Rev. Alfred Henry Wagentreiber & Florence Emily Brewerton
“In death they were not divided”
The final resting place of the Rev. Alfred Wagentreiber and his fiancé Florence Brewerton is marked by a substantial cross. Weighing an impressive 7 tons, it’s standing on specially built brick foundations partitioned into 2 spaces. At the time, the Kent & Sussex Courier remarked that it ‘will be very noticeable among the very handsome memorials which exist in the cemetery’.
The inscription introduces the sad circumstances that led to their deaths aged just 35 and 21: ‘Accidentally drowned together on Conway Sands North Wales whilst collecting shells’. But first, some background to the couple.
Alfred was born in Calcutta in 1852, the son of Ellen Maria and Alfred Christian Wagentreiber (a merchant). When he died he had been the curate at St Mark’s Church, Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells, for nearly 6 years, having been ordained for the post.
Florence was born in 1866 in Walworth, Surrey, to Emily and Samuel Brewerton (a tea merchant). She was their only daughter but they also had 3 sons (2 of whom have a memorial in the adjoining plot having passed away in 1883 and 1889).
Alfred and Florence were both well thought of in the community, with their deaths casting ‘quite a gloom over the fashionable suburb of Broadwater Down’. Florence is recorded as having tastefully prepared the church Christmas floral designs and was a teacher of one of the Sunday classes.
They were both members of St Mark’s Temperance Society where Florence was the treasurer and superintendent. Alfred was a member of St Mark’s Working Men’s Institute and is said to have ‘always been active in all good work and the poor valued him as a loving sympathising friend’.
The details of their deaths understandably shocked the community. The details were given at an inquest held at the local Police Station the day after they died. Florence’s father had rented a house in Llandudno and Alfred was staying as a guest of the family. At 3pm the couple had gone for a stroll along the shore in search of shells.
It was said that the tide recedes as much as a mile and a half and then ‘rushes in with great rapidity so that anyone venturing any considerable distance from the shore at the flow of the tide are in the greatest danger of being cut off from the land before they are aware of the tide running in’.
An eyewitness commented that they were seen to be half a mile out and Miss Brewerton had beckoned Mr Wagentreiber with the intention of returning to the shore but she became stuck in quicksand on a sand bank. He rushed to her aid but both were engulfed in a few minutes. The eyewitness gave the alarm but there were no boats nearby that could have helped them.
Later, when the couple hadn’t returned for dinner, the family went in search of them. Her father was standing in the garden when he overheard a conversation about a young lady and a gentleman who had drowned only an hour or two earlier.
He then rushed into the town where the news was confirmed. He offered a reward for the recovery of their bodies but was told that they needed to wait for the tide to go out. When they were found, both their watches had stopped at 5.15pm.
Her father identified their bodies. He arranged for them to be sent back to Tunbridge Wells by train where they were met by ‘a considerable number of people [who] had gathered at the station’. Two separate hearses drove their bodies to ‘Lynwood’ (presumably the family home).
On the day of their funeral, long before it was due to start, ‘streams of people [were] observed making their way towards Broadwater Down’. The church was full ‘and the brilliant sunshine of a summer’s noonday poured through the painted windows with subdued effect’.
When the procession arrived at the cemetery, they were ‘met by the mournful tolling of the mortuary chapel bell’. The police had been asked to attend because of the number of mourners and it was said that over 70 wreaths were arranged around the grave, one of them reading ‘In loving memory of Dear Florry, from Grandma’.
Kent & Sussex Courier, 1 January 1886
Kent & Sussex Courier, 22 July 1887
Kent & Sussex Courier, 29 July 1887
Kent & Sussex Courier, 14 October 1887
Kent & Sussex Courier, 29 June 1888
British India Office Births & Baptisms (Wagentreiber)
England Births & Baptisms 1538-1975 (Brewerton)
1911 census: RG14/4926/107 (Brewerton)