Funeral of the Late Professor Fawcett
The funeral of the late Postmaster General took place on Monday, and it will indeed be a long time before Cambridge witnesses such an exhibition of public regret and respect as was shown for the deceased gentleman. Probably no man elicited such a wide and genuine respect as the late Postmaster General. His manly independence of thought and action, and the rest with which he ever united himself with all that was likely to prove to the good of his country, won for him a wide-spread and genuine feeling of regret throughout the length and breadth of the country, and this was amply shown on Monday by the crowds which assembled on the Trumpington-road, out of respect to the memory of the man who had so won the people’s regard. The family of the deceased gentleman have been almost overwhelmed by the hundreds of letters of condolence and floral tributes of respect for the deceased gentleman. Hundreds of letters and telegrams of sympathy and condolence have been received from all parts of the country, and from numberless Societies and Associations, besides a constant succession of beautiful floral emblems. It is impossible to attempt to compile any list of those from whom wreaths, etc., have been received, so great was the number, but we may mention the following who have sent wreaths:…. [long list of individuals, groups of employees of the General Post Office, London School of Medicine for Women, pupils of the Normal College for the Blind, Miss Florence Nightingale, the Women’s Suffrage Committee, Edinburgh, students of Newnham College, etc.].
A great many also came too late to be assigned a place on the coffin, and persons could be seen carrying boxes containing floral emblems of respect to be laid upon the grave. They were mostly composed of lilies, camellias, azaleas, white chrysanthemums and violets, interwoven with maiden hair and other ferns. As before stated, an immense number of resolutions and letters of sympathy in their sad bereavement have been received by the family of the deceased gentleman, including messages from the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and great numbers of private friends from London, Salisbury, Aldeburgh, and elsewhere, sent their floral tributes of affection and esteem with which the deceased gentleman was held…[long list of clubs and societies named].
All through Sunday there was a constant succession of callers at the house in Brookside at which Mr Fawcett died, bringing other messages of condolence with the family or carrying fresh tokens of regard in the form of wreaths, etc. In the morning the members and servants of Trinity Hall were allowed to view the coffin containing the body of the deceased in his study. The walls of the room were covered with books and over the mantel shelf was a drawing of Mr Fawcett himself. The coffin was unpolished oak, with brass handles, and on the small brass plate was the following inscription: “Henry Fawcett, August 26, 1833, November 6, 1884”. The numberless wreaths which had been received were arranged about the room, on the couches, chairs, and even on the floor, and the coffin itself was almost entirely hidden under a mass of flowers.
The majority of the members of the University were in deep mourning, and at the close of the University service in St Mary’s Church in the afternoon the ‘Dead March in Saul’ was played on the organ by Dr. Garrett. ………[details given of the sermon]………….
Although the funeral was nominally to be a private one, it was rightly conjectured that it would be the occasion of a great public manifestation of the respect and regard in which the deceased gentleman was held by all classes throughout the country. No invitations were issued beyond the general intimation that all who desired to offer their last outward mark of esteem for the deceased were welcome, it being the express wish of Mrs Fawcett that there should be no distinction of classes in the common mourning, and that the working man should occupy the same level as his brethren in a higher sphere of life. The morning on Monday opened dull and foggy but gradually developed into a beautifully fine day, the sun shining brightly during the whole of the ceremony. Most of the leading tradesmen in the town put up their shutters, and flags were flying at half-mast on the Guildhall and on several other public buildings. A special service was held in the chapel of Trinity Hall, which was draped in mourning. The collect and lessons of the Burial Service were introduced by the Rev. Henry Latham, the vice-master. Immediately afterwards the whole of the members of the society, in full academical costume, assembled, and, headed by the Master, Sir Henry Maine, proceeded en masse to attend the funeral of the deceased, who was for so long a Fellow of this college. Although the University was not officially represented at the funeral, the meeting of the Council of the Senate which was opened in the morning was immediately adjourned, in order to allow the members to attend the funeral. It was generally understood that the Town Council would also have adjourned after electing the Mayor for the ensuing year, but as the Council did not meet till twelve o’clock, by which time the funeral cortege was en route to the cemetery, the whole of the business was proceeded with. A special train started from St. Pancras at 9.30 a.m. conveying…[many named dignitaries and Members of Parliament]. The train was stopped at the Hackney Downs and picked up the deputation from the Hackney Liberal and Radical Associations, and the Hackney Vestry deputation. Most of the members of Parliament went direct from the station to the church. …. [more dignitaries named].
