JOHN WILLIAM JONES 1851 – 1924 – “Jones The Dead”

by Annette Edwards.

JOHN WILLIAM JONES was born in Rhyl about 1851, he moved to Wrexham and in 1871 he was a railway porter lodging with a family in Lorne Street, Rhosddu.

In late 1872 he married Mary Roberts in Wrexham. Mary was born in Dinas Maddwy, Merionethshire.

In 1876 the position of Cemetery Superintendent was advertised, this came with a house so would have been ideal for John and Mary.

The outcome was published in the Wrexham Advertiser on 1 July 1876, John William wasn`t successful and didn’t make the short list. (Edited)

Interviews were held  for a  Cemetery Superintendent  who  was  a good gardener and was also able to read, write, and have  fair educational qualifications, ten applications were sent to the Town Clerk, they were:

  • James Edwards, Poolmouth Valley
  • John William Jones, Greenfield, Rhosddu
  • David Morris, 26, Beast Market
  • William Edwards, Penycae
  • Jonathan Thomas, Pentre bychan
  • William Sorton Vaughan, Browylfa
  • Thomas Williams, 57, Chapel-street, Rhosymedre
  • John McKean, Ruabon Road
  • William Henry Lowe, Llwynnon
  • William Roberts, Hanmer

Five were chosen to attend a meeting the following week. David Morris, Jonathan Thomas, Wm. S. Vaughan, John McKean, and W. Henry Lowe.  It was decided to choose by ballot with the result being the election of Mr W. H. Lowe, by six votes to four.

Cemetery Chapels.

Wrexham Guardian.17th February 1877 (Edited)

TOO MANY GRAVE-DIGGERS. Mr Lowe, the cemetery superintendent, had to give an explanation as the Corporation accounts showed he had two or three unauthorised men almost constantly digging graves.  Mr Lowe, in reply said they sometimes had” slip in,” as the ground was “wild,” and it took two men to make a grave. A brick grave would take two men ten days to make and he was not employed to dig the graves and remove refuse.  There was quite a dispute over all this, Mr Lowe said there was more work than he could do.  Mr Baugh proposed that they should solicit tenders for the digging of graves throughout the year, which was agreed to and asked if Lowe could do all the work except digging the graves. Lowe said he would require a man two days a week from April to December to assist.  It looks like W H Lowe didn`t stay long after this.

28th April 1877 (Edited)

APPOINTMENT OF A NEW SUPERINTENDENT OF THE CEMETERY. The Council held an election for a successor to W. Lowe as superintendent at the Cemetery.  Applications were received from David Morris, 26 Beast market; Samuel Aston, 31 Hope- street; Thomas Lawley, Vron Colliery; Samuel Macaulay, HIrder; and Isaac Jackson, Rhostyllen. Alderman Beale proposed David Morris, and Alderman Owen proposed Isaac Jackson. On a show of hands being taken David Morris was elected.

Wrexham Advertiser. 6th April 1878

Henry Day was charged by Mr Morris with damaging the cemetery greenhouse. He was found early in the morning in the greenhouse lying down at full length; he had climbed the cemetery wall and broken the glass. A number of plants had been damaged as well as the glass. Henry had asked to be admitted to the Union Workhouse, but was refused as he was drunk.

David was living in the Cemetery House with his family in 1881; he was from Llanwrst and was born about 1833.

Wrexham Advertiser.  November 1882 (Edited)

Many complaints had been made about the conduct of David Morris, the cemetery being turned into a drying ground on washing days, it was not kept in good order, also his   rudeness to visitors and that he took money from the relations and friends of persons buried in the cemetery as a payment for looking after the graves,   it was also alleged that ladies taking  flowers to the graves of relatives were charged for even a small can of water to put on the flowers.  Also that he should approach visitors in a quiet and civil manner, and not shout at them from a distance.

The Mayor wanted to dismiss him. Alderman Strachan wanted another man to help with mowing the grass and in the end, it was decided to bring up the matter again in November when a new committee was appointed.

At the next meeting David denied all the charges against him and said he had been there 5 years and 6 months and much of his time, sometimes three or four hours, was  taken up with attending to the people and pegging out the grave spaces. It was noted that his work must have considerably because of having a greater number of beds to attend to and that the shrubs had grown.  He said there were only 50 graves when he stared but now there were many more. It was thought the superintendent’s work must have increased owing to the number of beds round which he had to mow the grass, which, it stood to reason, could not be mown so easily as if the ground was perfectly clear of flower beds and shrubs. Alderman Strachan suggested that David be cautioned and to promise to attend to his duty better in future; also that the Council allowed him an assistant to mow the grass.

David just seems to disappear after this, he isn`t mentioned in the papers and in 1891 his wife is still in Wrexham with her two daughters, she states she is married but David is nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile John William Jones had been working as a gardener in 1881; he and Mary had started a family and were living in Cunliffe Street. By 1891 he had got the job he wanted and was living in the Cemetery House. He was the cemetery superintendant, and they now had 6 children. Catherine A 17, Hugh 14, Margaret 12, John Robert 10, Mary Ellen 6 and William Edward 3.

Wrexham Advertiser 31 October 1891

CEMETERY COMMITTEE. The Town Clerk submitted to the meeting the following new books entered up to date, – an index to burial register, a register to purchase graves, and an index of purchasers of graves. The Cemetery Superintendent Mr J W. Jones had reported that had completed the work of checking the cemetery books and records from the opening of the ground in 1876 to September last. It had taken 115 hours of the superintendent’s time and 228 hours of clerk’s time outside their ordinary working hours. John William got a grant of £5 5s for his time. It was also agreed that the lodge should have an extension built and that a new uniform suit should be provided.

A report and estimate of the cost of an additional bed room at the Cemetery Lodge was £60. It was also agreed that suitable climbers could be planted at the ends of the Cemetery Chapels with the selection being left to the Superintendent.

John William was a member of the Welsh Good Templar Lodge, this was a temperance organisation and many meetings were presided over by “Mr J. W. Jones, borough cemetery”, he was also a “chapel man”

John, Mary and Mary Ellen were still in the lodge in 1911 and by this time he was 61.  Over the years he had attended and arranged the burials of many people who were well known to him.

Mary Ellen married Thomas Oliver Williams in 1912.  Thomas Oliver was a bread baker, he was the son of Thomas and Harriet Williams who had a grocery and bakers shop in Rhosddu.  

Mary Jones died in 1917 at the cemetery, she was 67 and she was buried on 13 March 1917. John William Jones died at the cemetery when he was 73 and was buried with Mary on 1 September 1924.

The following year their daughter Mary Ellen died aged only 40, she was living at 43 Jubilee Road, she was buried 9 February 1925.

Her husband Thomas Oliver stayed at 43 Jublilee Road and remarried in 1936 to Sabel Thomas.  Sabel was born in Treudddyn, she was the daughter of Edward and Sarah Jane Thomas who lived on a farm in Cymmau.

Sabel died at 43 Jubilee Road on 30 June 1948 aged 58.  Thomas Oliver died aged 74 in hospital and was buried with both his wives.

If John William Jones was still working when he died he would have been in the same job for at least 33 years.  

The Cemetery Lodge

I wonder if he was known as “Jones the Dead” in keeping with the use of nicknames that the Welsh were fond of.  He must have been efficient in his work to have stayed there so long.

Annette Edwards
H-02145 Wrexham Cemetery 04/04/2018

Researched by Annette Edwards. August 2018. Gravestone and lodge photographs by Graham Lloyd.

Grave ref: Wrexham Cemetery H-02145



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