Mrs Crudelius

Some years ago, in the archive of the The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, I came across a photograph of a tombstone with two angels on it. I was struck by the angels faces as they looked like two small girls. Last Sunday I went to visit the tombstone in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh.

The grave is that of the family of Wardlaw Burnet an Aberdeen Sheriff:

Wardlaw Burnet was the eldest son of one of Scotland’s most noted architects, John Burnet. They died within two weeks of one another, in 1901 in the same month  as Queen Victoria.

John Burnet (1814-1901) was essentially self-taught from a large and important library which included Durand, Letarouilly and Viollet-le-Duc. He was the first Glasgow architect to use sculpture on a grand scale after David Hamilton, and often employed the Mossmans to carve the statues, busts and other ornaments on his buildings. His most splendid creation was the Florentine facade of Lanarkshire House, 191 Ingram Street, Glasgow. In January 2000, after celebrating its year as European City of Architecture and Design, 1999, Glasgow destroyed one of Burnet’s few remaining churches, the French Gothic Eglinton Congregational Church, which included the destruction of pairs of fine Mossman angels.

John Burnet is buried in Glasgow Necropolis and not Warriston where his son Burnet Wardlaw and the following generations were interred below two angels:

His wife was daughter of Mary Crudelius (née McLean) (1839-1877).  

In 1866 Mary Crudelius put her name to one of the earliest petitions to Parliament about votes for women. She went on to commit herself to the cause of education for women, starting in 1867 when she spoke out at a ladies’ discussion group called the Edinburgh Essay Society. Not long afterwards Crudelius set up the Edinburgh Ladies’ Educational Association with the aim of ensuring equal educational opportunities for women.

Mary Crudelius was a supporter of women’s suffrage. She died on 24 July 1877, fifteen years before the first Scottish universities opened their doors to women undergraduates in 1892. Her two daughters were educated through the association in the 1880s and for a few years there was a Crudelius Hall of residence.

It was her older daughter May who married Wardlaw Burnet. This daughter survived her husband by fifty years:

She was one of the original committee for Morningfield Hospital, Aberdeen. My wife Sian was the last doctor for this hospital and was sad to say farewell to it when it was converted into housing towards the end of the 20th century:

It so happens that in the early part of the 20th century a blind singer, called Peter Gordon, was one of the favourites of the Morningfiled patients:

I believe he is the gentleman sitting here in one of Morningfield’s wards (in front of the fire, c1890):

Here is Sian, my wife, sitting with me and our baby son Andrew at the time she was doctor at Morningfield Hospital:

‘Morningfield Requiem’ was written for its closing:

One of the three daughters of Wardlaw Burnet and May Crudelius was Britain’s first practising woman architect:

Edith is also buried beneath the two angels:

In her architectural work, gardens and writings Edith was inspired by her grandmother the sufragette and pioneer of education for women.

A memoir of Mrs. Crudelius was published in 1879 containing some of her letters and poems:

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