Norwich – Rosary Cemetery (Isaac Wiseman)

Since I’ve been grounded again by the Government, I thought I’d meander around the Rosary Cemetery located near to me in Norwich, in an attempt to see what stories lie there. It might not be the most fascinating blog content, but it’ll keep me quiet for a few weeks….

I’m not normally drawn to these larger monuments, as they’re often of wealthier people whose stories have been told many times before. But, this is one of the handful of monuments which the cemetery have placed a little board by, so it would seem remiss to ignore it.

The memorial is to Isaac Wiseman, who was a wine merchant who died in 1863 at the age of 64. What is perhaps of most note is that he had two wives and eight children who pre-deceased him, a terrible reminder of how high mortality was in the nineteenth century.

Isaac was born on 25 February 1799, the son of Quakers William Wiseman and Ann Wiseman. Isaac married Sarah Ladell at St. Saviour’s in Norwich on 17 May 1821. In 1830, Isaac became the elected Sheriff of Norwich, beating Charles Middleton to the role and he married Caroline Amelia on 15 January 1856 in Kenninghall.

But, all of this is already well recorded and can be found on a basic Google search. The story that is more interesting to me is what his brother wrote about him in the Norfolk News following Isaac’s death.

“He was well known to many as a man of considerable natural abilities, and of scientific attainments and power above the ordinary level of his fellow-men.

The position which such as one takes in religious matters is of deep interest and importance to all – to those who reject, and to those who receive divine revelation, and for each it has an outspoken testimony. Whatever former days may have produced, the latter days of a man’s life become a test of much significance – so it was with my brother. Whatever were his former opinions, his latter days were marked by a gradual approach to the gospel of Christ; and his last days brought forth proofs of his full and thankful acceptance of gospel salvation.

I had watched the change which, for several years, was evidently passing in his inner life. This change was noticeable in what he frequently said concerning what he heard at the Sunday morning services at the Cathedral, which services he had attended, with great regularity, for several years before his death.

During his last affliction I had the pleasure of being with him repeatedly. I watched with deep interest, not only what he said, but the look, and the tone, and the countenance, which accompanied those utterances. On the day that he died I had an interview with him in the morning. I had not seen him for ten days, having been from home. On taking my leave of him prior to that journey, I told him that I should not forget to pray for him. On entering his room on the last day of his life, I found his mind to be clear and vigorous, but his bodily sufferings were intense.

After the usual salutations of such an interview, he took hold of my hand, and with a marked significance of voice and manner, and with an unmistakeable meaning in the grasp of my hand, he said “I have felt your prayers though I did not hear them; my sins are forgiven”. This all took place in the presence of his two servants, and a sister of his first wife.

At twenty minutes past eight, on that evening, he closed his eyes upon all earthly things, and passed the barrier by which the dead are separated from the living until the morning of the resurrection.

I am, dear Sir, yours truly, Samuel Wiseman. Mount Pleasant, Newmarket Road, Norwich”.

It’s very rare to get such an account of someone’s final few hours, I doubt there will be many more like this amongst the thousands of burials at the Rosary Cemetery. I’m a little surprised that Samuel didn’t really mention the loss that his brother had faced losing two wives and so many children (although perhaps this was hinted at with Isaac moving away from God), but it was a touching letter describing the day. And, I feel that I know much more about Isaac from what his brother wrote than from any number of census reports…