Generation 1 Isaac Dixon 1770/1781 - 1843

Our earliest traceable Dixon ancestor is Isaac Dixon. We don’t exactly know when he was born, or who his parents are. In fact, up until quite recently we knew little about him, but in fact he has had more media coverage than anyone in the family since that time.

 

Family tradition passed down and supplied by the NZ cousins records that a transcript from a family bible (now lost) had his birth date as 1781 and his father's name as "John, a yeoman", who came from "outside of Canterbury".  Also that Isaac was "named by his father after a close Jewish friend of his who had that name, but who nevertheless let him down for what was then the large sum of money of 1500 Pounds by his backing a bill and having it called up as the Jewish friend could not meet it. That's £300,000 in today's money.  It's hard to believe that a yeoman would be borrowing that sort of money.

A yeoman and/or Husbandman is a common English term for a farmer who had his own smallholding. A yeoman was generally one more step up the social scale than a husbandman and farmed more land (a husbandman usually grew enough for him and his family and rented his land from a landlord, but a yeoman would have some surplus and was generally more prosperous and had the freehold of his land himself rather than answering to a landlord), but as time wore on into the 1800s the two became more interchangeable and the term Husbandman became more common, with Yeoman falling into disuse somewhat. Cathy gives us another family tradition ".... he was sent to the Haberdashers' Aske School for Boys, which at that time was in Hoxton, London. Boys had to start school between the ages of 9 and 12 and leave at 15. It started off has a school for poor boys who were sons of Freemen of the Company (Haberdashers' Company, one of the 12 great Livery Companies of the City of London). It later became a middle-class school and was probably transitioning to this at the time Isaac attended." 

Question - did they take in the children of poor haberdashers or any poor children? Yes they did.

But we know that Isaac was well educated – he worked for the Government Excise Office and collected taxes on the goods that were being brought into the country. He was also on the lookout for smugglers - a dangerous job.

This picture has been in the possession of the Hawke's Bay NZ Dixon family (migrated to NZ in 1890). They were told it was of Isaac as a young man. I sent a digital copy to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016 and this is the reply:

 

"Based on your attached image, it appears to be a photographic portrait from the mid to late nineteenth-century, and not a photograph of a painting. However, that is just from looking at the .jpeg file, and it is hard to make any confident assertions without physically witnessing the object."


The original photo is out there somewhere - we hope.

Isaac Dixon.jpg

We think this was Isaac Dixon
c1770 - 1843

Garteful thanks to the NZ Dixons

There are 2 schools of thought about where Isaac came from

School of thought 1 (mine and the NZ family).  All the records (census, marriage and death certificate) suggest he was born in 1770. There is no evidence for anything else .. and I do like evidence.  

 

Isaac had the lease of a substantial piece of property in Rochester, Kent. Where did he get the stake for it? Was it a gift from a relative? We know he was not honest when he was in the Excise because he was fired.

He was a publican/farmer. Selling alcohol runs in the family. Was he related to the Dixon licensed victuallers in the area?  I don't believe the conjecture of Richard Ellender.

There are some really silly assumptions some people make about Isaac's family out there on ancestry.com.

School of thought 2: The NZ branch of the family employed a genealogist by the name of Richard Ellender in 1991 who advised that Isaac was born 1780 and his parents were John Dixon of Staple who married Mary Tyler of Ash in 1777.

Cathy Dixon in NZ did more research and believes that Mary Tyler of Ash in fact married John Burton of Staple (not John Dixon) in 1777. She has seen the Staple parish records and there can be no mistaking that it does read John Burton and they have various children together (none named Isaac).

 

Richard Ellender (who has passed away), was certain at the time that this John Dixon, who married Mary Tyler of Ash, was the only John Dixon who fathered an Isaac Dixon in the whole second half of the 18th century in a twenty mile radius around Canterbury. BUT THERE ARE NO RECORDS! They could have been lost of course. He assumed it was the right connection. And we all know what ASSUME stands for

 

Richard is no longer alive and his claims are unable to be verified.  But you will find family trees on the net claiming his findings to be fact.

Dear readers ... I leave it up to you to decide. Beware false prophets. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the records and DNA. There are some gullible people out there.

