In November and December 2019, the Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery arranged for the repair of three memorials associated with the family of John Dunsford, once the manager of the Bridgwater Mercury newspaper. The three memorials are clustered around a junction of two paths in the Anglican portion of the cemetery. It was decided to have these repaired partly because they have an important story for the history of the town, but also as they would have a big impact on the conservation of this part of the cemetery. The work was carried out by Fine Memorials of Bridgwater.
On 25 July 1883 a fire broke out in the Bridgwater Mercury offices at the corner of Fore Street and Court Street. At the house lived John Thomas Upjohn Dunsford, his wife Ellen Dunsford, and four of their six children; Rosina Maud (11 years), Edith Mabel (9 years), Florence Ethel (6 years), Beatrice Ellen (3 years), as well as Elizabeth Barber (16 years), their maid. The Dunsford's two eldest children were away from home at a special school for the blind.
Ellen was awoken in a panic by the smell of smoke coming from downstairs, and hurried to wake John. He rushed out of their room, to a wall of suffocating smoke and made his way to the two younger daughter's bedroom. He called for both and they rushed to him, but on the landing Florence fell from his arms and was lost in the smoke. Back in the bedroom, John managed to drop little Edith out of the second-storey window, to be caught by a man on the street in Court Street, who, among others, had rushed to help. John then threw a bed into the street and lowered his choking wife down the window ledge. He'd hoped she'd drop onto the bed, but she missed and sustained a deadly head injury. Overwhelmed with the smoke himself, he lowered himself out the window, hanging for dear life from the window ledge. Holding on for a long time, eventually two post office clerks, one called Alfred J. Friend and another just 'Coll', managed to find a ladder. It was too short, but Friend stood at the very top and had John stand on his shoulders.
Meanwhile, in the upper storey of the house, the maid Elizabeth Barber, likewise engulfed in smoke, tried to get the two smaller children to join her to safety. They would not move, saying 'no, no, Pa will fetch us' and she was forced to flee. Fortunately, she could get onto the roof and was rescued by folk on the adjoining building. The body of toddler Beatrice was found by the window, while the eldest, Rosina Maud, was found under the bed.
John and Edith Mabel survived. Ellen died from her injuries a few days later. The two brave postal clerks were later awarded a marble clocks for their bravery. The majority of the Bridgwater Mercury's early records were destroyed along with the lives lost.
This plot contains the victims of the dreadful fire of25 July 1883. The inscription reads: In Loving Memory of Ellen Dunsford the dearly beloved wife of J. T . Dunsford who died August 1st 1883 aged 39 years. Also of Rosina Maud 11 years. Florence Ethel 6 years. Beatrice Ellen 3 years. Daughters of J. T. and E. Dunsford who early on the previous Sabbath morn July 29th were born swiftly away. Safe in the arms of Jesus.
G1 in 2008. The cross had been toppled, and the base subsided.
G1 in 2012, after the Friends volunteers had tidied the area.
First, Fine Memorials dismantled the base, to set it on a firmer foundation.
The work on all three memorials in progress.
The rebuilt base being drilled to recieve the repaired cross.
The repaired memorial, just waiting for a clean.
This memorial stands directly opposite G1 on the other side of the path. Buried here are John and his two elder children. The inscription reads:
In Loving Memory of John Thomas Upjohn Dunsford who fell asleep April 28th 1924 aged 82 years. Peace Perfect Peace. Also Albert Henry Dunsford eldest son of the above who died October 25th 1928 aged 59 years. Also of Alice Kate the beloved daughter of J.T.U. Dunsford died August 15th 1925 aged 54 years.
F11 in 2008. The cross had been toppled, and the base dismantled.
F11 in 2012, after the Friends volunteers had tidied the area.
Fine Memorials laid a new foundation for the memorial and started rebuilding the plinth.
The memorial completed and awaiting a clean.
This plot contains the burial of John's second wife Emma. It sits behind the memorial to the victims of the fire.
Emma the beloved wife of J. T. Dunsford who died 8th July 1904 aged 52 years.
The plot in 2012, the headstone having been toppled.
First, Friends' volunteers Alan worked to clean the headstone before it was raised again.
Fine Memorials set a new foundation.
They then set a new support for the headstone.
Finally, the headstone was raised back into place.