House-shaped Gravestones

House-shaped Gravestones in the Cayman Islands

Cayman's House-shaped Gravestones 

by P. Ann van B. Stafford
Link to pdf , photos, TIMELINE and links to research of the influence of the design of the grave markers

Cayman House-shaped Gravestones
Photos of the grave markers

House-shaped gravestones (grave markers) at the Watler Cemetery, Grand Cayman, a National Trust for the Cayman Islands property.
Coral rocks, and sometimes red bricks from ship's ballast, were covered with limestone daub.
In Cayman the body was not contained in the actual tomb, but was buried in a coffin in the sand beneath.
Grand Cayman, Mar.25, 2012


From whom, what or where did the influence of the design of the house-shaped gravestones in the Cayman Islands come? 

Perhaps there was no outside influence.

The coffin was buried in the sand. Sand was mounded over the grave. A structure was made over the grave, which would support itself. A slab alone could not be cast, because maybe the mortar was not sufficiently good.
Coral rocks (and sometimes bricks from ships’ ballast) were piled on top of the sand, the length and breadth of where the coffin was buried. (See Elmslie Church, Watler Cemetery and Spotts Cemetery gravestones where part of the ‘roof’ is missing.) The structure needed a WATER-SHED so that the rain water would run off. It was faced with DAUB. 
The resulting structure was house-shaped. 
Length + breadth + sloping roof = house-shaped gravestone.

Maybe there was sentimentality in the design – a house for the repose of the departed.

PACT – acronym for what or where the influence of the design came:
T  Terrain                          sandy beach ridge, not cliff rock or valuable arable soil
C  Climate                         heat, rainfall, hurricanes, burial within 24 hours
A  Availability of materials    coral rocks and limestone daub (made from burned coral rocks). Sometimes bricks from ships’ ballast were also used.    
P  Practicality of design        approx. 6ft x 2ft slab over the coffin (which was buried in the sand), and weighted with coral rocks with sloping top (‘roof’) for watershed, so that water could not settle on it and destroy the daub.

Houses in Miniature

 1845 The burial-place took my attention as peculiarly neat and simple. The graves were marked, not by mounds of earth and headstones, or great massive tombs, but by houses in miniature, just large enough each to cover one person; mostly about six feet long, two feet broad, and one and a half high, with a sloping roof and full gable end, in which was inserted a smallslab containing containing the name of the occupant, his age, and the day on which he entered his narrow home, "the house appointed for all living." They were well built, white, and clean, and, of course, of all sizes. Sometimes a row of them close to one another indicated a family place of sepulture. The want of sufficient depth of earth for an ordinary grave, perhaps, led to the adoption of this literal necropolis.

Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell, Scottish Missionary Society missionary,sailed from Jamaica Sat. Jan 11, 1845 and was shipwrecked on the East End reef in February 1845. His book:
Twenty-Nine Years in the West Indies and Central Africa: A Review of Missionary Work and Adventure, 1829-1858   was published in 1865.

No comments:

Post a Comment