1999-Wallace’s grave

By George Beccaloni

Wallace's death

Wallace remained active into his ninety-first year but slowly weakened in his final months. He died in his sleep at Broadstone, Dorset at 9.25 AM on the 7th November 1913, and three days later he was buried in a public cemetery nearby (Broadstone Cemetery off Dunyeats Road).

Wallace's funeral cortege

Wallace's funeral cortege

In his 1916 book Alfred Russel Wallace; Letters and Reminiscences (Cassell & Co. LTD, London. 2 Volumes) James Marchant recounts how "It was suggested that he should be buried in Westminster Abbey, beside Charles Darwin, but Mrs. Wallace and the family, expressing his own wishes as well as theirs, did not desire it. On Monday, November 10th, he was laid to rest with touching simplicity in the little cemetery of Broadstone, on a pine-clad hill swept by ocean breezes. He was followed on his last earthly journey by his son and daughter, by Miss Mitten, his sister-in-law, and by the present writer. Mrs. Wallace, being an invalid, was unable to attend. The funeral service was conducted by the Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Ridgeway), and among the official representatives were Prof. Raphael Meldola and Prof. E. B. Poulton representing the Royal Society ; the latter and Dr. Scott representing the Linnean Society, and Mr. Joseph Hyder the Land Nationalisation Society. A singularly appropriate monument, consisting of a fossil tree-trunk from the Portland beds, has been erected over his grave upon a base of Purbeck stone...."

Wallace's grave in 1914 from Marchant The grave before restoration in 1999. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni Wallace's grave restored. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

Wallace's grave in 1914 from Marchant (1916)

Wallace's grave in 1999 before restoration. The plaque which is visible is dedicated to Wallace's wife Annie, who is buried in the same grave. Wallace's plaque is hidden under the tree. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

Wallace's grave in 2001 after restoration. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

Restoration of the grave

In 1999 and 2000 the grave was restored by the Fund. The Fund paid for the conifer beside the grave to be cut down, for the limestone base to be cleaned and repaired, for a grey granite surround to be installed around the base to prevent weeds, and for the lease to be extended by 100 years. It also designed and paid for a bronze plaque which was installed on the granite surround below the existing plaque.

Old plaque on limestone base. Copyright G. Beccaloni

The old (rather uninformative!) plaque on the limestone base of the grave. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

New plaque on grave surround designed by George Beccaloni. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

The new (more informative!) plaque (30.5 x 61 cm) on granite grave surround designed by George Beccaloni. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

The unveiling ceremony

This took place on the 15th April 2000 at Bournemouth University in the appropriately named Wallace Lecture Theatre - the use of which was generously given free of charge by the University. The meeting was attended by over 70 people and it was funded by the Linnean Society and was organised by myself and my wife, together with Marquita Baird, David Pescod and John Marsden of the Linnean Society.

Seven speakers, including Wallace biographers Dr Sandra Knapp, Dr Peter Raby (University of Cambridge) and Dr John Wilson, gave interesting and informative talks on different aspects of Wallace's life and the delegates were then taken by coach to Broadstone Cemetery to see the grave. Once the delegates had assembled around the grave, Wallace's grandson Richard Wallace gave a short speech and he and his brother John then laid a wreath and their children and grandchildren laid bouquets of flowers. A wreath was then placed on the base of the monument by Mr Adam Gilbert, Head Boy of Wallace House, Richard Hale School, Hertford, on behalf of the school and the Richard Hale Association, the school's old boy's club (Wallace was a pupil of the school - then called Hertford Grammar School - in the 1830's). Richard and John Wallace then presented the lease of the grave to the President of the Linnean Society, Prof. Sir Ghillean Prance, who accepted it with thanks on behalf of the Society. This new lease is made out to the Linnean Society and will run for 100 years from the 14th April 2015 when the existing lease expires. Delegates were then given an opportunity to examine the restored monument and take photographs, before the meeting concluded.

Prance accepting lease. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

Prof. Sir Ghillean Prance, President of the Linnean Society, accepts the new lease of the grave plot from Wallace's grandsons, John and Richard. Copyright G. W. Beccaloni

Group photo at grave. Copyright Janet Beccaloni

Some of the people who attended the unveiling ceremony. From left to right: Prof. Brian Gardiner, Mr Richard Wallace, Dr Dick Vane-Wright, Prof. Sir Ghillean Prance (holding a copy of the new lease), Dr George Beccaloni, Dr John Wilson, Dr Sandy Knapp, Prof. Peter Raby, Mr John Wallace. Copyright Janet Beccaloni.

A humorous aside!

A few years ago Wallace's grandson's lent me a tape of an interview with Wallace's Doctor (Dr J. Clement A. Norman M.R.C.S.) which was recorded in 1967 when the Doctor was in his 80s. The Doctor relates a story of how when Wallace was critically ill several journalists waited outside his house, Old Orchard, in order to report Wallace's death. One of the journalists offered Wallace's butler £5 if he would inform him the moment Wallace died so that he could publish the story first. The butler told this to the Doctor and added that the journalist had asked him to pull down a window blind in Wallace's bedroom to signal Wallace's death. Hearing this the Doctor remarked "You mean like this!" and he promptly pulled the blind down! Dr Norman says that because of this Wallace's obituary notice was published 3 days early. Unfortunately, I have found no evidence to back this story up! [Note that I have deposited the original tape in the National Sound Archive].

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith