Life story retold by Tina Bilbe
Thomas Rowland came to Reading from London. The son of a fishmonger, he worked for Colebrook and Co in the fishmongers’ department in Broad Street. He worked his way up in the firm, becoming a director of the company in 1905.
He married Fanny Booker in 1892, they had 3 sons Wilfred Claude (my grandfather) in 1894, Harold Jack, (who grew up to be landlord of “The Star” Pangbourne) in 1900, and Ronald Tom in 1915 (who died aged 3 months).
Thomas died on 7th December 1931 and was probably the first person to be buried in the family plot at the cemetery. His son Wilfred Claude joined him in March 1947. Claude, as he was known, was a member of the Ancient Order of Druids and would have been accompanied to the grave by members of the order carrying ceremonial long handled sickles. He died young due to lung damage sustained at Kingsnorth Airship Station during the First World War, where he worked making hydrogen and filling airships.
NOTE: [All four photos come from Tina Bilbe’s private photographic collection and show Druid ceremonial funerals. The Druid procession in the fourth photograph is in the town of Reading but the funerals are not necessarily in Reading Old.]
Claude had two sons with wife Fanny, my father Raymond (Ray) and his older brother Kenneth. Ray’s Uncle Jack, Thomas and Fanny’s younger son, had 1 son and a daughter, Molly.
The last person to be buried in the family plot was Thomas’ widow Fanny, who died 3 months later. Before Fanny’s coffin was lowered into the grave Claude’s widow Margaret could see her husband’s coffin in the grave. After the funeral she wrote to the family solicitor with a request that after she died she was not to be buried.
There is now an ash tree growing out of the grave and the memorial cross, with the family details, is laid on the grave to the right.
Buried in Section 66, Row D, Number 13