Isaac’s first appearance in our records is when he was issued a license to sell beers and spirits. I had some research done a few years ago by Gillian Rickard - she checked the Registers of Alehouse Recognizances for Kent and discovered Isaac was a licensed alehouse keeper from September 1798 to 1816. So he was 28 when he became a publican.  Did his license cover the pub that he later held the license for which was the Guy Earl of Warwick pub in Bexley, Kent.  The photo was taken c 1890.

I am grateful to Penny Duggan Secretary, Bexley Historical Society who stated in 2016 that "the present Guy Earl of Warwick was built in 1926. The old pub, which was demolished, stood west of the present building on part of the site of John Newton Court (housing). Licences for it can be traced back to 1730. The pub was enlarged in 1792. Adjacent to this pub was the equally ancient Hope Lodge which became a private school. When that moved, around 1800, the buildings and pleasure gardens were merged with the pub."

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Guy Earl of Warwick c 1890

Back of Guy Earl of Warwick c 1910.tiff

Back of the Guy Earl of Warwick c 1890

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same position 2022

Guy Earl of Warwick c 2022

Why did they get married by license instead of in a church? "There have always been some people who want to marry in a hurry or in private. The church allowed them to avoid the delay and publicity of calling banns on three successive Sundays by providing, for a fee, a marriage license. The information given in order to obtain the license may include detail not available elsewhere. The centrally filed record may lead directly to the place of marriage and may survive when the marriage record itself has been lost.” Source Family Search.

We know nothing of Isaac in his formative years - from when he would have joined the workforce to his entry into the excise service. What was happening in these days?  King George III was on the throne. There was a lot happening! There are records of a Corporal Isaac Dixon being a prisoner of the French and being exchanged on 12 Nov 1798.

1786  Captain Arthur Phillip leaves Portsmouth with the eleven ships of the First Fleet carrying around 700 convicts and at least 300 crew and guards to establish a penal colony in Australia.;  The original Lord's Cricket Ground holds its first cricket match

1788 First bout of madness for King George III

1789 Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny on HMS Bounty against Captain William Bligh in Polynesia

1789 onwards - canals start being opened up

1791 The first issue of The Observer, the world's first Sunday newspaper, is published

1793 start of French Revolutionary Wars

 

Isaac married Ann Elvy. Ann was the daughter of Robert Elvee and Jane and we know that Ann had a sister - Mary Eliza Elvee bc 1788. Ann Elvee was baptised 7 March 1781 in Chatham, Kent. Having married by license, many couples then went on and got married in church, which they did, on 8th  November 1803 at St Nicholas Church, Rochester, Kent.

When they were married we know that Isaac was living in Canterbury, in the St Mildred's parish,

St Nicholas Church 1807

St Nicholas Church 2015

Isaac Dixon marriage 1803.jpg

Recent research by Julia of Acorn Family History Research has uncovered the fact that Isaac was employed as an excise officer.

There's quite a lot of information about the role of an excise officer and it can be found in this e-book "The excise officer's manual, and improved gauger : being a compendious introduction to the business of charging and collecting the duties of excise" by Joseph Bateman.

So not only did he have the license to sell beers and spirits at the Guy Earl of Warwick in Bexley, he also joined the Excise Office. Why?

Julia stated "The fact that Isaac ran the pub is perhaps not coincidental when viewed in the light of what I discovered today on my trip to The National Archives. I was able to follow Isaac's career as an Excise Officer through the records - unfortunately I did not find his original appointment, but I found that before he was in Canterbury he was working in the Elham area, Elham being a village between Canterbury and Folkestone. From Canterbury he transferred to the Romney area, the dates coinciding with his marriage and his move to that area. His career with the Excise came to an unfortunate end in 1806 when he was discharged for malpractice to do with encouraging those on his 'round' to order alcoholic liquor from a particular dealer. This, together with him having been given notice to quit, was presumably the reason for his move away from Romney to Bexley."

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Isaac was either a customs officer or a riding officer. The principal duty of the riding officer was to patrol the coast within their predefined riding range to suppress smuggling. Their duties included meeting and corresponding with the other riding officers either in person or by letter, and inquiring and learning if there were any smuggled goods upon the coast, or landed. They were to get the best information regarding this booty, and to acquaint the Officers of the Customs all over the shire. The Riding Officer always kept a journal reporting all his activities. (Wikipedia).

