Symbolism on gravestones is often lost. In coastal Eastbourne we would expect a grave swathed with a large chain and anchor to represent the sea, maybe a fisherman or lifeboatman, but Henry Coleman Hurst was neither. He was one of the Hurst family who had arrived in Eastbourne at the time of the Civil War and who made their money from brewing and milling. Henry was not only the proprietor of the Hurst Mill (also known as St John’s Mill) but also ran the Upperton Steam Laundry.
In 1888 Henry successfully campaigned to become a councillor, representing the St Mary’s Ward of Old Town, Eastbourne. The following year he married Elizabeth Stapley of Annington, West Sussex. The couple had their wedding breakfast in Annington House and in the evening treated the local farm workers to a meal in their honour. There was later an evening wedding dinner at the family pub – The Hurst Arms in Willingdon Road, Eastbourne.
Henry was a devout worshipper at St Mary’s Parish Church. The Reverend Walter Budgen, in his 1912 book ‘Old Eastbourne’ describes him as ‘diligent in business, fervent in spirit and held in high esteem by the Vicar and parishioners’. He became a churchwarden in 1896.
Henry Hurst died of scarlet fever aged just 37 years on 15th January 1898. His last act at St Mary’s church was to buy a new Union Flag for the tower and this was to fly at half-mast until his funeral at Ocklynge Cemetery. Hundreds of people attended the funeral and the grave was covered with floral tributes. Although there was already a Hurst Road in Eastbourne, within a few months of his death ‘Annington Road’ was laid down off Whitley Road.
In November 1898 a stained glass window dedicated to Henry was installed in the north wall of the parish church. (it is just to the left of the north door leading to the parsonage). The window represents Faith, Hope and Charity and it is notable that ‘Hope’ is holding a large anchor. The window was paid for by Henry’s father, Edward Hurst
But what of that huge anchor on the grave? Apparently every Christmas the vicar of St Mary’s would give the churchwardens a small heart, cross and anchor to show that they were anchored together by the love of their faith. At least one of the floral tributes left on the grave was in the shape of an anchor.
Although an anchor is of course a symbol of a seafarer, the anchor also represents one who was ‘anchored to their faith’.
For more information about graves at Ocklynge cemetery, Eastbourne search Facebook for ‘Friends of Ocklynge Cemetery’.
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Fascinating, as usual!
div dir=”ltr”>Very interesting, as usual, Kevin. Was St John’s mill