Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Isn't this a restful and inviting place? It's Glenwood cemetery in Picton . Local heritage-minded folk have recently devoted a great deal of energy to restoring the lovely 1901 funeral chapel with its crow-step gables. This Gothic revival miniature chapel is wrought of warm limestone, with beautiful stained glass windows, and a Gothic inspired turreted porch to set the mood.

A matching (even older) stone mortuary nestles into the bank just behind it.

Glenwood's 1901 chapel
Glenwood has all the requisite components of a Victorian garden cemetery. Topography - hills, valleys, water features, winding roads and the shadow-play of  light and majestic old trees. Victorian garden benches, for rest and contemplation.

I have always been drawn to Glenwood, escaping here for walks on visits home in my university days, when the small red brick town closed in. I didn't realize then that I was so calmed because Victorian garden cemetery designers planned it that way.

peaceful pathways lead to peaceful thoughts
Victorian symbolism
August Victorian memorials

Should you wish to read more about this unique and beautiful cemetery, I recommend Hearts We Leave Behind by PEC writer Margaret E. Haylock.

ancestors - mine, in this case
Masonic mysteries in stained glass

the City of the Dead
Another fine title,  Weep Not for Me, by Jennifer McKendry, features another nearby Victorian rural cemetery, at Cataraqui. McKendry has also published an in-depth cemetery study, Into the Silent Land,  which contains text and photos about both idyllic spots and a wealth of detail about Victorian cemetery design; the symbolism of grave-marker art especially fascinating.

A visit to local historian Peter Lockyer's History Moments Series I history vignettes will give you a mini-tour, to help you plan your visit.

Glenwood's cemetery manager and certified celebrant, Helma Oonk, will give you a tour, and assist you to plan eternity, should you wish.

forever At Home in Upper Canada

have a sit and a think

the grounds-keeper's home, shorn of Victorian features
a defunct water feature from 1910
 If you haven't been to this lovely spot, just GO. Bring your genealogy questions, and the thorough site plans will assist you in contacting the ancestors. Explore lichened monuments, and say the names that recount the area's (maybe your own) history. Enjoy a picnic or a stroll. You can be sure the Victorians did - for the garden or rural cemetery was the first public green space in many Ontario towns.

an illustrious inhabitant of the City of the Dead

I am looking forward to receiving the Autumn issue of ACORN, the magazine of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. Editor Liz Lundell was gracious enough to accept my article and photos about Glenwood and Cataraqui cemeteries, for the Remembrance-themed issue.
a place to honour and remember


  1. What a lovely tribute to Glenwood. Thank you. Must return for a stroll to visit family.

  2. Some faiths believe by saying the name, you honor the ancestor.

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  4. As do I , Karen. Al Purdy's poem Say the Names is especially powerful. (Autocorrect is insistent on Al Perry, however.)