From the Garton Archive at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School
Occasional Paper No 1
Peter Harrod & Tom Küpper
A MEMORIAL TO ROSAMOND ACWORTH
The memorial window ‘Birth, Death and Resurrection’ in Lincoln Cathedral celebrates the life of Rosamond Acworth, who died in Lincoln in 1899. The stained glass window, designed by Clayton & Bell, is situated on the south side of the St Hugh’s choir aisle, and belongs to a set of two matching lancets. The narrative of the window depicts three separate scenes; an angel with three women at the Tomb of Christ, the Baptism of Jesus, and a figure of St Mark with the winged lion.
‘To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Rosamond, only daughter of HS Acworth, vicar of Chobham. She died in Lincoln Gymnasium April 6th 1899 aged 17.’
Rosamond Acworth was a pupil at Lincoln Christ's Hospital Girls' High School, formerly located on Lindum Hill, Lincoln. Although the beautiful 19th Century William Watkins designed brick building, with its moulded decorative ornamentation of the unusual red Ruabon terracotta still exists, the former Girls' High School is now used by the University of Lincoln and leased from Lincoln Christ's Hospital School. In 1974 the Girls' High School closed and was amalgamated with three other schools in the area to form Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School which is a modern comprehensive school situated on Wragby Road in the buildings of the former Lincoln School.
Although Rosamond attended Lincoln Girls’ High School for only a short time, she clearly made a very positive impact, not losing any time in identifying herself with the school or the school interests. In a tribute entitled, ‘In Memoriam’, it is recorded in the school magazine that she never seemed like a ‘new girl’, and took her place in the Fifth as one of the leading girls. It was her good literary taste that resulted in her becoming the Librarian of the Fifth, and a member of the newly constituted School Magazine Committee. She was also the first ever Captain of the School Hockey Team, and was praised in the magazine as ‘…an excellent dribbler and dodger’, who ‘might be a little faster, and do rather more back work sometimes’.
Among many other the tributes, she is described as ‘…full of spirit and breezy originality’, and that she ’…just ended her life in the full swing of its interests and enjoyment in the straightforward day’s work’.
The Headmistress of the School, Miss Body, celebrated her happiness, genuine joy, and wholesome sweetness. Another member of staff, who had visited her home in Chobham, wrote that she was held in universal love and affection, and that on the day of her funeral on Monday April 10th 1899, the whole village was in mourning and in universal sorrow as she was laid to rest in the bright spring sunshine.
SUDDEN DEATH IN A LINCOLN GYMNASIUM
Rosamond died quite suddenly in the afternoon on Thursday 6th April whilst engaging in physical exercises at the gymnasium of the Lincoln Drill Hall. The Lincolnshire Echo reported that the Coroner described the case as a particularly sad one, as the deceased had suffered a seizure while climbing a rope. Miss Lilias Marr, a teacher at the school, described the incident in some detail giving evidence that Rosamond was good at this kind of exercise and usually reached the top of the rope. In fact she was one of the best. She never complained of any distress after exercises and she had been working on the parallel bars five minutes earlier. According to the Echo report Rosamond was about three yards up the rope when she seemed to collapse. She then became unconscious and a doctor was immediately called for. Despite efforts by Dr Carline to revive her, these were unsuccessful, and Rosamond passed away. During the inquest he described how he had found the girl ‘…quite dead and livid’, and that his attempts to resuscitate her for an hour were unavailing. He informed the Coroner that Rosamond had suffered a somewhat similar epileptic fit on a previous occasion, and this was later confirmed by Dr WHB Brook, who had attended the deceased in July 1898.
After hearing all the evidence the Coroner, in recommending to the jury a verdict of death by natural causes, thought that this was only just to those in charge of the girl at the school, who seemed to have taken every care of her, and who had only allowed her to embark upon the exercises after seeking medical advice.
The Acworth family was represented by the Revd. CA Skelton. Also present were the Governors of the School, Sub-Dean Leake and Mr Richard Hall, Clerk to the Governors, Mr JG Williams, and Mr B Vicars. The Foreman of the Jury was Mr WS Williams.