A Riding Officer was paid between twenty and forty pounds a year, and was forbidden to take fees or gratuities. He was also expected to buy, care for, and accommodate his own horse. He was appointed by a constitution of the Treasury, and had a deputation from the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. He took the oaths of office, and gave bond and security. He received printed instructions for his conduct with his deputation. He endeavored to get information as to any illicit practices, and makes seizures whenever he could

It was an extremely dangerous job and often resulted in the officer being severely beaten and often murdered.

Romney Marsh: Environmental Change and Human Occupation in a Coastal Lowland (ed.J. Eddison, M. Gardiner and A. Long), OUCA Monograph 46, 1998, 166-181 and  Chapter 10. Death and Disease in the Romney Marsh Area in the 17th to 19th Centuries by Mary J. Dobson

"Romney Marsh in the 17th and 18th centuries was known for its high prevalence of disease and death. This paper summarizes the findings of a large-scale demographic survey of mortality levels in Romney Marsh and other parishes of south-east England The results show that mortality in the marshes was exceptionally high, with rates of infant mortality some two to three times higher than in neighbouring Downland parishes. The mortality figures derived from parish registers give no indication of cause of death for this period. A number of other sources do, however, allow us to draw some epidemiological explanations. The marshes, like many other parts of early modern England, were afflicted with a range of infectious and chronic diseases. Bubonic plague, smallpox and fevers all took their toll. The marshes, moreover, suffered from the additional problem of malaria. Malaria receded slowly from the marshes and by the mid- 19th century Romney Marsh was one of the healthiest districts of Kent.

Much of the pastureland was owned by upland graziers. These absentee graziers ran huge sheep flocks on the marsh, enjoying their rich profits while minimizing dangers to their personal health. In the 18th century there were virtually no gentry resident anywhere in Romney Marsh - a consequence, as Lambarde suspected earlier, of its grievous situation. The land, however, was rich and fertile and wages, for those prepared to work in these unhealthy tracts, were higher than in other parts of Kent.  Lookers were brought in to tend the ewes and lambs and the marsh parishes formed a unique economic complex.

Lookers, smugglers, and sailors who were prepared to go to the marshes 'for the advantage of good farms' or 'this prospect of gain, and high wages' had to put up with its extreme unhealthiness. Smuggling was an especially lucrative occupation and,according to Arthur Young, while a task-worker could earn between 1s 6d and 2s a day, and a labourer from 16d to 18d, a smuggler could easily earn 10s 6d a night.  The deserted, forlorn, and unhealthy appearance of much of the marshland was reflected in the mean and stark condition of its inhabitants. The smugglers and lookers of marshland communities were invariably described as mean, stupid, apathetic, caring little whether they lived or died. The parish of St Mary-in-the-Marsh was a typical example inhabited by 'not above 50 persons, all of mean quality, marsh lookers', and at Dymchurch the inhabitants 'are of the lower sort, and, like others dwelling in the rest of the Marsh, are mostly such as are employed in the occupations and management of the level, or a kind of seafaring men, who follow an illicit trade, as well by land as water'.  As Everitt has observed, 'the inevitable consequence of absenteeism was an impoverished and alienated society' where the marsh folk were regarded with suspicion and disdain."

So the Riding Officer was cold, wet, outgunned and poorly paid and in essence useless. In his annual report in 1783, Sir William Musgrave, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, said that Riding Officers were 'of very little service, 'tho' a great Burthen to the Revenue'.

While all this was happening,  Ann had given birth (and lost) two children:

  •   Adeline Elvey Dixon baptised New Romney 15 Mar 1805 buried 18 Dec 1806

  •   Matilda Evans Dixon baptised New Romney 9 Mar 1806 buried 18 Dec 1806

 

The family must have been heartbroken, both children dead befoee their second birthday!  How heartbreaking. They probably died of malaria. "From 1564 the health of the marsh population suffered from malaria, then known as ague or marsh fever, which caused high mortality rates." Wikipedia. They were both buried on the same day.

