Posted by: debrakolkka | February 11, 2011

Searching for a name at the English Cemetery

Somebody who came upon my blog asked if I was familiar with the English Cemetery in our village.  I have always known of its existence, but I had never visited. The man in question believes his grandfather is buried in the cemetery and is keen to know if there is a headstone.  Today I went to the information centre to have the cemetery unlocked so I could have a bit of a wander and look for a particular name.

the suspension bridge across the river

After arranging for the gates to be opened by a woman who lives nearby, I headed off across the suspension bridge from La Villa.  It was a gloomy day today, which somehow seemed appropriate.

the entrance to the cemetery

In 1842 Carlo Ludovico di Borbone granted permission to build a Protestant cemetery.  Works were finished in 1844, but burials were performed imediately after the land was purchased. The cemetery was in use until 1953 and 137 people were burried on the site. In 1982, when the bequest intended for its upkeep was exhausted, the town of Bagni di Lucca bought the cemetery and is now responsible for its upkeep.

I had heard that is was overgrown and derelict, but I found it in quite good condition.  The grass has been recently mowed and some care has been taken with the grave sites.  There are a few important people buried here (I’m sure everyone here was important to somebody) including the author Ouida, the sister of the President of USA (Cleveland) and Henry and Elizabeth Stisted.

heading up the steps

the little chapel

Some of the sepulchral monuments were made by famous sculptors of the time, such as Benjamin Gibson, Giuseppe Norfini and Emelio Duccini.  Some of them are quite lovely.

an elaborate grave

I wonder how much longer the chain will last

a dramatic offering

the inscription said she was the author of incomparable novels

the grave of a young wife and her husband

I found this particularly sad. Elizabeth died in 1854 aged just 20. It says she is not dead, just sleeping. Her husband, Mark Noble was buried here 14 years later, in 1868 aged 34. He died in Malta, but is buried here. They must have been married very young and she must have died soon after.

the grave of Nelly Erickson

Nelly Erickson died in a fever epidemic while working to help refugees in  WW1.

no name here

the graves are quite well kept

a quiet corner

Henry Stisted of the Royal Dragoons – a gallant and accomplished gentleman

a place to sit

I didn’t find the name I was looking for. This doesn’t mean he is not here. Many of the graves are worn and the names are unreadable. I found one possibility. The man was a Captain and I found a grave decorated with a sword and a helmet.

you can just make out the sword and the helmet

a possibility

The next step will be to go to the library, which is housed in the English Church. There must at least be a list of the people buried in the cemetery and possibly even a plan of the graves.  I’ll go next week.

Click here to see the beginnings of the restoration of the cemetery in September 2012


  1. LOVE this. Permanent addresses! It is so interesting. Thanks for this Deb.

  2. How fascinating! I’ve been to the Protestant cemetery in Rome, I remember it was full of cats, and various poets were buried there. I love your photos and the story you tell is very lyrical and only sllghtly melancholy, was it very quiet there?

    • There was nobody else around and it was very quiet. I’m sure there are lots of interesting stories here.

  3. Keep going Debra, love to hear more of your sleuthing to uncover more

    • I felt a bit like Nancy Drew on a quest. I hope I can find some more information.

  4. I think that’s a really special thing to do for someone. I hope you do get find a name in the registry.
    There is something so fascinating about old cemeteries. A tiny, tiny window of a persons life, or end of it.

  5. We are SO grateful to Debra for doing this for us and it is lovely to see that the cemetery is not overgrown like we were told it was. The sword grave is definitely a possibility as the Captain was awarded the first commemorative sword struck by Lloyd’s of London for his part in the Napoleonic Wars.
    Fingers crossed for some confirmation.

    • I think the cemetery may have just been cleaned up. It will be more overgrown in summer. Everything grows so quickly here in summer, they would have to be at it constantly. There are lots of English people here. Perhaps some of them could get together and organise working bees occasionally.

      • hi Deane & Tony..the sword at Bagni di Lucca..if that belongs to Col Henty Stisted its a bit of history i didn’t know..our direct line his bro col Charles..hope to hear from you..

  6. This is so fascinating. I love the way you are telling the story. Will be great to hear more.

    • Thank you. I hope there is some more information at the library next week.

  7. Now is this an interesting twist. Deb the detective. Can’t wait to find your ‘findings’ 🙂 Some vague part of me is interested in chasing down generations past, its sort of on my to do list….. for another time as I’m sure the chase will lead me all over the world.

  8. Deb, Thank you for showing this cemetry. Takes me back to walking around Toowong Cemetry in 1975. Nifta

    • It is quite a bit smaller than Toowong, but very interesting.

  9. Cemeteries hint at so many stories – I hope you find the man you are looking for.

  10. I am heading to Bagni di Lucca on October 1-2 and would like access to the cemetery to visit Evangeline Whipple’s grave. Could you provide information on how to access the keeper?
    Many thanks!

    • If you go to the information centre in La Villa and ask somebody there to phone the lady who keeps the key, it will be opened for you. It is a very pretty little cemetery.

  11. […] across the walking bridge to visit the English cemetery and wander through the wonderful old headstones. The English church in La Villa now houses a library […]

  12. The tomb is of Marie Louise de la Ramée or Ouida, English novelist. She wrote “A dog of Flandres”.

    • Thank you for that. It is a fascinating place to wander.

  13. […] did a post last year about the cemetery last year on Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. Click here to see the cemetery before the restoration had begun. Share […]

  14. Hi! There is a great history about Mark Noble. His father was a Doctor that died in Malaga (Spain) and his daughters build a hospital (The Hospital Noble, close to the port). Seems like his son Mark lost her wife while travelling in Italy (probably honeymoon) and then he moved to New Zealand where we built a beautiful historical house (CasaNova). Then he came back to Europe and died in Malta and was buried there but as he was to remain with her young wife, we was then buried there in Bagni di Luca. Sad and Beautiful. His father tomb is at the English Cementery in Malaga.

    • Thank you for the extra information about Mark Noble. I thought it was a very sad story.

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