As early as half-past ten people began to congregate along Brookside, and long before the appointed time for the procession to start, the road from the deceased’s house right up to the Churchyard at Trumpington was lined by thousands of people. We understand that the deceased was interred at Trumpington in accordance with a clause in his will specifying that if he died in London he should be interred at Salisbury, and if at Cambridge, he should be buried at Trumpington. Nearly all the houses on the road had their blinds drawn down and the most perfect order and decorum prevailed amongst the mass of people waiting to witness the funeral procession. Punctually at half passed eleven the coffin was borne from the house by the back entrance and placed on an open bier, where it was entirely covered with floral offerings of the most beautiful description. It was found impossible to carry all the wreaths on the bier, and consequently an open carriage behind the car was filled with the remainder. The procession was shortly afterwards formed in front of the house, and the car, drawn by two horses, moved off, proceeding along Brookside, over the Bateman-street Bridge, and thence along Trumpington- road. On either side of the funeral bier walked six selected postmen from the Post-office, and six servants from Trinity Hall. This was followed by the carriage containing the remainder of the wreaths. Four carriages followed containing the mourners. In the first carriage were Mr W. Fawcett, Mr F. Fawcett, Mr N. Garrett and Mrs N. Garrett; in the second were Mr and Mrs Anderson, and Miss Wilkinson; in the third were Mr Geo. Garrett, Mr Gibbs, and Mr Wheaton; and in the fourth were Mr and Mrs Salmon, of Bury, together with the private secretary of the deceased, Mr Dryhurst. Then followed the Trinity Hall deputation, after which came the deputations from the Hackney Liberal Association, the Hackney Vestry, the Cambridge Working Men’s Liberal Association, the various departments of the General Post Office, and the large number of members of the University and local clergy. The rear of the procession was brought up by thirteen private carriages and cabs, containing amongst others, Professor Paget, Professor McKenny Hughes, Mr J. Death, Dr Campion, and Professor Latham. The greater part of the University officials, however, drove straight to the church, and amongst those present when the procession arrived, were the Vice-Chancellor, …[named Masters of colleges, professors, etc.…] and Mr W. Woodall, M.P., representing the Women’s Suffrage movement.
The procession reached the Churchyard at about twelve o’clock. Here there was a very large crowd of people endeavouring to gain admittance to the church. Admittance was, however, denied to all but those recognised by the police, and consequently there was a considerable crush, and it was with great difficulty that a passage could be made for the mourners, and the meagre force of police present seemed almost unable to cope with the crowd of people. The coffin was received at the gate by the Vicar, Rev. E.B. Birks, and the Rev. J.C. Egerton, Rector of Burwash, Suffolk, a personal friend of the deceased. The former gentleman recited the opening sentences of the burial service as the coffin was conveyed into the sacred edifice, where Mrs and Miss Fawcett, together with Miss Agnes Garrett, were in waiting, having journeyed to the church before the procession left Brookside. The small church, which is not capable of accommodating more than 400 people, was speedily filled, the family and relatives of the deceased sat on either side, while the front seats in the nave and aisle were occupied by members of Parliament and the chief University officials. The service in the church was conducted by the Vicar, and was very plain, there being no singing. At its conclusion, Dr Villiers Stanford, organist of Trinity College, played the ‘Dead March in Saul’ on the organ, and the coffin was then conveyed to the grave, proceeded by the officiating clergy. The grave is situated in a very secluded nook, north-east of the church, about six feet from the chancel wall, and close to that of Prof. Grote. The earth surrounding the grave had been beautifully bordered with roses and white chrysanthemums by Mrs E.B. Foster, and all around on the bushes and on the ground were placed the wreaths, prominent amongst those the beautiful harp shaped wreath from the Dublin Post Office. Amidst a subdued and impressive stillness, the Rev. J.C. Egerton read the conclusion of the service. After which Mrs Fawcett, and her daughter, who were supported by Mr Garrett and Mr Anderson, then left the grave, and the crowd immediately pressed forward to take a last look at the coffin, which, however, was entirely hidden from view beneath a wealth of flowers cast upon it.
During the time the service was being performed a most disgraceful scene took place outside. As before stated, there was a great crush at the gate of the churchyard. Someone then imprudently opened the Vicarage gate, adjoining the churchyard. The crowd immediately took advantage of the opportunity this afforded for gaining admittance to the churchyard and rushed pell-mell up the drive to a small gate which communicated with the churchyard. A large number of people rushed through before the police could close the gate. The crowd after many attempts to break down the gate, during which one of the coping stones of the gate supports was displaced, rushed over the wall, making great havoc amongst the shrubs at the side of the wall. The kitchen garden was also invaded, and produce trampled underfoot. The same proceedings took place in the churchyard. Some of the graves were trampled out of shape, tomb-stones were overturned and broken, and shrubs destroyed. The small force of police present were utterly unable to stem this tide of people, and it was with great difficulty that a passage could be made to the vicarage gate for the mourners.
Source: Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal, 14 November 1884, page 8, available online in the British Newspaper Archive (BL_0000421_18841114_115_0008).
Start of the report in the Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal , 14 November 1884, page 8.
A full report of the funeral of Henry Fawcett at Trumpington Church on Monday 10 November 1884 was published in the Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal , 14 November 1884, page 8 (column 3-4). Transcript by Wendy Roberts.