It’s no secret that I love shooting in cemeteries. You can rummage around my site or other people’s and you’ll find many examples me and my friends of getting naked with dead people! Something I often wonder when we’re having one of these adventures is what are the stories of the people who inadvertently feature in our photos? Tonight I decided to find out and with a little bit of rudimentary research amongst free public records I started to build a picture of Albert Ede’s life.
Born in the summer of 1886, Albert was the middle child of Thomas and Sarah. The couple were married young by today’s standards – teenagers. As newlyweds they lived on Isabella Street, which for Londoners, or those who know London well, is the little street just off The Cut where you’ll find lots of restaurants under the railway arches.
Albert’s birth was registered north of the river in Clerkenwell, which may have something to do with his father’s work as a brass molder; the area was a hub for watchmakers. However, by the time of the 1901 census the family were living just five minutes walk from Isabella Street on Cornwall Road. By then Sarah was a widow and 14-year-old Albert was a messenger boy.
The 1911 census tells us the family had then moved to Lothian Road in Brixton. Albert was 24 and single. His elder brother had moved out but his three sisters were all single and living at home. That four adults in their twenties should all be single and living at home with their mother fascinates me. In the early twentieth century this was very unusual. Did Albert ever marry? Without paying for his death certificate I can’t know for sure, but the dedication on this headstone is by Sarah to her son and two years after he died she was buried with him so it seems unlikely.
Albert didn’t live long enough to participate in the 1921 census – the war records show that he died on 25th January 1917, aged 30. He was Private Ede and serving in the Army Service Corp, the branch of the army that was responsible for coordinating logistics, from transport to stationery, food to fuel. He died at home in Brixton and was buried three miles away in Nunhead Cemetery.
I would love to know how he ended up with such a grand headstone when his family’s professions and circumstances would suggest a modest income. I’d love to know what he looked like, his personality, what impact his father’s death had on him, what his relationship with his mother and siblings was like, whether he had lovers.
In a parallel universe where the internet hasn’t delivered up the basic facts of a life lived more than a hundred years ago and where we can’t see that the dedication is from a mother to a prematurely departed son, I like to think of this second photo being one of those lovers visiting their “dear Albert.” Where Maria strips naked in the cemetery to feel as close to him as possible. I wonder what he’d think about his headstone being used in this way?