Funeralia

Funeralia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The “funeralia” is a detailed account of the funeral of Christiana (1716-1767), wife of Francis Fawkes (1707-1789). Christiana died in London on 14 July 1767, and was buried in All Saints Church, Otley on Saturday 25 July. The journal is part of the Farnley Hall papers (DD146).

The funeral journal gives a detailed account of preparations for the ceremony, offering an intriguing insight into Georgian attitudes to death and social convention. It is a record of a highly ritualised event attesting to the funeral’s “order” “decency” and “regularity”.

The events surrounding the funeral are orchestrated down to the last detail – the word “precisely” figures heavily, even the labourers carrying the coffin are to be “near of equal size.” Annotation and scored through words show changes of mind and worries over procedure and precedence e.g. “Mr Wilson the vicar must sit with the bearers but cannot be a bearer as he must bury the
corpse.”

The first part of the journal is divided into sections e.g. “mourners”, “bearers”. Their route through the house and the hospitality people received corresponded to their status. The bearers (including William Stanhope and Edwin Lascelles) were treated to dine in the best parlour. The neighbours dined on a cold dinner in the Yellow Room whilst standing. The labourers “to prevent confusion…are not to dine, but to be in the Old Laundry Room precisely three, and each to have a pint of ale and no more.”

It was the responsibility of the undertaker to supervise the dressing of everyone attending the funeral, and though no doubt he knew his own trade well, the journal’s author is keen to provide as much guidance and exert as control as possible – he adds notes such as “NB these must be equal numbers on the path, viz, either 10 or 12” in relation to escutcheons on silk for bearers. The frugal author also adds under the list of cloth and haberdashery “you must prepare more than these of each but you will be paid no more than what is used.”

After everyone had been dressed and fed, the funeral possession took place. This involved not only relatives and neighbours but professional mourners (mutes). The procession contained people on foot, others of horseback, and some in “mourning coaches.”

After the list of instructions, people and items, the journal switches to the past tense and describes the funeral in a narrative way, with proud remarks such as “Everything in and about the Hall extremely neat and clean.”

Kirsty McHugh, Archivist