Following Isaac’s nefarious activities at bending the rules of the Excise department he was dismissed from the service.  We find that in the spring of 1807 there is an advert in the Times of London for the sale of his house. The wording suggests he was a tenant.

You can imagine Ann insisting that they go back home to Bexley, a cleaner environment.

And thus a new chapter in the life of Isaac and Ann commences.

Isaac Kent Chronicle Dec 1896.tiff

Isaac and Ann moved back north and settled in Bexley, in the pub that he held the license for.  These children were born there​


Jane Dixon b 27 Dec 1807 in the public house The Guy Earl of Warwick in Welling, Kent. And wow has she produced some interesting descendants.  She married John Barnes 1809 -1852.   For more info about Jane, click in her name.

Clarissa Dixon b 14 May 1809. married Nathaniel Punter. Nathaniel was born in 1810 to a well off family. Nathaniel’s father was John Punter, Gentleman. John’s will dated gives details of the property he owned in Little Exeter Street, Salisbury Place Lisson Grove, Westminster and a few more. The Punters were loaded.  Clarissa and Nathaniel were married 27 Jul 1835 at St Marylebone. The family were living in Exeter Street, Marylebone (now Ashbridge Street) then at 12 Medway Street. Nathaniel worked at Westminster Abbey as a tomb carver and organ blower! He died five years into the marriage and was buried 20 Aug 1840. Clarissa then got a job working as a nurse at Westminster Hospital.  Her husband’s mother was a patient at Westminster in 1843 and she died at this time. Clarissa caught some awful illness and took sick and her mum Anne went down to look after her.  The Manchester Chronicle  of 22 July 1843 states that “A daughter of Mr Dixons became a widow (having an infant daughter) three years since, and she shortly afterwards was placed as a sister in Westminster Hospital. Desirous of bettering her condition, she applied to the physician of that establishment, Doctor Rue, to assist her in that object, and that gentleman kindly recommended her as a nurse to a noble family about proceed to Ireland. On quitting the hospital in May, she visited her Harrow to take leave of her parents and child (whom she left at Harrow) and returned town preparatory to her joining the family alluded to; but on the day she was to have preceded to Clifton for that purpose, she was suddenly attacked with illness, and her immediate removal to be above hospital was recommended, but her case, baffling the skill of the medical gentlemen, death put an end to her sufferings in 10 days.”   Clarissa died and was buried 15 May 1843. Nathaniel and Clarissa had a daughter:

  • Mary Ann Punter b  , bap 17 Jul 1837 at St John the Evangelist, Westminster,   . After the death f her parents and grandparents, Mary was sent to Queen's Road orphan's school where she died and was buried at St Mar's Paddington Green 16 Apr 1846 aged 8.

Adeline Dixon b 1811 baptised 17 November 1811 at St Nicholas church Rochester.  She married George Turner on the 22 November 1836 at St John the Evangelist, Lambeth. Witness at Adeline’s marriage was Isaac Dixon (her father). Another witness was Mary Eliza Elvee (don’t know how she was related). In the 1881 census Adeline Turner was living in Islington. An Adeline Dixon was present as a witness at the marriage of William Chatham and Hannah Freshwater at Harrow on the Hill Parish Church on 30 Sep 1833. A second witness was Johnathan James Hunt.   George was born about 1812 and he became  a furnishing ironmonger and the family lived at 12 Kingsgate Street St George the Martyer in 1841 - 1851. They disappear for the 1861 census (might have gone to Australia) . But in 1871 they pop up again and have moved down the road to 38 Kingsgate Street.  Kingsate Street was torn up and is under the Kingsway.    I know of the following children:

  •    William Turner b 1838;

  •    George Turner 1841-1915;

  •    Adeline Turner b 1847;

  •    Alfred  Turner b 1849 - went to school in Rochester and by 1871 was a solicitor's clerk;

  •    Mary Anne Turner   b 1851

  •    Clarissa Turner b 1853.   In 1881 the two youngest daughters were still at home aged 30 and 28.

  •    Adeline Turner died 1890 in Islington aged 7

Matilda Dixon b 21 Oct 1810 died aged 4 and is buried at St Nicholas Rochester.

