The Mid-C19 grave of Mary Carpenter, noted social reform campaigner.
Reasons for Designation
The grave of Mary Carpenter, the nationally important social and penal reformer active during the mid-C19, in Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a grave containing the remains of Mary Carpenter, social reform campaigner of the mid-C19 and a figure of national importance. Her campaigning work helped to improve the lives of countless destitute children both in Bristol and nationally;
* as a memorial dating to 1840 which survives largely intact.
* a simple yet well-executed memorial taking the form of a granite Latin cross.
Mary Carpenter was born in Exeter on April 3 1807 to Lant Carpenter, a Unitarian minister, and Anna Penn, a supervisor at a school for girls. In 1817 the family moved to Bristol, where her father set up an academy at 2 Great George Street, where the family also resided. Mary enjoyed a wide-ranging education at her father’s school which included the studies of history, Greek, maths and natural sciences. Mary left home in 1827 to become a governess on the Isle of Wight. After two years away from home, she returned to Bristol to help her mother and sisters set up a girls’ school on Whiteladies Road.
In the early 1830s Mary became particularly influenced by the issue of social reform, and was influenced by the visit to Bristol of the Raja Rammohun Roy in 1833. As a result of this, Mary became determined to improve the lives of destitute children in Bristol, who often ended up being dealt with in the criminal courts. She was instrumental in bringing the concept of ‘ragged schools’ to the city and set up the first of these schools in Lewin’s Mead in 1846.
In 1851 her book ‘Reformatory Schools for the Children of the Perishing and Dangerous Classes, and for Juvenile Offenders’ was published and was influential in its criticism of the harsh penalties applied to juvenile delinquents. Mary held the view that children should be treated as such and that a familial approach, encouraging rehabilitation was far more effective than one of retribution. Her work helped to raise the age that children could be prosecuted as criminals and was instrumental in paving the way for later penal reforms.
Mary founded a further school in Kingswood, Bristol in 1852 and went on to open a reformatory girls’ school at Red Lodge, Park Row, Bristol in 1854. She continued to produce influential publications including ‘Juvenile Delinquents, their Condition and Treatment’ in 1853. Her work was important in bringing about The Youthful Offenders Act of 1854 which allowed children under the age of 16 to carry out a sentence in a reformatory rather than in a prison.
In the 1860s, Mary travelled to India where her advice was sought on the state of female education. She documented her time there with ‘Six Months in India’ in which she criticised the focus on education for boys rather than girls. A copy of her report was sent to Queen Victoria with whom she held a meeting in March 1868. She made further subsequent trips to India which saw her attempt to set up schools in Bombay. Her work here was not wholly successful since the curriculum was deemed to be too western and unsuitable for use within India.
Mary died of rheumatic heart disease on 15 June 1877 at Red Lodge, Bristol. She was buried on 24 June 1877 at Arnos Vale cemetery. The funeral was attended by large numbers of people, including many of the children whose lives she had improved; the funeral procession was purported to be half a mile long. Following her death, funds were raised to erect an epitaph to Mary in the north transept of Bristol Cathedral, to acknowledge and commemorate her pioneering work.
The grave itself was erected following the death of Mary’s father in April 1840, who fell overboard from a steamer and drowned on passage from Naples to Livorno, Italy. Mary’s mother was buried in the grave following her in death in 1856, as was Mary’s sister, Anna who died in 1870. Mary’s brother Philip, who died in Montreal in 1877, is also commemorated.
The late-C19 grave of Mary Carpenter, noted social reform campaigner.
DESCRIPTION: a Latin cross which stands on a plinth with two stepped base. The plinth features an inscription on each face, each of which is very worn, difficult to read and illegible in places.
The north face reads: HERE LIE/ THE MORTAL REMAINS OF/ ANNA/ DAUGHTER OF JAMES & BRIDGET PENN/ AND/ WIDOW OF LANT CARPENTER/ BORN AT KIDDERMINSTER/ SEPTEMBER 28TH 178[ ]/ PEACEFULLY DEPARTED THIS LIFE/ JUNE 19TH 1856/ HERE CHILDREN ARISE AND CALL/ HER BLESSED.
The south face reads: MARY/ DAUGHTER OF LANT AND HANNAH CARPENTER/ BORN AT EXETER 3RD APRIL 1807/ DIED AT BRISTOL 14TH JUNE 1877/ SHE LOVED M[ ]
PHILIP PEARSALL/ SON OF/ LANT AND HANNAH CARPENTER/ BORN AT BRISTOL NOVEMBER [ ] 1810/ DIED AT MONTREAL MAY 24 1877/ SERVANT IN SPIRIT SERVING THE LORD.
The east face reads: IN MEMORY OF/ LANT CARPENTER LL.D/ TWELVE YEARS MINISTER/ OF ST GEORGE’S MEETING EXETER/ AND TWENTY THREE YEARS/ OF LEWINS MEAD CHAPEL BRISTOL/ BORN AT KIDDERMINSTER/ SEPTEMBER 2ND 1780/ LOST OFF THE COAST OF ITALY/ APRIL 5TH 1840.
BLESSED ARE THE DEAD WHICH DIE IN THE LORD/ FROM HENCEFORTH: YEA, SAITH THE SPIRIT,/ THAT THEY MAY REST FROM THEIR LABOURS;/ AND THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM.
The west face reads: ANNA/ THE BELOVED WIFE OF/ HERBERT THOMAS. DAUGHTER OF/ LANT AND HANNAH CARPENTER/ BORN AT EXETER SEPTEMBER 18TH 1808/ DIED AT BRISTOL OCTOBER 21ST 1870/ BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART/ FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.
The grave is surrounded by a rectangular enclosure with stones and obelisks at each corner; these include iron fixtures at their top which originally would have been linked by chains, though these are no longer extant.