Grave of Charles Waterton, renowned naturalist and explorer, 1864.
Reasons for Designation
The grave of Charles Waterton, erected in 1864, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* it commemorates the notable and pioneering early-C19 naturalist, writer, researcher, eccentric, and adventurer Charles Waterton who is widely regarded as one of the first conservationists and who created the world's first nature reserve at his home, Walton Hall;
* Waterton's poignant and very personal funeral involved a procession of barges, including his own empty sailing boat, that accompanied him on his final journey across the lake at Walton Hall and was depicted in an account in the Illustrated London News.
* it is an interesting example of a bespoke grave that was designed and built by the deceased himself and which is reflective of Waterton's very individual character;
* it is deliberately modest in its styling and design, reflecting Waterton's almost monastic life, and is sited at his favourite location at the former head of the lake at Walton Hall where the intention was that it would be reclaimed by nature.
* it has strong group value with Walton Hall (around 1768); the island wall, including boat houses, steps and landing stage (mid-late C18); water gate (medieval); iron bridge across the lake to Walton Hall (around 1800); stable block (around 1768, ), gate piers at the entrance to the car park in front of Walton Hall (early C19); the sundial to the rear of Walton Hall (1813); and the culvert and sluice to the east of the iron bridge (mid-C18 and mid-C19), all of which are designated.
Charles Waterton (1782-1865), naturalist, explorer, and noted eccentric was born at Walton Hall and educated at Stonyhurst, a Jesuit college in Lancashire. The Watertons were a leading noble family in the Middle Ages, mentioned in Shakespeare's play Richard II, and involved with the battles of Crecy and Agincourt, but during the Reformation their Roman Catholicism lost them favour, although they retained their property.
In 1804 Charles Waterton was sent to Demerara in modern-day Guyana to manage his father and uncle's sugar plantations, which were worked by slaves, but in 1812 he handed the management back to his relatives and set off on an expedition into the Demerara interior where he obtained samples of curare; Waterton's subsequent research led to the widespread use of the drug in anaesthesia. Waterton inherited Walton Hall in 1805 and he returned home to live there in 1813 where he continued to pursue a love of natural history and conservation.
Throughout his life Waterton went on explorations around the world studying and collecting animals and birds. He wrote numerous accounts and essays, regularly featured in the Illustrated London News, and also wrote the influential 'Waterton's Wanderings in South America', which was published in 1825. Waterton was a renowned taxidermist who developed a new technique using mercuric chloride as a preservative, which he taught John Edmonstone whilst in Guyana. Edmonstone was a slave on Charles Edmonstone's (Waterton's future father-in-law) plantation, which Waterton regularly visited, and after being freed Edmonstone came to Britain with his former master and settled in Scotland where he taught taxidermy to students at the University of Edinburgh, including Charles Darwin. Charles Waterton established his own museum collection (now owned by Stonyhurst College and (at the time of writing in 2021) on loan to Wakefield Museum) at Walton Hall, including his taxidermy, and opened it to all, with visits free to the poor.
In 1829 Charles Waterton married Anne Edmonstone (1812-1830), daughter of Charles Edmonstone and granddaughter of an indigenous Arawak woman, who he met in Demerara. After his wife's death shortly after giving birth to their son Edmund, and as a devout Catholic (Waterton was a descendent of Sir Thomas More), Waterton adopted a monastic lifestyle, vowed to never sleep in a bed again and instead slept on the floor with a plank of wood as a pillow, rising in the early hours to pray.
Walton Hall (listed at Grade II*) is set upon an island in a lake and was built in around 1768 by Charles Waterton's father to replace an earlier hall that was attacked by Oliver Cromwell and his troops during the English Civil Wars. In 1821 Charles Waterton commenced the building of a high stone wall around his estate (over three miles long and up to 16ft high) to keep poachers out and wildlife in, which took five years to complete, and established the world's first nature reserve for the protection of birds and animals. Waterton did not allow shooting (although control of the rabbit and brown rat population was allowed) and erected rudimentary towers to attract nesting birds, planted trees and shrubs for food and cover, and invited visitors and local residents, including patients from local asylums, to visit the reserve and the native birdlife for free. Waterton was also an early opponent of pollution and he fought a local soap works in the courts who were polluting the lake at Walton and damaging trees, eventually forcing it to relocate. Waterton's pioneering approach to conservation was highly influential worldwide and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, is named after him.
Charles Waterton died at Walton Hall on 25 May 1865 after a fall in the estate grounds, near to where he is buried. Waterton had chosen the site of his grave at the south-east end of the lake in 1864 and built a vault/mausoleum underneath two oak trees and erected a cross with an epitaph written by himself. Upon his death in 1865 Reverend Canon Browne administered Waterton's last rites and Pope Pius IX telegraphed his benediction. Waterton had specified instructions for his funeral, which took place on 3 June 1865 (his birthday), and his body was to be taken to the place of burial across the lake by boat with mourners in boats behind to represent his last voyage. 14 priests took part in the burial, including the Bishop of Beverley, and Charles' brother, Reverend G Waterton, and the procession consisted of barges draped in black with the bishop and priests at the head chanting the office, followed by the coffin, and then the mourners, with servants, tenants, and other mourners going by land around the edge of the lake. Waterton's own boat was towed empty at the rear of the procession. Charles Waterton, known locally as Squire Waterton, was 83 at the time of his death and 83 local elderly people were invited to attend the funeral, each receiving a dole of a loaf of bread and a sixpence. The funeral, including drawings of the procession of boats across the lake, was recorded in the Illustrated London News.
Waterton's grave is believed to have been restored in 1947 by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul when a new cross was erected due to vandalism/theft of the original. Walton Hall became a hotel known as Waterton Park in the C20.
Grave of Charles Waterton, renowned naturalist and explorer, 1864.
MATERIALS: stone and replaced concrete cross, cast-iron railings.
DESCRIPTION: not inspected, information from other sources. The grave of Charles Waterton originally lay right alongside the lake edge, but in the latter half of the C20 the lake at Walton Hall was reduced in size slightly through the loss of an easternmost arm and water channel, and Stubbs Wood extended in its place. Thus, the grave now lies approximately 75 metres north-east of the south-eastern tip of the lake.
The grave consists of a tall Latin cross (now replaced in concrete and weathering to look like stone) surmounting a square base. The front face of the base has a plaque with a Latin inscription that reads: 'ORATE/ PRO ANIMA CAROLI WATERTON/ CUJUS FESSA/ JUXTA HANC CRUCEM/ SEPELIUNTUR/ OSSA' along with 'NATUS 1782' and 'OBITT 1865' - 'pray for the soul of Charles Waterton, whose wearied bones lie buried near this cross, born 1782, died 1865'. The grave vault is located behind the cross and is enclosed by pyramidal stone copings surmounted by cast-iron railings, which are an addition of 1866 by Waterton's sisters-in-law and his son, Edmund Waterton.