Twice a month a team of Southampton Solent Rotarians undertake conservation work at Southampton Old Cemetery. Last week, Rotarians Guy Boocock and Ian Ryves finished chopping down a large and unwanted bush that was encroaching on one of the Victorian yew trees and some grave plots. Upon clearing the cuttings an overturned cross was discovered and subsequently uprighted onto the base plate. However, something did not seem right. The cross was sitting out of alignment with the adjacent graves. First thoughts turned to it being a cleric's grave, buried facing the opposite direction (people are usually buried facing east, whereas church leaders are buried facing west so that when they rise they face their congregation). Whilst clearing the soil away, kerbstones were discovered facing east, revealing a half-size grave. Upon cleaning the gravestone and reading the inscription on the two-tiered cross Guy and Ian discovered it to be the grave of a young boy. The inscription reads:
CAPT. C.J. DENNYS B.S.C.
DIED JANY 30TH 1890
AGED 1 YEAR AND 17 DAYS
It struck us odd that the child's mother was not named on the headstone. Perhaps lack of space on a small grave.
Ian began clearing away excess soil and debris from on top of the grave in an attempt to fully reveal the kerbstones. Doing so revealed a poignant message on the bottom one, which reads:
Another little voice is hushed
Another little angel born in heaven
Thy will be done
Whilst Ian was doing that, Guy was raking away smaller branches and leaves, when he uncovered another child's grave in the adjacent plot. This one was completely covered by top soil and debris, as can be seen below (taken just after finding the second grave).
The chaps got to work revealing the kerbstone to read the inscription and discover the name of the occupant. They were not prepared for what was found. The inscription of three sides of the kerbstone reads:
LITTLE TWIN BROTHERS, CHILDREN OF
E.A AND L.M. DENNYS
BORN AND DIED 30TH JANUARY 1893
After a moments pause and reflection, thought turned to who the family could be. Guy surmised that the fathers must be brothers, making the children cousins. But who was Captain C.J. Dennys? Guy noted down all the information to research and reported the information back to Val Furguson, FoSOC secretary and member of our club.
Back home, Guy began his research into the Dennys family which returned some fascinating information.
Let's start with the family of Julius Ramsay Dennys. Julius was born on 13 January 1889 to Charles John Dennys and Lucy Winewood Tulloch, presumably at Newlands, Archers Road, Southampton, a villa now gone. The 1891 census shows that Lucy's parents lived at this house. Julius was the third child of what would be five, including a daughter Isabel Dorothy Joyce Dennys. More on her later. Julius died on 30 January 1890 at the same house and was buried, as we know, in Southampton Cemetery.
His father was, in 1890, a Captain in the Indian Army. Charles was born in Bengal, India, on 29 May 1852 to General Julius Bentall Dennys of the Bengal Army, and Harriet Margaret Vanrennon. Charles was one of nine children. He was first commissioned in the Army on 26 March 1874, following in his father's, and brothers, footsteps. Charles retired in 1907 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
General Dennys had retired to Southampton and lived in 1881 at 16 Carlton Crescent before moving to Sunnyside, Archers Road where he was recorded in 1891.
General Dennys had another son, Edward Augustus, born in 1855 in Bengal, India. Unlike his father and brothers, Edward worked for the Indian Public Works department. In 1881 he married Louise Mary Molesworth and together they had six children, including the "Little Twin Brothers". Another son was Richard Molesworth Dennys who attended Winchester College, served in WW1 and was a war poet. He died in Picardie, France in 1916. A picture of and more information about him can be found here.
Back to Isabel Dennys. With such a prestigious family, there are several researchers family trees for the Dennys family. They all show a particular famous name who has descended from Charles John Dennys through his daughter Isabel, namely the actor Kit Harington famous for his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones.
From uncovering the graves to finding a famous actor, the conservation work that the Friends and Rotarians do is more than just tidying up, we are uncovering history too.