Circus Family

In Billing Road cemetery Northampton, stands a memorial to ‘Sir’ Robert William Fossett, a circus owner, his wife and their son. The Fossett family’s involvement with the circus as Equestriennes began in 1852. Robert Fossett proclaimed as the champion bare-back rider of the world, gave himself the title of Sir to compete against ‘Lord’ George Sanger, who was one of the most successful circus entrerpreneurs of the 19th century.

The memorial is a pedimented plinth with a gable stone inscribed on one side with the legend, In Loving Memory Of Robert Fossett, Who Died December 31st 1922, Aged 72 Years. He Has Pulled In For His Last Rest And Still Remains With Those Who Knew And Those Who Loved Him Best. Loved Dearly By All His Children.

Fossett Horse2

The other side of the stone hosts the inscription, In Loving Memory Of Mary, The Dearly Beloved Wife Of Robert Fossett. Who Died September 18th 1915, Aged 56 Years. The Face We Loved Is Now Laid Low, The Fond True Heart Is Still, The Hand That Often Clasped In Ours, Lies Now In Death’s Cold Chill. Life’s Race Well Run, Life’s Work Well Done, Life’s Crown Well Won, Then Comes Sweet Rest At Last. “Her Children Arise Up And Call Her Blessed.

Fossett Horse

A carving of crossed whips and a horseshoe encircled with oak leaves is located on the capital beneath the head of the horse. Oak, a dense wood which is strong and hard represents stability, strength, endurance and longevity and is commonly found near children’s graves. An inscription below states, Henry Son Of R. And M. Fossett. Died Nov 14th 1890 Aged 4 Months.

The monument is surmounted with the statue of a horse sculpted in Italian marble by Charles Robinson of Kettering. Erected in 1923 the horse with head bowed and a blanket slipping from its back symbolises the race is over. The horse originally looked down upon an open book of marble inscribed on two pages with the legend: To Our Dear Friend, Robert Fossett. A Token Of Respect From All The Artists At E. H. Bostock’s Circus. The book no longer exists and the horse’s ears have been damaged.

BLB fossett

The monument was recorded as a Grade II British Listed Building on 20 April 2007.




  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Pediment, an element in architecture consisting of a gable placed above a horizontal structure
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.



The Patonce Crosses

The Patonce cross refers to any cross which has expanded ends and as such includes the Patee cross, the Fleury or Gothic cross, and the Botonee cross.


The Botonee cross has at each end a trefoil (three rounded lobes) which represent faith, wisdom and charity. In Christianity the three petals represent the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with a total of 12 petals symbolizing the 12 apostles.

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Sweet spirit dear a sad farewell
For we shall meet again
The place where happy souls do dwell
Is free from toil and pain. – 1832

This cross is decorated with Christ on the cross, six pointed stars at each end and on the base, a crescent moon.


Botonee poppy

A poppy grows at the base of the above image representing Eternal sleep, Peace and Rest.

And he asked who gathered this flower
And the gardener answered the Master
And his fellow servant held his peace.

The ends of a Gothic cross, also known as a Fleury cross, are more open and flare out. It represents the adult Christian and is occasionally found with flowers at the end e.g. Fleur de Lys.

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Unto Thy faithful, O Lord
Life is changed not taken away
They die in Jesus and are blest
How kind their slumbers are
From sufferings and from sins released
And freed from every snare. – 1801

The Patee cross is not indented to form lobes but is incorporated into the Patonce family because its arms narrow towards the center. This cross is often embroidered on altar and pulpit hangings.

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Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord
But again I hope to meet him
When the day of life is fled
And in Heaven with joy to greet him
Where no farewell tears are shed

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Memento Mori

Memento Mori is a term used to describe funerary art. Gravestones will often display this Latin phrase which translated means, Remember You Will Die, which is more of a warning to the living rather than the deceased upon whose headstone it is engraved.

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This gravestone is located in St. Cuthbert Churchyard, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. The natural patina is a result of moss growing in the damp climate with further erosion damage due to the extremes of the Scottish weather.

Erosion of the stone has obliterated much of the original inscription. The few words which are still legible state:
Who died 7th Feb
Aged 48 years
His children who
Also Thomas

The symbols on this headstone represent several aspects of Memento Mori.

  • The winged effigy represents the deceased soul in flight.
  • The banner inscribed with the words Memento Mori is a reminder that death is unavoidable.
  • Skulls are a frequent feature on gravestones around the world appearing in various forms often with crossbones. It is a symbol of death, mortality, penitence, and sin.
  • Arched columns symbolize the passage to Heaven.
  • The drapes represent mourning and the partition between life and death.

