holborn in 1799.  Business as a coach maker must have been good because when Louis died in 1884 he left £6,180 2s 10d worth today about £3.2 million.
Back another generation and at last the Italian connection.

Thomas’ grandfather was Aloysious Louis Martinelli born in Italy in 1761.  A barometer maker Aloysious married Abigail Marshall at St. Anne’s Church, Soho in 1799.  Sadly Aloysious died in Lambeth Workhouse in 1845 aged 84.  Perhaps son Louis hadn’t made his fortune by then!

Returning to Swindon and Jane’s story.  The Martinelli’s don’t appear to have had any children.  Tracking them through the Victorian census returns revealed they lived in Manchester and Birmingham before arriving in Swindon.

Thomas married again in 1894, the year after Jane’s death. It would appear the original intention was for Thomas to join Jane here as there is plenty of space on the gravestone for an additional inscription.

The leaves may be falling but the lush ivy never deserts the cemetery.  


  1. and the ivy is the other way that memorials disappear. It looks so good but does so much harm.

  2. It's a problem, I agree but sometimes it is the only thing holding a fragile memorial together - more damage is done by stripping it away. I'm intrigued to know what lies beneath the ivy in the photo above.