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Cemetery thefts were a grave matter

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YOU come across all kinds of things, going through old papers, that make the past either startlingly recognisable or completely foreign.

I think the latest item I’ve come across belongs in the latter category.

Graveyards are not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but personally I’m a fan of old Victorian ones

Graveyards are not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but personally I’m a fan of old Victorian ones, for their often Gothic architecture and the social history stories that they tell.

We also think they’re pretty much unchanged from when they were first laid out, but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the case.

It arises from a case that came before local magistrates in 1886 when a labourer in Shields, called John Dixon, was had up for stealing glass shades from graves at Westoe Cemetery.

Apparently he’d discovered a lucrative trade in second-hand ones, as he’d stolen and sold on nearly 40 of them.

He went to prison for nine months.

But what were these glass shades – well – shading? Not lights surely.

The thought of a graveyard twinkling at night brings out the goose pimples.

I can only think that they were shades – glass cloches perhaps – that covered flowers.

But if anyone knows better, I’d be intrigued to hear from you.