Life is short, and shortly it will end;
Death comes quickly and respects no one,
Death destroys everything and takes pity on no one.
To death we are hastening, let us refrain from sinning.

In the second example the word Memento Mori is again visible. The reversed letter N is used. Although I have researched I can find no reason for the reversal. Many opinions offer illiteracy as a reason; however, it may simply be the letterform used during the period (e.g. the letters f, j, and v were used to represent s, i and u.)

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Symbolism on this headstone represents the passage of time and the inevitability of death.
Bones: mortality and death
Hourglass: Passage of time
Rosettes: Brevity of earthly existence.

Death like an overflowing stream
Sweeps us away our life’s a dream
An empty tale a morning flowr,
Cut down and witherd in an hour. 1797

The third example once again denotes mortality and death with the symbols of the skull and bones.

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A skull represents death and mortality
A single bone is symbolic of death and decay.

Our life is ever on the wing
And death is ever nigh
The moment when our life begins
We all begin to die. 1791

Note: Did you notice that the skulls in the photos bear scars?


Some Gravestones Need No Words

Grief and sorrow are evident on this tomb in Karlsruhe, Germany



In Nottingham, England this image seems to represent a giant dinosaur foot crushing a gravestone.



Collatino, Rome, Italy – Imagery of violence and war



and lastly, from Pere LaChaise Cemetery in Paris, France.Source:




Horizontal sundials are most commonly used on headstones to denote the passage of time.

A circular plate with an object known as gnomon which has a thin rod or straight edge casts a shadow as the sun moves across the sky. The shadow edge aligns with hour markers which are spaced accordingly. As the sun moves from east to west, the shadows formed predict the time of the day. Roman numerals are commonly used to indicate the hour markers.
Winged hourglass

An hourglass flanked by wings is usually part of the design. The hourglass is the classic symbol for Time.  As the sand runs out, it symbolizes the fleetness of life. The accompaniment of wings may also signify the resurrection of the dead.

Man fleeth as it were a shadow. 1803


I count none but sunny hours.

Jesse Haines was a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Upon his retirement from the Cardinals, the organization presented him with a sundial, which was placed on his gravestone at Bethel Cemetery.

haines hainesjessej32

O’er every hour that’s brightest
A shadow creeps
And he whose laugh is lightest
Full often weeps
O look we for the morrow
Which hath no night
When lost is every sorrow
In God’s own light.



If asked to name the color of death and mourning, Europeans will choose black; whereas Asians and many other races will pick white.

Black signifies darkness and the absence of light. However, you will often find white tombstones in European cemeteries.

This black headstone is in memory of a deaf woman. Visitors to the cemetery leave pennies on her stone
This black headstone is in memory of a deaf woman. Visitors to the cemetery leave pennies on her stone

At the Mollendal graveyard in Bergen, Norway, a private company was hired by the municipality to maintain the cemetery. In 2013, a notice pinned to hundreds of headstones informed families of the deceased that maintenance fees were due. (The Norwegian municipal government covers the costs of maintenance and rental for 25 years, thereafter it falls upon the families to pay the annual fee.) After 6 months, the headstone was then covered with a locked black plastic bag with a further notice identifying that the stone will be removed unless payment is made for the upkeep of the grave. Failure to make payment results in removal of the headstone and the interred in order to reuse the plot.


White recalls the color of the bones and the paleness of the corpse.
But here in this graveyard that is still no man’s land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

White doves also appear as motifs in the European sepulchral arts.

Catholics and High-Church Anglicans recognize purple as the color of mourning. Priests wear purple or violet robes at funeral masses for the dead, recalling Christ’s passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Chinese tombstones often appear before the deceased has passed. Red lettering shows that the person named is still alive. When the person dies, the stone cutter repaints the letters in white.

Milton_Evergreen_Luu (jap)




War Horses

Throughout the centuries whenever humans went into battle, they did so with the assistance of their trusty steed, the horse.

Thousands of horses were transported to assist in the Boer War and World War I. Used for transportation, horses were imperative to the conflict. They moved soldiers, equipment, supplies in the form of food and weaponry, and acted as ambulances in the transportation of wounded soldiers. Horses were trained not to panic or flee at sudden noises and were sometimes taught to bite and kick, thus becoming a weapon in their own right.

Conveying horses overseas was a dangerous proposition for the horse during the Boer War. 16,000 died during the voyage from South America to South Africa.

