Within Shrewsbury Cemetery are buried some of Marga’s closest friends and relatives: her parents and grandparents are buried here as are one of her brothers and a nephew. They are all very close together, with the four Ropes in fact in a shared grave.
Her great mentor and patron, Bishop Moriarty, is interred only one hundred yards away across the cemetery.
Surprisingly, she herself is not here at all – as a dutiful Carmelite nun, she was buried alongside her sister religious at Quidenham Monastery in Norfolk. In fact very few have seen her memorial stone; as the Carmelites are an enclosed order, no one is allowed in to the monastery, even to go to the graveyard, except under very special circumstances*.
Shrewsbury Cemetery was opened in 1856 to serve the needs of a growing populace. The graveyards of the town’s ‘four great churches’ (Ss Chad, Mary, Julian and Alkmund) were simply too small to cope, while the town’s cathedral was built without a graveyard at all.
The cemetery, which was built a couple of miles outside the main town, at Longden Coleham, is curiously short of the great & grandiose monuments you might expect in a Victorian cemetery. Mostly, the monuments are relatively restrained – which perhaps reflects the attitudes of the town’s society at the time, which was very conservative in outlook.
The four members of the Rope family here share the same memorial, a dignified simple black cross on a plinth (see pic below). The names of the interred are marked on the four sides of the plinth, one for each side: …
Henry Rope (died 1899), Marga’s father, is here; also Marga’s nephew, who died as a baby, Herbert Vaughan (1921); her mother Agnes (1948); and her brother Denys (1965) – a span of over sixty years. The plot is also quite ecumenical, in that it commemorates two Catholics, two Anglicans!
Baby Herbert actually died in Gibraltar, where his army father was stationed, so presumably Irene (Herbert’s mother and Marga’s sister) brought the body home for burial.
It’s intriguing to think that Marga must have attended the funeral; as later she was to make a stunning window which remembers Herbert.
The next plot along from the Ropes grave remembers eight members of the Burd family, a prominent Shrewsbury family of the time.
Marga’s mother was a Burd – so this plot commemorates her grandparents, Edward & Elizabeth Ellen, among others.
Two bishops one grave
Whilst there is no Catholic section as such in the cemetery, there does seem to be a Catholic ‘corner’, and it is here that a possibly unique grave is to be found.
Two of the Shrewsbury Catholic Diocese’s most long-serving bishops – Bishops Webster and Moriarty – are to be found sharing the same grave under a most modest stone (see pic below). One could easily walk past it without noticing it.
Surely there is no other grave in Britain shared by two bishops…(?)
Moriarty and Webster pretty much between them defined Shrewsbury Cathedral as the building and institution it became during the twentieth century, largely unchanged until this decade.
Moriarty, who was Webster’s nephew, commissioned the church’s Great West Window in 1910 in tribute to his uncle.
As we know, Moriarty gave the responsibility for the window to … Margaret Rope. It was a courageous decision: Marga was very young and it was her first commission. Indeed, it is the biggest single stained-glass piece made by a woman in that era.
Sadly, we do not yet have documents to prove it, but it is a strong guess that the two remained life-long friends, and that Moriarty was probably Marga’s mentor as well.
*Footnote. In fact, as a one-off, the nuns did allow a BBC film crew in to photograph Margaret’s grave, in 2016. The footage became part of a TV documentary about Margaret Rope.
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