Grave Encounters (4): Martin Shipley Collis and the Crews

Tucked away in the westernmost sliver of the cemetery, and easily missed, you’ll find the grave of Martin Shipley Collis – my great grandfather – along with his second wife Ethel and her parents, Edwin and Jane Crew. It takes the form of a low headstone fronted by an open stone book (Unconsecrated S 3362).

“In Memory of Jane, beloved wife of Edwin Crew, who died 20th Sept 1933 in her 78th year. Also Edwin Crew who died 27th Oct 1939 in his 84th year, interred at Bournemouth” and on the book in front “Martin Shipley Collis, died 29th March 1951 aged 69 years, son-in-law of the above. Also of his beloved wife Ethel Collis, died 15th Sept 1964.”

This is the first grave in this series of blog posts that’s located in an Unconsecrated section of the cemetery. Consecrated sections of the cemetery, blessed by the Bishop when they were first laid out, were generally intended for members of the established Anglican church, whilst the Unconsecrated sections were intended for all others, often referred to as Dissenters or Non-conformists. So, Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Quakers, Jews and those of other faiths or no faith at all might prefer to be buried in an Unconsecrated plot.

It can sometimes provide an indication of a family’s religious preferences, and in this case, I happen to know that Edwin and Jane Crew became members of the Wycliffe Congregational Church when they first settled in Leicester in 1889, though it seems they might have later moved their allegiances to St James the Great (Anglican) Church on London Road. But it was from the Wycliffe Church that they initiated – with fellow Congregationalist Thomas Harris – the Wycliffe Society for Helping the Blind in Leicester in 1893. The Wycliffe Society grew into what might today be called a social action project: a supportive community of blind residents on Gwendolen Road, clustered around cottages homes, employment workshops, a small infirmary, and a programme of social events. Edwin was also an advocate for health insurance at a time before the National Health Service.

This is not the place to tell the full life story of Edwin and Jane Crew, fascinating though it is; they’ll feature in future blog posts, I’m sure. Following Jane’s death in 1933, Edwin retired to Bournemouth to live with his eldest daughter. Despite the inscription saying “interred in Bournemouth” he was actually cremated and his ashes scattered at the inner garden rose beds at Bournemouth Crematorium. So, with his final resting place unmarked, I’m pleased he was commemorated on this headstone in Leicester where he’d been an active figure in civic life for over 40 years.

Among our family papers we have the original title deeds to this plot, showing that Edwin Crew paid the princely sum of £5 8s 0d for the freehold.

Edwin and Jane Crew’s youngest daughter, Ethel, married Martin Shipley Collis (his second wife) in 1922. Like his father, Martin Shipley Collis (known as Matt) worked as an engineer’s patternmaker – for Jones & Shipman, and later with in partnership with his uncle George Shipley on Freeschool Lane – and you can dip into his tool chest here: a patternmaker’s tool chest. He later set up as an electrical and wireless dealer with shops at 202 Melbourne Road and 2 Green Lane Road – the latter named ‘Ethlona’ after his wife – as these two adverts (1933 and 1936) illustrate.

Now, let’s meet Martin Shipley Collis’ first wife, Beatrice Alexandra (nee Collins) and her family. Continue along the perimeter pathway all the way to the far corner, curve around with it to the right and take the second turning to the right. See you there.