The dead are everywhere in the contemporary landscape, but are memorialised often at places with a specific heritage connections and aesthetic auras. In this post I explore one.

On one recent (pre-COVID-19) MA Archaeology of Death and Memory field trip, we explored the memorial landscape of Eastham Ferry on Wirral: an historic resort which until the late 1920s was regarded as the ‘Richmond of the Mersey’. We explored the former pleasure gardens which contained a zoo, the Mayfields Woodland Cemetery (discussed in an earlier blog), but also the plethora of memorial benches along the Mersey and the cluster of love-locks attached to the railings by the viewing point where the pier had once been. Adjacent to the Eastham Country Park, this former-zoological stretch of popular riverside is thus a particularly rich landscape of memory in which walking, recreation and the disposal of the dead rub shoulders.

The memorial benches were plentiful, all with the same view out over the Mersey. Many were modest: plain brass plaques commemorating single individuals. Some .

Then, I encountered a particularly exuberant example, distinctive in its form and its lavish provision of floral arrangements and ornaments, lanterns, potted plants and tinsel, as well as a hand-shaped drink holder! The displa includes wreaths, presumably borne upon the man’s coffin at his funeral.

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I’ve repeatedly addressed the landscpae contexts and materialities of memorial benches on this blog: those in cemeteries and war memorials as well as in public places including those beside the sea as in here and here. This provides yet a further riverside case study and where the memorials remember and evoke the presence of the dead, and some plaques invite the reader to sit and contemplate people gone but not forgotten.

The second category of prominent memorialisation comprises of love-locks. I’ve previously addressed love-locks on this blog as a widespread contemporary votive act, and one with memorial dimensions. Some are material expressions of love between living persons, afixed to bridges and waterfronts as well as heritage sites, connected forever to the keys which might be kept but I suspect are thrown into the water. Strikingly, many are not only about romance. Frequently, they express love for those who have passed on. What was particularly notable is how the love-locks inevitably cluster halfway down the railings given the design in which the rods intersect at this point. The love-locks thus cluster together in an intimate assemblage, some about love, some about loss, many about a mixture of both. Flowers and ribbons were also tied in place for the dead.

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Putting together the memorial benches and the love-locks, Eastham Ferry is not only a picturesque landscape with vistas over the Mersey river and a country park with traces of its former (zoological) glories, it is an ongoing, accumulating landscape of death and memory.

Incidentally, I loved the old-fashioned rubbish bins in the country park, and the sign which I temporarily mistook as in support of strike-breakers…

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