- Samuel Rabbeth (Illustrated London News)
It felt strangely familiar to be back at Barnes Old Cemetery, once again, armed with a camera, a notepad and, on this occasion, a more healthy and realistic scepticism about the possibility of discovering anything.
My research on Samuel Rabbeth suggests he was from a relatively wealthy family, his father having worked for Coutts Bank, and so I felt it was likely there would have once been a headstone, particularly given the circumstances under which Rabbeth had lost his life (you can learn all about Samuel Rabbeth in the Everyday Heroes app). Whether or not it had survived or whether it would still be accessible was the question.
The Grave of Samuel Rabbeth
As it happened, it did not take long to find the headstone; a slight path to the row had been cleared and the grave marker was distantly large and particularly noticeable due to the lengthy inscription that completely filled it. As I had expected, the unfortunate circumstances of Samuel’s death and the financial and social status of the family had led them to memorialise his life and death in a detailed manner. In addition to the headstone, there is also a bevelled tombstone recording the burials of Samuel’s father, John, and his aunt Annie.
Headstone for Samuel Rabbeth
The full inscription on Samuel Rabbeth’s headstone reads:
“Sacred to the memory of Samuel Rabbeth M.B London M.R.C.S. Born 19 Aug 1858, died 20 Oct 1884. He was educated at King’s College London and at Kings College Hospital and was elected an associate of the college after passing his final examination at the University of London when he obtained a first place for honours in obstetrics gaining the university scholarship and gold medal. He was appointed Senior Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Free Hospital and was held in the highest esteem by many of the most eminent members of his profession who looked forward to his achieving a useful and brilliant career. His bright and cheerful disposition, his earnest and sincere character endeared him to numerous friends by whom his memory will be cherished with lasting affection. A little child suffering from diphtheria was brought to the hospital whom he endeavoured to save by an act of heroism that cost him his life but which has forever linked his name with the names of the brave and good of all time who have proved by their bright example how the grace of Christ-like self-sacrifice can ennoble humanity.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25, 37-40.”
On the left hand side of the tombstone:
In loving memory of Annie Rabbeth born May 12th 1826, died Dec 25th 1916
Tombstone for John Rabbeth
On the right hand side of the tombstone:
“In loving memory of John Edward Rabbeth born Jan 10th 1823, died Aug 16th 1900. “he Giveth his beloved sleep””
Evidence suggests that Hannah Rabbeth, Samuel’s mother, died in 1858 either giving birth to him or very shortly afterwards but, at that time, the family were living elsewhere in London, possibly either Lambeth or Westminster and so Hannah Rabbeth is most likely buried in one of those districts.
So, after a couple of aborted attempts and a hiatus of several years, I have finally been able to locate the final resting place of Samuel Rabbeth, one of the everyday heroes of Postman’s Park and I’m pleased to be able to add these details to all the others in the Everyday Heroes app.
It is a real shame that more cannot be done to protect and preserve Barnes Old Burial ground and there is much that could be done to clear, record and maintain the site. If anyone has any practical suggestions or advice of establishing a ‘friends’ organisation or getting together some volunteers to maintain the site, please do get in touch!