Things fall apart

Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth, widow of Edward Gillett died August 29th. 1859 aged 91 years, also Elizabeth Miles, sister of Mr Edward Gillett, died November 9th 1852 aged 72 years, also of Mr Edward Gillett Gentleman who departed this life June 19th 1850 aged 77 years.  TOMB TO BE LEFT.

Edward Gillett lived at 180 Western Road. A gentleman of means, at his death his estate included the following properties:

Gilletts Cottages,193 Western Road.Brighton.(freehold)
Freehold house,41 Bond Street,Brighton.
Copyhold house,83 Kings Road,Brighton.
Copyhold houses,17 and 18 West Street,Brighton.
Premises,63 Kings Road,Brighton.
Freehold house,Clarence Square,Brighton.
Shop(freehold),Western Road,Brighton.

At his death, he was placed in the Rest Garden, marked by a substantial box-tomb, which stood the test of time, and was spared during the 1940’s clearances – TOMB TO BE LEFT, and it has accordingly remained in place. Until now that is.

2017-01-04-12-30-11Over the Christmas period the end panel came away, exposing the supporting brickwork and rendering the whole structure vulnerable to collapse. The council acted swiftly to fence the monument off, as in its current state it is a real hazard.

What happens next…

Although the council may be responsible for a closed burial ground, the monuments remain the property of  the deceased – or more properly, the descendants of the deceased. As a closed burial ground within the purview of the Archdiocese of Chichester, any works to monuments cannot be undertaken without the permission of the Bishop of Chichester – or authorised representatives.

Within the administrative area of Brighton & Hove City Council can be found many thousands of monumental pieces, around churchyards, in cemeteries and burial grounds. Although the council takes on maintenance of these spaces, they do not have resources to become involved in conservation and repair unless in exceptional circumstance. Because of the parlous state of the Edward Gillett monument, and the risks which visitors to the site may be exposed to however, the council will be taking action  in this case, although this will involve removing the brickwork and lowering the box to lay surviving pieces flat upon the plinth.

This is a shame, as there are very few remaining box tombs at the site, and efforts have been made to contact descendants of Mr Gillett, who may – even at this distance of time – be prepared to finance a fuller restoration, but making contact is no easy task, and unless something can be arranged over the next week, the planned stabilising works will have to take place before the remaining pieces simply collapse.

So all in its quite a sad start to 2017, as another piece which makes up our archive of stones and bones slips away from us.  But this is part and parcel of this place – gradual fading and eventual loss – we can observe, record and , to an extent maintain – but in the end, things fall apart.

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