Eliza Dixon bap 5 Sep 1813 at Bexley, Kent.  She married William Broad, a shoemaker on 1 Dec 1838 at Trinity church St Marylebone. John was born in Barnes, the son of John Broad, a carpenter. 1843 was an awful year, she lost her sister Clarissa, her mother and father and she died in 1843. The Baptist reporter quotes er on her death bed as saying "Thanks be to God who give us the victory.Thank, thanks, thanks."  I wouldn't say that on my death bed - but the times were completely different then.  Eliza and William had four kids:

  •      Emma Broad b 1840

  •      Edgar Broad b 1843 d 1848

  •      Clara Broad b 1843 d 1852

Alfred John Dixon b 9 Jul 1815 d 27 Jan 1878

What was Isaac doing in Bexley? Well we know he held a 21 year lease for the public house called the Guy, Earl of Warwick in Welling - now Bexley Heath. And he had held that license since 1798. The Guy, Earl of Warwick was a popular coaching inn on the old Roman road to Canterbury. But towards the end of 1815, things were not going so well for Isaac - he was going bankrupt. His name appears in the press fairly frequently:

  • Times of London May 1816: " The Commissioners in a Commission of Bankruptcy bearing date the 30th day of May 1816, awarded and issued forth against Isaac Dixon, of Welling, Kent, in the Parish of Bexley in the County of Kent, Innkeeper, Dealer and Chapman".    "The Commissioners in a Commission of Bankruptcy bearing date the 30th day of May 1816, awarded and issued forth against Isaac Dixon, of Welling, Kent, in the Parish of Bexley in the County of Kent, Innkeeper, Dealer and Chapman, intend to meet on the 18th of April next, at Eleven of the Clock in the Forenoon at Guildhall, London, to make a Dividend of the Estate and Effects of the said Bankrupt; when and where the Creditors, who have not already proved their Debts, are to come prepared to prove the same, or they will be excluded the Benefit of the said Dividend. And all Claims not then proved will be disallowed."

 

 

  • The Times of London 10 Aug 1816 describes it quite comprehensively. I have reproduced the gist of the article below:  "Welling, Kent – To Brewers, Stage-coach and post-masters – By T STRONG, on the Premises, on Thursday, Aug 22, at two precisely, by order of the Assignees of Mr Isaac Dixon,THE valuable LEASE, or 21 years from Michaelmas 1816 of that old-established, well-known, and accustomed INN the Guy Earl of Warwick, situate at Welling, only 10 miles from London, on the high road to Dover, the first regular stage from London and a number of stage-coaches change horses daily, excellent stabling, yard, extensive and beautiful gardens stocked with abundance of the choicest fruit trees, fish-pond stored with fish, and several enclosures of exceeding rich land, containing, more or less, the whole lying within a ring fence, and taken as a whole, has scarcely its parallel. At the same time will be sold, the Lease, 4 years of which will be unexpried at Michaelmas next, of a large yard, stabling for 20 horses, barn and granary, and 2 acres of good land, subject to a very low rent, opposite the above; also the Lease for a term of years, at a low rent, of 11 acres, more or less, of very rich land, lately cultivated and improved at an immense expense, situate on the high road, about a quarter of a mile from the foregoing: the growing crops of what, potato, barley and oats, all very fine, will be sold at the same time. Particulars, with conditions, 7 days prior at the Halt Moon, Borough; Green Man, Barnet; White Hart, Romford; Bell, Bromsley; Oak, Sevenoaks; Bell, Maidstone; Bull, Shooters-Hill; Prince of Orange, Gravesend; George and Bull, Dartford; Crown Inn, Rochester; Rose, Sittingbourne; Kings Head, Canterbury; Ship, Dover; all the Inns in the neighbourhood; of Thomas Flexney, Ewq, solicitor, 6 Grays Inn-square; Thomas Walker, Esq, solictor, Dartford; and of the Auctioneer, Kent Fire-Office, Welling.The Times further reported 16 August 1816 ... "The creditors who have proved their debts under a commission of bankrupt awarded and issued forth against ISAAC DIXON of Welling, in the county of Kent, innkeeper, dealer and chapman, are requested to meet the Assignees of the said Bankrupt’s Estate and Effects, on Wednesday the 21st of August instant, at 12 at noon precisely, at the Guy Earl of Warwick, at Welling aforesaid to take into consideration the most advantageous manner of selling and disposing of the lease of the said public house called the Guy Earl of Warwick, and the Premises held therewith, and lately in the occupation of the bankrupt; also to authorise the Assignees to carry into effect any contract or agreement for that purpose, and upon other special affairs.

