Grave Encounters

Grave Encounters (3): Martin and Elizabeth Collis

My great great grandparents, Martin and Elizabeth Collis – like their parents before them, and many of their siblings – are buried at Welford Road Cemetery. Their grave (Consecrated L 1339) is marked by a modest stone cross, lichen covered and these days propped against its plinth.

“In Loving Memory of Martin, the beloved husband of Elizabeth Collis. Born July 28 1853, Died Jan’y 17th 1912. Also Elizabeth, wife of above. Died Jun 18th 1937, aged 81 years. Also Mabel Gertrude Collis, Archibald Pink Collis, children of the above, and Martin Stanley Collis, grandson.”

I’ve written a few ‘glimpses’ into the lives of Martin and Elizabeth Collis over the years:

Census: Martin Collis at the Spinney Hill Tavern (1871)

In the news: the Opera Hotel is auctioned (1893)

Snapshot: Outside the Admiral Nelson (1911)

Martin worked as an engineer’s patternmaker and, with his wife Elizabeth, also ran a succession of Leicester pubs: The Fox and Hounds on Humberstone Road, the Royal Oak on West Bridge, the Cross Keys on Highcross Street, the Opera Tavern on Guildhall Lane, the Black Lion on Belgrave Gate, and the Admiral Nelson on Humberstone Gate. At some point I hope to write their story up in more detail, inspired – at least in part – by inheriting Elizabeth Collis’ photograph albums and family papers. In the meantime, here’s a family photo taken around 1892 showing Martin and Elizabeth with their three children: Ada Elizabeth, Martin Shipley and Leonard George Collis.

As the gravestone notes, they also had two children who died in infancy – Mabel Gertrude Collis (1885-86) and Archibald Pink Collis (1896) – with baby Archie’s ‘Pink’ forename being a tribute to Martin’s childless sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and George Pink (who we’ll meet in a later Grave Encounters blog post). Infant mortality was a familiar aspect of Victorian life, and most families across the working and artisan classes – and often in the upper classes too – experienced the death of babies, toddlers or older children. As the gravestone also notes, it was a pattern that continued into the next generation; Martin Stanley Collis – the baby son of Martin Shipley Collis and his wife Beatrice Alexandra – died at less than one month old in 1904.

Among the family papers there’s a simple fold-over booklet for the 1937 funeral service for Elizabeth Collis, a much-loved member of the family.

Now, let’s head over to find the grave of Martin and Elizabeth’s eldest son. Rejoin the path and continue to slope down towards the bottom perimeter path. On the sliver of land between the path and the railings – lined with trees and backing onto the railway – you’re looking out for an ‘open book’ sculpted in stone…