The burial of the dead

There are catacombs in Birmingham.   The doors are sealed with lead and the stone facings bearing the inscriptions have mostly crumbled away.  Two tiers are arranged as a three quarters circle enclosing a flat arena. On one side, steel pilings push against the stone, holding back time.  The show is roots and growth: the audience and the actors are silent.

This was a sketch of a few minutes, a quick run with a pen, a few strokes of chalk.

“A heap of broken images where the sun beats”



19 responses to “The burial of the dead

    • Thanks
      There is a quote in the post which, like the title, comes from the first stanza of TS Eliot’s The Wasteland. I find I am meditating on Eliot’s poetry a lot recently. That may have influenced my writing.

    • It’s quite small. The graves are sealed, but the arena itself and the graveyard is open and neglected, by the station, amid the jewellery shops.
      Apparently the smell was pretty bad many years ago so it was all sealed.

      • I don’t know the place but it sounds like something should be done by the council to open it up… I’m thinking of the way Athens opened up their metro in places to show the buried ruins etc.. From what I remember of Birmingham, New Street railway station was below street level. Was Brum built on a small hill? Fortress Brum? I don’t know.

      • Honestly it’s not that exciting. It’s interesting to sketch but I can’t say that tourists would be impressed. I took some photos I could upload.
        The graveyard mostly dates from last two centuries. Another cemetery with a historic church was bombed in the war. That was redeveloped as a peace garden and was a centre of attention when the G7 met in Birmingham during Blair’s government. Its bodies snd stones were moved to Warstone also. There’s lots of interest to draw but it’s not exciting.
        Birmingham was I think a hamlet and grew because of nearby coal and iron in the industrial revolution. So not much in way of buried ruins but there are displays on this in the museum here.

      • Oh, I thought it might have dated back to the Romans. Yes, I think Birmingham and Coventry, both internationally renowned for toolmaking, small and large arms, and the suchlike, were on the receiving end of very severe bombings during the war. Did you ever visit the Cathedral in Coventry, the ruins, that is? I always meant to make some sketches of the place when I lived there but never got round to it. There was an art gallery in Birmingham from what I remember, a lot of Pre-Raphaelite stuff on show.

      • Hi
        Coventry cathedral is a very moving place. I sketched there and posted a few months back. The drawing was of a sculpture by Epstein of Christ wearing the crown of thorns. I didn’t have time that day to draw the ruins.

      • Oh yes I remember… Epstein was pretty good when it came to bronze sculpture / statuary… Pity the place was bombed so badly… all those medieval buildings and the wall with its gates…

    • I find it remarkable what works as a sketch. This was such a quick sketch with cold hands and a sense it was going nowhere. But it’s struck a chord somehow. It reminds me to post all sketches including those I’m disappointed in.
      This is a small set of catacombs, in Warstone graveyard in the jewellery quarter. Hardly a tourist attraction. Apparently they were sealed because of the bad smells. There’s lots to to draw though. I’m there Saturdays when my son is doing drama.

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