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Gertrude Emily Snelgrove

The Snelgrove Mosaic

Gertrude Emily was the youngest child of Henry Chatteris, a prosperous London accountant. In 1886, she married John Sidney Snelgrove whilst he was studying law at the Inner Temple in London. Though in due course he was admitted to the Bar, he never practised, for as the eldest son of the wealthy owner of London’s most exclusive department store, Marshall and Snelgrove, he had ample private means. The wedding took place in All Saint’s on Margaret Street, a few doors along from her home. In the words of John Betjeman “there had never been anything like it”.

Following their marriage, the Snelgroves settled in Tunbridge Wells, a favourite town with their respective parents. Here they enjoyed the occupations and status of well to do local gentry whilst raising their three children in Kingsdown, Pembury Road, assisted of course by indoor and outdoor servants. Like so many local families, they lost one of their two sons in the First World War. He was killed in 1915 heading his platoon only the second day after arriving in France.

Gertrude died suddenly in her sleep in 1919. Her grave is a very unusual mosaic in the form of an angel. It will have been a specially commissioned one-off piece, a fresco with a narrative border installed as a traditional ledger tombstone. Soon after his wife’s sudden death, John Snelgrove sold the family home and moved to a property he owned in Forest Row. He married again a few years later, but his second wife also pre-deceased him and is buried in Coleman’s Hatch churchyard. Her grave is also a mosaic but not of the same high standard as Gertrude’s. When John died in 1940, he was buried with Gertrude in Tunbridge Wells. The ashes of their two surviving children are also buried here.

In 2018 the Friends of Tunbridge Wells cemetery employed specialist mosaicists to restore minor damage to the tesserae. They could recall no other example of this type of outdoor funerary memorial.

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