Stanstead Abbotts Local History Society
A SAD STORY
Underneath every gravestone lies a body with a story to tell. This one in St. James churchyard has two stories and two bodies: It’s a grave discovery by Gerald Coppen and Brian Johnson ...
Gravestones are always sad, but the gravestone of Admiral Sir Henry Nicholson K.C.B.
in St. James churchyard is particularly sad. Sir Henry was Captain of the Temeraire
during the bombardment of Alexandria in the Anglo-
Sir Henry chose to retire to Stanstead Abbotts at Newlands, Hunsdon Road, where he died in 1914. But he is not alone in his grave. Sir Henry and Lady Nicholson had a daughter, Alice Lisle, who married Major Ernest Vanrenen, Royal Engineers, Chatham, Medway in 1893 and they had a son named Harry. The boy followed his grandfather into the Royal Navy and became a cadet officer at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. Harry Vanrenen died at the age of 15 from making a drink of potassium cyanide and swallowing it. From notes in his diary found afterwards it transpired that the boy was experimenting with different chemicals to give him support in his training. At the inquest his father said that he was a happy boy but was fond of experimenting with chemicals.
The inquest jury found that his death was due to misadventure and he was given a
funeral cortege with full naval honours after the funeral service at the barracks
to escort his body to Kingswear railway station from where the coffin was sent to
Stanstead Abbotts. The coffin was carried on a gun carriage, draped in a Union Jack
and 20 armed seamen and some of Harry’s fellow cadet officers escorted him to the
station with a band playing the funeral march. The boy was buried at St. James Church
in 1910 in the village where his grandfather had retired to. His father, being an
army officer, would be liable to moving every few years or whenever he was needed
and to all parts of the Empire. At least there would be someone in England to tend
his grave whilst his father may have been serving in India or elsewhere. In 1914
Sir Henry died and he was buried in the same grave as his 15-
Admiral Nicholson 1897
Written by Ron Dale