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Taphophilia and Ethel at the Gate

So, taphophilia – what’s that then? An unhealthy attraction to taps? No, nothing of the sort. Taphophilia means an interest in cemeteries, gravestones and funerary art. Nothing dodgy, just an enjoyment and appreciation of often forgotten artistic expression.

I love visiting cemeteries. A strange hobby for sure, but it’s really a very soothing experience. There is often a calmness in the atmosphere, a feeling of serenity as you wander down the paths often lined with trees and flowers with only birdsong breaking the silence.

Lawnswood Cemetery

When you first start visiting cemeteries it can feel a little uncomfortable, almost as if you shouldn’t be there unless you are visiting the grave of a friend or family member.

However, provided you are respectful of your surroundings, I like to think that visiting a cemetery is in some small way keeping alive the memories of those who are gone. With that in mind, I have some common-sense guidelines to ensure that your visit will not cause upset or offense:

  • Don’t run around or shout out loud – people may be there mourning the loss of a loved one
  • Don’t stand or sit on graves
  • Don’t take or disturb flowers, ornaments etc

Cemeteries have featured in gothic culture for so long that it’s almost a cliché now. Finding beauty in the darkness is, for me, the definition of goth aesthetics. The elaborate memorials carved in stone to people who once made such an impression on this earth and now lay under it are endless sources of inspiration for me.

Most of the time when you wander a graveyard you know nothing about the people who were laid to rest there. Sometimes, however, they live on in infamy. Ethel Preston is one of those people.

At Lawnswood Cemetery in Leeds, not far from Bats HQ, is the grave of Ethel Preston (known as Ethel at the Gate). This unique memorial depicts a life size statue of Ethel, stood by an open door awaiting the return of her husband Walter. Officially she is depicted this way as her husband used to wait long hours and so she would spend her days stood by the door in a show of true romance. Speak to locals, however, and there is a different story to be told. It was well known at the time of Ethel’s death in 1911 that her husband Walter was a serial womaniser who often left her for days at a time to have his affairs. The story goes that this is why she would be stood by the door. Whatever the reason behind this choice of memorial, it’s really fascinating – and the image of a ghostly white woman stood in the cemetery is truly creepy!

Ethel at the Gate

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Anna Bat x