An Unexpected Poet

Whatever it may be, frost heave, soil settle or something other, it nudges gravestones from the vertical, and a few will eventually fall on their backs or faces. The headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard remembering George MILNER, and his wife Mary Ann seems unique in appearing to be pulled, ever so gradually, into the earth by an unknown force. Straight down.

D444_MILNERgeo_20180605_fst

George was born in Hunmanby, a few miles inland from Filey, in 1813. He married Mary Ann PUDSEY in Holy Trinity Church, Hull, in 1838. Their five children were born in that city and one of the three girls, Elizabeth, married John, a younger brother of Warcup CROSIER, who wed the girl next door (Monday’s post).

George followed the same trade as Warcup, and so did John. They were all joiners. But George was also a poet.

At least, that is what he told the census enumerator in 1851. Journeyman Joiner & Poet. Wonderful.

1851_MILNERgeo_Census

For reasons unknown to me, the family moved from Hull to Filey during the next decade and in 1871 George was just a plain, and somewhat less romantic, Master Joiner living in West Road.

I went in search of his poems. If there are any out there, I have yet to stumble upon them. I did find this:-

1846_MILNERgeorge_NEWS

Poets are known to have become elegiac in country churchyards but further investigation established this George as a Director of Hull’s Cemeteries and probably somewhat older than 33 years. (I didn’t hold too fast to a notion of him in a dual role of making coffins and dealing with the administration of seeing them put efficiently in the ground.)

However, taphophiles may be interested in this extract from the preface to the second edition of the pamphlet referred to above.

In Hull, the town in which the author resides, there is a population of about 70,000; the published returns of the Registrar General, however, only include the parishes of Holy Trinity and St. Mary; and therefore, in dealing with facts, we must confine ourselves to these districts, which, according to the last census, contained a population of 41,130. So early as the year 1301, Archbishop Corbridge mentions a cemetery in Kyngstone. The burying ground is described in the will of John Schayl, in 1303, as the Cemetery of Holy Trinity of Kingston-upon-Hull; in 1320 King Edward granted a vacant piece of ground at the west end of the church, for the enlargement of this churchyard –  the plot altogether, including the site of the church, only contains about 5,040 square yards, and has never since been used as a place of interment for this parish. It is crowded everywhere with bones and coffins, some of the latter within a foot of the surface; the ground, as may readily be imagined, is one mass of decomposed flesh and blood; it is raised two or three feet above the level of the adjoining streets by interments, notwithstanding those streets are now higher considerably than they formerly were. Holy Trinity is situated in the Market-place, and entirely surrounded by dwellings –  at the west, a row of houses overlooks the ground, and in summer months, offensive smells are complained of. In 1783, a new ground was opened for this parish, containing about 14,520 square yards, – the ground has long since been filled, and no interment can now take place without disturbing human remains; this ground has also been considerably raised by interments above the adjoining streets. In the other parish, we find St. Mary’s Church was founded or enlarged in 1333, as Archbishop Melton then granted a licence for “performing divine offices in the chapel, and rites of sepulture in the ground.” The present churchyard contains about 750 square yards; it is frightfully crowded, and the ground raised four or five feet above street level – graves cannot be made without mangling and displacing remains. A new ground was obtained for the parish in 1774, it contains about 2772 square yards; this is very much crowded, so much so that it is necessary to prick with an iron rod for a new grave. The parishes of Holy Trinity and St. Mary, according to the last census, contained 41,130, as before stated; the published Tables of Mortality shew that from the year 1838 to 1846 inclusive, there have been no less than 10, 601 deaths recorded in these two parishes. How then is it possible that, under existing arrangements, violation of the grave can be avoided? No interment can possibly take place without desecration – the quiet of the grave exists but in the imagination.

Our George Milner was buried in St Oswald’s churchyard on 11 May 1890, about a year after Mary Ann was laid to rest. Their son Robert died in Cottingham in 1898 and was brought to Filey for burial in their grave.

Find the family on FamilySearch Tree.

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