England’s tragic, triumphant and timeless stories
This is the memorial stone for Charlotte Dymond, aged 18 when she was murdered in I844, and a humble waymark in the nation’s story.
Hers is one of the tales related by Historic England in a free exhibition opening on August 30 at The Workshop, Lambeth, Immortalised https://historicengland.org.uk/get-involved/help-write-history/immortalised/exhibition/.
The exhibition is of the famous and less famous people and events chosen by the people to remember.
Charlotte Dymond was a maid on a farm near Camelford on Bodmin Moor whose story is the stuff of gothick tragedy, and of Cornish folklore. She was the girlfriend of a fellow servant on the farm, Matthew Weeks, but her roving eye had passed to a more eligible suitor, arousing Matthew’s murderous jealousy. She disappeared on Sunday, April 14, and nine days later she was found on the moor still dressed in her Sunday best but with her throat savagely cut.
The murder shocked the community, and Weeks was arrested as he tried to flee to the Channel Islands. He was tried at Bodmin Crown Court and publicly hanged outside Bodmin Gaol on August 12 of that year, by which time the crime had become such a cause celebre that a public appeal raised enough to erect a monument to the victim “who was murdered by Matthew Weeks on Sunday April 14 1844”, close to where her body was found.
It is an example of the poignant stories the public has chosen to preserve in some memorable way, not all of which are so humble or so tragic in English towns and cities.
“Our national collection of statues and memorials is a defining feature of our built heritage” says Duncan Wilson Historic England’s CEO. “The exhibition invites visitors to discover or look again at the memorials and statues that are all around us. It tells the stories of those who have been commemorated in our public spaces - not just those of famous people but of local heroes.
“Immortalised also seeks to prompt thought and discussion on topics including who has been remembered and who hasn’t, and as we look to the future, how we should mark those whom we decide to commemorate.”
So Charlotte Dymond takes her place with the Gareth Southgate sign used at Southgate Tube station after the World Cup this year to honour the England manager, the maquette of the sculpture of feminist pioneer Millicent Fawcett recently unveiled in Parliament Square, and a tiny coffin containing a single strand of Lord Nelson’s hair.
Another memorial created by the public is the large UK AIDS Memorial Quilt which tells the stories of nearly 400 people killed in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of 1980s and 90s. And there is the Brighton “Peace Angel”, unveiled in 1912 in memory of Edward VII.
Modern memorials in England’s cities include a number marking the centenary of women’s suffrage, and a new memorial in Manchester to the Peterloo Massacre. Visitors are also being encouraged to reflect on more controversial monuments to modern eyes, such as those of Edward Colston, an 18thcentury slave trader, in Bristol, and the South African mining magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes in Oxford.
“Immortalised seeks to stir strong feelings in people as it takes them on a journey through England’s civic spaces and into a number of statues” says Tamsin Silvey, Historic England’s programme curator. “While the exhibition aims to educate with facts and figures, it also asks visitors to think about our country’s memorial landscape – how it looks now, who it represents and, importantly, how it could look in the future.”
Immortalised is at The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7AG, from August 30 to September 16