An item in Issue 2 of the Oswestry Cemetery Project Newsletter told of the death of David Christopher Davies on board SS Angelo when returning from Norway to Hull. It asked what was someone buried in Oswestry Cemetery doing travelling that route and told of Davies’ death from a heart attack while at sea.
The circumstances of Davies’ death prompted the possibility of a burial at sea which immediately gives cause to wonder if he was indeed interred in Oswestry Cemetery. That question was given further weight when it was learned that he had been buried in un-consecrated ground.
Davies was a devout and practising Christian. Active in the Congregational denomination, he was for many years associated with Christ Church, Oswestry and the then Congregational Church at Preeshenlle. A respected lay preacher for many years, a collection of his sermons was published in 1871. The notion of burial in un-consecrated ground sat uncomfortably with his active Christian background.
These potentially conflicting matters were resolved by several lines of enquiry. As ever, not all lines of exploration lead to success. SS Angelo had been built for the Wilson Line of Hull which operated the vessel on a timetabled run between Norway and Hull. The SS Angelo had a total refit in the early months of 1885 and it was on this upgraded vessel that Davies began his return journey on the evening of 19 Sept 1885. Copies of the timetable survive as do some details of the upgrade. However, these enquiries did not find a surviving log in which the captain would have recorded the death and a burial at sea had it taken place.
Further enquiry showed that the captain had sent a telegram to Davies’ family telling of what had happened. The immediate outcome was that the eldest son, George, travelled to Hull and made arrangements for the corpse to be brought to Oswestry. Cemetery records show Davies was interred there on 24 Sept 1885 in Section H of the cemetery.
The Shropshire Family History Society burials register spreadsheet, which details consecrated and un-consecrated burials, shows Section H is mainly un-consecrated but with a sprinkling of consecrated interments. Further information showed that Oswestry Cemetery has a number of consecrated areas. Some of these are reserved for particular Christian denominations while other areas are reserved for different religions.
Further information, an entry in the Cemetery receipt book, shows conclusively that Davies is buried in Oswestry Cemetery. (See copy receipt)
It makes plain that the burial fees were paid by Davies’ daughter Mary Jane on 22 Sept 1885. It was known at the time that the burial was in un-consecrated ground where Davies’ daughter Sarah and wife Ellen had also been buried.
So was this journey of enquiry worthwhile? In a word, yes. Historical information needs to be tested against other possibilities. In Davies’ case the original information proved as robust as the man whose life was exceptional.
Contributed by Charles Stiles who is grateful to both Sara Cox and Sara Downs for their help.