In 1816 he and most of the family moved from one side of London to the other - a huge move from Bexley in Kent to Harrow-on-the-Hill in Middlesex.  The mystery is what attracted him to live in Harrow?.  He would have found it to be a safe and quiet haven of tranquility. We also know from the Times of 10 December 1818 that he is described as a farmer. The Times tells us that he had a partnership with Robert Dixon up to this time. The family moved into the newly built house in Victoria Terrace, just off West Street.

Vic terrace House.TIF

This is a sketch I drew in 1972

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The house in 2022

When Isaac lived here there weren't as may houses ad there may well have been just his.  We know he kept a cart and a horse and had at least two cow that grazed down at the bottom of West Street. He started the Victoria Dairy and he had his milk cart were a regular feature on the roads around Harrow-on-the-Hill, as he delivered milk to the residents and to Harrow School. I discovered this sketch in 2022, and the photo shows what the same scene looks like today (2022).

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Isaac and Ann now lead a fairly quiet existence and he doesn't appear in the press until his death. Meanwhile they built up the business, expanded to become  a carriers business (the white vans of today), brought up their children, attended their marriages and the baptisms of their children. But then 1843 dawned and this was a truly calamitous year for the family.

1843 - annus horribilis for the Dixon family

On New Years Day of 1843 while the family looked forward to another year, none of them knew the awful tragedy that was about to befall on them. Clarissa, her older daughter, came down with a serious sickness - see above.  Ann went down to look after Clarissa, but she died and was buried 15 May in St Mary's churchyard,  and then the very next day, Ann died - 16 May. Isaac was unable to overcome his grief at losing three family member in less than a week, and he soon died and was buried 16 Jun 1843.  Isaac and Ann are buried in a paupers grave at Kendal Green cemetery. In the same grave are Adeline Turner, their grand-daughter and 6 other bodies.

The newspaper article makes mention of a younger daughter giving birth to twins who lived in the same house - that was Eliza Broad. This story was reproduced in the Belfast Chronicle, Bolton Reporter, Liverpool Standard and the Hereford Times.

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Baptist mgazine Isaac Dixon.tiff

London was a cesspit of filth and disease in the 1850s.

Dirt and smell were facts of urban life that equally contributed to the poor health of Londoners. People could not cross a road without the benefit of a crossing sweeper who cleared dust and horse manure from their path. The ‘summer diarrhoea' that occurred annually and killed many, particularly infants was largely caused by swarms of flies feeding on manure, rotting food and human waste left exposed in the hot, steaming streets.

Smell was a potent characteristic of London life. In the 1850s London experienced the Great Stink, when the River Thames became a giant sewer overflowing not only with human waste but also dead animals, rotting food and toxic raw materials from the riverside factories.

The people believed that diseases, particularly cholera, were caused by contagion spread on the air, with the foul smells directly causing illness. This gave the Great Stink added terrors, as Victorian Londoners believed simply smelling the noxious odour of the Thames could kill them.

The summer of 1858 was one of the hottest in memory, and the heat and lack of rain left the city stinking and the Thames a river of effluent. The Houses of Parliament had to be closed, as the river running beneath its windows became too noxious. Even soaking the window-blinds in strong-smelling carbolic of lime failed to keep out the Great Stink.  Museum of London

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My thanks for the help received from Henry Vivean-Neal, a supporter of Kensal Green cemetery”

 

“I've checked 4173 in the records (Deceased Online only gives an incomplete picture - it's a long story). Un = unconsecrated and his remains are deposited in a common grave in the Dissenters (or unconsecrated) section of the cemetery. It's in square 7 of the cemetery and I went to the plot today - as it's a common grave (i.e., used for the burial of different (unrelated) people in the same plot) there's no memorial.”

When we visited in 2029, Henry kindly led us to the plot.