Friday 1st October 1954
Slept well last night and felt much better, though my first move was to go
down to the Tourismo and cancel my bookings for mountainous drives today and
tomorrow! The man was extremely nice when I explained my mountain sickness
yesterday, and refunded my money at once.
Janet and I met up for coffee then I
went to the cathedral. It is an uninteresting building outside, but inside is
very different. It dates from the fifteenth century, and has a wonderful carved
cedar ceiling in what we would call Perpendicular panelling. The huge choir
stalls, with some rather crude Miserere seats, are all in cedar, and all the
candlesticks and candelabra are of solid silver. Down the length of the nave are
six vast shrines, three on the north wall, three on the south, reaching almost
to the roof. They are of the most fantastic flamboyantly Rococo style, very
overpowering and over-ornate. An old sacristan took me round, and we managed to
understand each other very well. He took me through into the Sacristy, which was
panelled in heavy teak. All round the walls were huge, built-in drawers, all of
them decorated with the small, very deep, panels which reminded me immediately
of some of the Madeira made chests of drawers that Aunt Janey had. Above these
were enormous canvasses of oil paintings of ecclesiastical subjects, too age
darkened to decipher. Between the paintings the carved panels rose to the
ceiling. The carvings were so deeply undercut that I could slide my arm up
inside. The drawers contained masses of church vestments and embroideries, all
worked by the nuns, some of which are over 300 years old; all heavily encrusted
I then made my way to the English Church. It is a strange looking building in a
very inconspicuous position in a side street, and was built by the efforts of
the British Community in the first half of the last century. It is pretty
certain that the Phelps family had a good deal to do with the building of it,
and they certainly worshipped here for very many years.
The reason for its odd circular shape and inconspicuous position is that the
powerful R.C. faction in Madeira refused for a long time to permit the Church of
England to erect any place of worship. When at length permission was obtained,
it was with the proviso that the church should not bear any architectural
resemblance whatever to a church.
Up to about the same period, circa 1840, no Protestant was even allowed burial
in the island. All Protestants dying in Madeira had to be taken out and buried
at sea. Such is Christian Charity.
The British Cemetery was granted at about the same time, though it has since
been cut through and the position altered.
A sort of cobbled alleyway leads from the street to the church, which has a
small open area around it, overlooked by the Chaplain’s house. The British
Chaplain appeared as I was looking at the outside of the Church and I introduced
myself, and said I wanted to find my grandfather’s grave, and any records of
forbears. He was most friendly and pleasant, and took me into the church. It is
circular with a dome roof, there is no proper Chancel, but the Altar is up a
couple of small steps at the east side, with a small pulpit and reading desk to
the north and south. There is quite a good little organ to the north. It is a
strange unpretentious little place, but I was strongly aware of the spirit of
courage and faithfulness which led that little Protestant community to build it
in the face of so much opposition.
In the portico is a list of all the incumbents, and among them I saw a Phelps,
somewhere about 1870.
The Padre directed me to the English Cemetery, but was not able to conduct me
personally, as he had hurt his foot and was very lame. I found my way there from
the opposite direction to that I had taken with Miss Grey the first day.
photograph to the left shows the outside of the wall of the English Cemetery on the right. This
area was in the original cemetery which was cut into when this road was made.
The small memorial to the left shows the original extent of the cemetery.
The animal which the lads are playing with was a small black pig.
The Cemetery is surrounded by a high wall, with solid iron and wood doors, which
are usually kept locked. They were open on this occasion, as Mrs Padre was there
with some other English visitors. When Miss Grey and I had gone before, we had
had to knock up the janitor, and entered through his own cottage garden.
The whole area of walls surrounding the oldest part of the cemetery was covered
almost edge to edge with memorial tablets which had been built in on their
removal from their original positions in the first cemetery. Many of the coffin
shaped grave stones were broken and nameless and the tablets in the walls were
overhung and shadowed by bushes and cascades of creepers. I spent a long, long
time going around the walls, picking my way behind bushes, and drawing aside the
curtains of climbing plants. I knew from the old sketch at home that there was a
mural tablet to my Grandfather and a Great uncle, so I knew what to look for.
Suddenly, from a dark corner, shadowed by trees, and almost hidden by shrubs,
that familiar name leapt out at me, the name that is now my eldest brother’s and
his eldest son’s. JOHN WADDINGTON HUBBARD.
This, outshining all relics of my far more noteworthy Phelps forbears, was what
I had come to Madeira to find.
Alongside the tablet to my Grandfather is a similar one to a young Great uncle,
who, as a medical student, also contracted lung trouble, and came out to Madeira
to stay with the Phelps family, and died there.
||Tablet to my Grandfather
In memory of John Waddington Hubbard of 16 Kensington Square London
Born July 10th 1823
Died at Funchal June 15th 1871
||Tablet to my Great uncle
In memory of George Evans of Market Bosworth Leicestershire, England
Died 25th January 1847
Little is known of my Grandfather in the family archives, the main thing being
that my beautiful and talented Grandmother was well-nigh ostracised by certain
of her relatives for choosing to marry a young doctor, who, though of good old
East Anglian descent, was not of the “country” class, as they were. It was an
ideally happy marriage, though all too short. In the early forties my
Grandfather developed a lung complaint, and was brought to stay with the Phelps
relations in Madeira, in the hopes that the climate would aid his recovery. It
did not, however, and he died at the age of 48, leaving my Grandmother with four
small children. Even my father, the eldest, had hardly any recollections of his
own father. The little that I have ever heard of my Grandfather’s short life,
has always appealed to me very deeply. In a crayon portrait of him by my
Grandmother, though admittedly not a flattering likeness, he is shown as being
fair, with thick curly red-gold hair, which I believe my Father inherited.
Coming fairly late in my father’s life, I never knew his curls except as silver.
It was exceedingly difficult to get photographs of the tablets, owing to the
deep shadow from overhanging trees, and to a shrub almost directly in front.
Besides which a mass of other shrubs and undergrowth made it almost impossible
to stand in any suitable position for focussing.
There must be other family graves here, but I had no time to look for them. The
most recent seems to be in 1904, [Philip Arthur Frank Phelps, Died 12th
July] and this is the only one in the church registers. The details of this were
given to me in a note by Mr Cole, the churchwarden.
After a rest in the afternoon, Diana and I went round to the English Club, which
is only a few minutes walk from the Miramar. It is a delightful place, with
lovely gardens and tennis courts, and visitors can join as temporary members,
and enjoy all the amenities, including the use of an excellent lending library,
at a very small charge. The club house, Quinta Magnolia, was formerly the
residence of a very wealthy man who took a great interest in botany. The
grounds contain quantities of rare trees and shrubs, all of them totally
strange to me, but most curious and some very beautiful.
The views of the mountains from the veranda, where teas are served, are
really breath taking.
I borrowed the book “Oriflamme” in which it is mentioned that a Duc de Brissac
was one of the last lovers of the du Barry, and was torn to pieces during the
French Revolution, and his head was rolled into the du Barry’s salon by the mob
who had murdered him. It was curious to think that he stood in much the same
relationship to the Phelps family, as they do to me. Aunt Janey, the youngest of
her family, bore the name of de Brissac.
In the evening Diana and I went round to the Savoy and spent another pleasant
session with Janet.