Reading through the inquest report the coroner decided that it was not necessary to ascertain whether Rosamond's death was due to epilepsy or to syncope and recommended not to carry out a post mortem on the body.
However, following consultations on the historical accounts of the inquest of Rosamond’s sudden death with a medical trained professional, the most likely conclusion is that Rosamond probably died from a congenital heart problem rather than from epilepsy.
In addition to the stained glass window in Lincoln Cathedral, there are several other memorials to her short life. The School Magazine of 1899 records that a beautiful cupboard in bog oak was donated by her cousin and ‘almost elder sister’, Miss Lilias Oswald Mitchell. The memorial, which will always be associated with Rosamond’s name, was originally situated in the fifth form library at Lincoln Girls’ High School, and was supplied with ‘…some of the most delightful books’, appreciated by the fifth form pupils. It was a fitting tribute as Rosamond did so much to organise the library. It is also recorded that a Prayer Desk was presented to the School from all the pupils in memory of Rosamond. The desk was manufactured by Messrs. Jones and Willis, artistic workers in wood and brass, and its ‘very graceful and effective’ design included some of the School’s symbols, such as ‘most gracefully carved’ lilies. The sum of £10 6s. 2d. was raised ‘in a very few days’, and the desk was placed on the hall platform of the School.
The two Memorials to Rosamond, originally housed in Lincoln Christ’s Hospital High School for Girls, are now on display in the Garton Archive and Oyler Room at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. The bog oak cupboard bears the following inscription (below left)
Memorial plaque set within the bookcase
Bookcase, a gift from Miss Lilias O Mitchell, a cousin of Rosamond (Garton Archive)
The Prayer Desk, now located in the Oyler Room, adjoining the Garton Archive, bears the message, ‘IN · MEM · ROSAMOND · ACWORTH · APRIL · 6 · 1899’ in beautifully carved lettering.
Prayer Desk showing inscription
Prayer Desk: a gift from all the pupils of the Girls’ High School (Oyler Room)
There are also memorials to Rosamond at St Lawrence Church, Chobham, and in the East Window at Holy Trinity Church, West End, where she was confirmed on April 9th 1897. These attractive stained glass windows, designed and created by the eminent artist Arthur J Dix, and entitled, ‘Thy Brother Shall Rise Again’, were donated by Revd. Acworth, Vicar of Chobham 1881-1911, in memory of his only daughter. The windows were dedicated on Easter Tuesday, April 9th 1899, by the Venerable Archdeacon JH Sapte.
In the Surrey Archaeological Collection, Volume 47, a globe chandelier located in the nave, inscribed in memory of Rosamond, is also recorded (page 36).
The following short but poignant prayer concluded the tribute to Rosamond in the Lincoln High School magazine following her death:
‘God grant that we,who knew and loved her here,may meet her again in the home beyond.’
NB. Rosamond was the second child and only daughter of Revd. Herbert Summer Acworth (1844 – 1929) and Rose Charlotte Roney-Dougal (1858 – 1943)
Rosamond had three brothers:
William Acworth 1885 – 1949 Bernard Acworth 1885 – 1963 Cecil Acworth 1887 – 1975
Interestingly her mother, Rose Charlotte, is never mentioned in any of the historical documents or within any of the memorials, plaques and inscriptions to her daughter. Information from the family suggests that she was an invalid, and was a resident in a nursing home in Virginia Water, Surrey. According to the 1901 Census Rosamond’s parents lived at Chobham where her father retired as a vicar.
References and Sources
Lincoln High School Magazines, 1899 (Garton Archive)
Lincoln High School Magazines, Vol. I 1899 (Lincoln Cathedral Library)
Lincoln High School Admissions Register, 1988 (Garton Archive)
The Lincolnshire Echo, Saturday April 8th 1899
Surrey Archaeological Collection. Vol. 47, Surrey Archaeological Society MCMXL1
The Wren Library, Lincoln Cathedral
The authors wish to express their grateful thanks to Brigadier and Mrs Robert Acworth, for providing photographs and other information about the family.
Tom Küpper is the Team Leader in the Lincoln Cathedral Glazing Department, and a Foundation Governor at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School
Peter Harrod is the Archive Assistant and a Foundation Governor at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School