Under the hardship of little rest, weight overload, and with little veterinary care, a huge percentage died from exhaustion, battle wounds and disease. And when life was especially harsh on the battlefield with a depleted food supply horses were sometimes slaughtered for meat to nourish soldiers.

A Horse trough made of Harcourt Victorian granite commemorates horses which took part in World War I. It weighs 8 tons and is 16 feet in length. Australian soldiers had a great regard and affection for their horses, and were upset that at the end of the war, cost and quarantine concerns meant that horses could not be brought back to Australia.


Provided by the Batley Horse Society.

William Tebb commissioned a drinking fountain in Burstow to commemorate 400,000 horses killed and wounded during the Boer War, to which he was strongly opposed.

Burstow_ebayIn memory of the mute fidelity of the 400,000  horses / killed and wounded at the call of their masters / during the South African war 1899-1902, / in a cause of which they knew nothing / this fountain is erected by a reverent fellow creature


Animals who were companions and early warning systems  in Australia’s armed forces, have been honoured with the statue of a bronze horse head, mounted on a tear-shaped granite plinth.  Commissioned by the Australian War Memorial it is located in the memorial’s sculpture garden.

Constructed in Portland stone and cast bronze, this monumental memorial is 58ft (17.68m) wide and 55ft (16.76m) deep, and is comprised of three elements.
The arena: Two heavily laden bronze mules struggle to approach a flight of steps leading through a wall.


The wall, arena side: on the left side of the steps, a bas-relief depicts images of many different animals used and lost in 20th century conflicts.

On the right is an engraving: Animals In War / This Monument Is Dedicated To All The Animals / That Served And Died Alongside British And Allied Forces / In Wars And Campaigns Throughout Time / They had No Choice.

london_just saying

On the rear left of the wall is a chiseled engraving: Many / And Various / Animals Were Employed / To Support British And Allied Forces / In Wars And Campaigns Over The Centuries / And As A Result Millions Died – From The Pigeon To The / Elephant They All Played A Vital Role In Every Region Of The World / In The Cause Of Human Freedom. Their Contribution Must Never Be Forgotten.

There is also a dedication stating that the memorial was unveiled on 24th November 2004, and an engraved list with names of benefactors.


On the grass to the rear are statues of a bronze horse and dog in motion.
The names of the designer and sculptor are engraved on the wall to the right.

The memorial is in memory of 450,000 horses, asses and mules that died as a result of the Boer War

This memorial horse trough commemorates the Light Horse Brigade and the services and suffering of animals in war.




The inscription reads: He Gains No Crosses As A Soldier May / No Medals For The Many Risks He Runs / He Only, In His Puzzled, Patient Way / Sticks To His Guns.

This memorial statue depicts a donkey carrying a wounded soldier from the battlefield. John Simpson, a famed stretcher bearer with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, offers assistance as he walks alongside. Simpson became famous due to his heroic efforts during enemy fire to remove injured soldiers from the battlefield to an evacuation point on the beach. He was killed three weeks after his arrival during one of his perilous trips from the battlefield.

simpson donkey_wikepedia

This memorial bears the words: The Greatness Of A Nation / Consists Not So Much In The Number Of Its People / Or The Extent Of Its Territory / As In The Extent And Justice Of Its Compassion.
port eliz_wikimediaErected By Public Subscription / In Recognition Of The Services Of The Gallant Animals / Which Perished In The Anglo Boer War 1899-1902

This Trough Has Been Placed / Here As A Tribute To The / Part Played By Horses In / The 1914-1918 War

Located near the Lake Memorial is this stone trough commemorating the service of war animals. It is inscribed: To The Horses And Dogs Who Also / Bore The Burden And Heat Of The Day / 1914 – 1920

A memorial showing a bas-relief of a soldier with three horses. The sculpture is flanked with dedications.
Memorial Horses Desert Mtd Corps 20090402
On the left: Erected By Members Of / The Desert Mounted / Corps And Friends / To The Gallant Horses / Who Carried Them / Over Sinai Desert / Into Palestine / 1915-1918.

On the right: They Suffered Wounds / Thirst, Hunger And / Weariness Almost / Beyond Endurance / But Never Failed / They Did Not Come Home / We Will Never Forget Them.

Below the sculpture and engraved panels is a dedication etched into stone: To the Horses of the Australian Desert Mounted Corps. These horses were not returned to Australia after the War due to strict Australian Quarantine regulations.



Mors Ianua Vitae: Death is the gate of life