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Finding the grave of Sir William Richard Gowers
  1. Christopher J Boes1,
  2. Nadeem Toodayan2,
  3. Andrew Lees3
  1. 1 Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  2. 2 Hospital Medical Officer, The Bendigo Hospital, Bendigo, Australia
  3. 3 Reta Lila Weston Institute of Neurological Studies, UCL Institute of Neurology and The National Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Christopher J Boes, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA; boes.christopher{at}mayo.edu

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When the Funerall pyre was out, and the last valediction over, men took a lasting adieu of their interred Friends, little expecting the curiosity of future ages should comment upon their ashes.1

Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682), Norwich, 1 May 1658

William Richard Gowers, considered by some to be the father of clinical neurology, died 4 May 1915 at 34 Ladbroke Square, in Notting Hill, West London.2 3 His funeral was held on 6 May 1915 at St. Peter’s Church, Vere Street, and his body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on the same day.4 The final resting place of Gowers’ ashes was not mentioned in Critchley’s biography of Gowers,5 or known to the authors of his authoritative biography in 2012.3 On 15 June 2015, however, following historical research surrounding the centenary of Sir William Gowers’ death, it was determined that Ernest Gowers, one of Sir William’s sons, collected the ashes on 4 September 1915 for burial in Yorkshire (personal communication, Golder’s Green Archivist Viv Lackey to NT). Gowers’ great-great-granddaughter (Rebecca Gowers) suggested that Sir William would have been buried with his wife Mary (Baines) Gowers, who preceded him in death on 18 January 1913. The authors searched for the grave of Mary Gowers; this was not fruitful, but they were able to locate the grave of Mary’s father Frederick Baines via an online source.6 Frederick Baines was one of the partners in the Leeds Mercury and was buried at the Lawnswood Cemetery in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Knowing this, the authors subsequently contacted Bereavement Services Manager Chris Simpson of the Leeds City Council via email; to each authors’ great interest, Mr Simpson soon verified that William Richard Gowers, his wife and several other Baines family members were buried in a double-vaulted grave owned by Frederick Baines and Sarah Edith Baines (a sister of Mary Gowers) in the unconsecrated Victorian section of Lawnswood Cemetery (grave numbers A 306 and A 307) (figure 1). The fact that William Gowers was buried in the Baines family plot only became clear after Mr Simpson sent one of the authors (CJB) a photograph of the grave.

Figure 1

The grave of Sir William Richard Gowers, his wife and several other Baines family members at the Lawnswood Cemetery in Leeds. The Gowers and Baines families were non-conformists, and thus were laid to rest in the unconsecrated part of the cemetery.

The practical point is that, when searching for an individual historical gravestone, one should ideally seek to contact the cemetery directly wherever possible, as online documentation and cemetery website information can be incomplete or inaccurate at times. When a direct contact is not available, the assistance of a local photographer, or even better, a taphophile (lover of cemeteries), may prove invaluable. John Hughlings Jackson and William Richard Gowers are inextricably linked to Yorkshire—one by birth (Jackson), the other in death (Gowers).7

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Footnotes

  • Contributors CJB was involved in conceptualising the study, collection and interpretation of data, drafting and revising the manuscript and approving the final version.

    NT was involved in collection and interpretation of data, revising the manuscript for intellectual content and approving the final version.

    AL was involved in collection and interpretation of data, revising the manuscript for intellectual content and approving the final version.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement There are no unpublished data.

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    Phil E M Smith Geraint N Fuller