01 November 2015

Grave matters: limbs lost and found, part two

Continuing on from part one of the partial body interments at Cathays Cemetery in Cardiff ...

Western Mail photo
The third leg uncovered – not literally! – at the cemetery was that of Charles Cravos, buried in 1906. His obituary from the Western Mail of 20 October 1936 tells his story:

Mr. Charles Cravos, the Cardiff shipowner, for many years a leading personality at Cardiff Docks, has died at a Cardiff nursing home. Mr. Cravos, who lived in Cathedral-road, Cardiff, was principal of the firm Charles Cravos and Co., shipowners, Bute-street, having spent the whole of his extensive commercial life at Cardiff. He began his business career with the firm of R. W. James and Co., and later served for some time with Loveridge and Co., Ltd. More than 45 years ago, in partnership with his brothers, Mr. Stephen Cravos and Mr. Joseph Cravos, he opened a ship’s stores business at the docks under the style of Cravos Bros. In 1914 they became shipowners. Mr. Charles Cravos is survived by a widow, four sons, and two daughters.

One of the Cravos descendents has more colourful stories of her great-grandfather, including how he lost his leg:  

… he was a bit of a character I suppose. He was a ship owner and in his office he would have a liqueur from every country in the world so if you were a Portuguese ship owner he would give you the best Port, if you were from Brazil etc. The problem was that occasionally he drank the lot. He used to live on Cathedral Road ... Also he only had one leg. When he was 13 he was playing cricket he got hit by a ball and it went gangrenous. Then they didn't have any anaesthetic so they gave him a bottle of rum, knocked him out, put him on the kitchen table and sawed his leg off. When he came around they realised they hadn't done enough so they knocked him out again and took the rest off. Of course then he needed a chauffer so he bought 4 Rolls Royce's one for each season he had a black one for winter, brown for autumn and a pink topless one for summer. Every time he saw another one-legged man on the street he would stop the car and challenge them to a race.

I was a little dubious about the story of the four Rolls Royces until I discovered from his probate that Charlie had left effects to the value of £331,439 2s 7d, an enormous amount of money in 1936. The family’s wealth is reflected in the substantial house they lived in in Cathedral Road, Cardiff, and in the ornate gravestone at the cemetery, though this grave does not include Charles's lost leg. It is in an unmarked grave some 25 metres away.

The Cathedral Road home of Charles Cravos and his final resting place

The owner of the fourth leg did not lead such a fortunate life. Amelia Newton’s leg was buried in Cathays Cemetery on 26 April 1915. 

She was born Amelia Evans in 1848 in St David’s, Pembrokeshire and her father’s name was William but, as Evans is the fourth-most-popular surname in Wales, it has been difficult to find out much about Amelia’s early life.

No. 6 Harriett Street, where Amelia and Henry lived
On 21 July 1881, in Cardiff, at the age of 34, she married Henry Newton, a man ten years her senior. Henry was born in Fitzhead in Somerset and, as his father George died when he was still young, he began life as a labourer on the family farm. At some stage he moved to Cardiff and became a publican, though I haven’t discovered which pub he managed.

A son, George Henry Newton was born to Amelia and Henry in 1886 but he died the following year when just six months old, and there were to be no more children. At that point, the Newtons lived in Tyndall Street, in Cardiff, though they later moved to 6 Harriett Street. It seems a larger house that its neighbours in the street but the 1891 census shows that they shared the house with another couple.

I haven’t discovered why Amelia lost her leg in 1915. She was in her late sixties by then so perhaps it was through illness rather than accident. Her husband Henry died the following year so I imagine life became something of a struggle for Amelia, coping alone and without a limb. It seems she had no family and few friends to care for her as, when she died in July 1923, she bequeathed her personal effects of £122 7s 8d to Edwin Godfrey Jones, the postman.

Amelia is buried with her beloved husband Henry in Cathays Cemetery, and both her tiny son George and a niece, Annie A Jones, are also commemorated on the headstone. Her leg, in an unmarked grave, is at the opposite end of the cemetery.

It has been satisfying to reconnect the leg owners with their lost limbs, if only figuratively, and tell something of their stories. If we discover any more buried body parts at the cemetery, I’ll be sure to report on them.

If you want to know more about Cathays Cemetery or help with the restoration of the historic Chapels at the site, check out the website of the Friends of Cathays Cemetery.

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