The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of phone calls, radio, T.V and newspaper interviews. What I thought would be just local news, turned out to be international. The news that I had located the final resting place of Joseph Merrick went global. A friend of mine who lives in Darwin said he was eating breakfast and suddenly I popped up on morning T.V. Now that's enough to put anyone off there boiled egg and soldiers!!!.
Most of the comments on social media have been positive. But some unfortunately negative. I have been accused of being a grave robber, somebody on Twitter wishes Joseph should haunt everyone involved and I've also been accused of having an ego bigger then my sense of decency. But it wasn't and isn't like that. I cannot control the media. It doesn't bother me who found Joseph's final resting place. I am just pleased someone has and that Joseph's life is still remembered. Over the years, many (including myself) have petitioned Queen Mary University of London to bury Joseph's remains. But is this really necessary now?. Over the years the University has taken care of his skeleton and not put it on public display. Joseph's skeleton, could in the future tell us what he suffered from and help others with the same or similar conditions. There are advances in medical science daily. Look at Richard III, who would have thought we could tell through examining his bones he suffered from intestinal worms!!.
Skeleton or no skeleton, it is reassuring to know that Joseph flesh/his organs did have a Christian funeral and a burial and we now know he was buried in consecrated ground. Wherever his soul is, it has now departed and Joseph rests in peace.
This discovery has brought to light the need for a memorial to Joseph in his hometown of Leicester. I am pleased to say that Leicester City Council have backed our plans to have a statue of Joseph.
A city council spokesperson said: "Joseph Merrick's story is a significant part of Leicester's history, and his story addresses important issues about society's changing attitudes towards disability. "
I have approached sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn who designed a statue to Leicester suffragette Alice Hawkins.
He said: "Clearly Joseph's physical appearance makes him different to most other statues.
"There is no reason why someone with such disabilities should not have a statue, but there is a decision about whether to have him wearing his famous hood.
"It is early days in the project, but I think it would be fascinating to work on."
He estimated the project would cost about £100,000.
Its a huge cost but I believe the hard work involved will be worth it. Soon a crowdfunding page will go live with sketches of statue ideas, suggestions for a suitable place, information on a possible exhibition and details of talks and tours.
Josephs mother - Mary Jane is buried with her young son William Arthur in Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester
and his father - Joseph Rockley is buried with his daughter Marion Eliza at Belgrave Cemetery which is located in the outskirts of the City.
On 15 April 1890 an inquest was held into the death of Joseph Carey Merrick by coroner Wynne Baxter. After the funeral service had been held in the chapel at the London Hospital Joseph’s body was handed over to Dr Frederick Treves.
Joseph’s bones were removed of flesh, bleached twice and re-articulated for private display in the medical college. Plaster casts were taken of Joseph’s head and extremities
What happened to the rest of Joseph’s remains always remained a mystery. In a Q.E.D Documentary ‘The True Story of Joseph Merrick’ 1997 it was suggested Joseph’s remains were laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the East End of London.
On 6th April 2019 I was giving a talk for the Whitechapel Society on Joseph. My friend who I travelled down with told me that a friend of hers always put a bottle of gin on the grave of the Jack the Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes.
I thought nothing of it, until after the talk a member of the audience came up to me and asked me where I thought Joseph’s flesh was buried? Just off the cuff I responded by saying – “Probably where the Ripper victims are”. My response stuck with me and when I returned home, I looked up where Catherine Eddowes was buried and found that she and Polly Nichols (another victim) were buried at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium.
Looking up the cemetery on the internet I found that their burial records were online. So, I just sat there, typed in the date Joseph died to start the search and on page 2 of the online record, just under halfway down the page was a Joseph Merrick. It recorded his burial date as 24th April 1890, coroner was Wynne Baxter, description of residence was London Hospital and age 28 (although Joseph was 27 when he died).
After convincing myself that this was Joseph Merrick, I contacted the Cemetery, purely because I just wanted a photo of the plot. I live in Leicester and it’s difficult to get down.
The Superintendent Registrar, Gary Burks managed to locate the exact plot and if I came down, he would take me to it. On Friday 3 May 2019 I drove down. Gary took be to the exact plot were Joseph was buried, he had put in the ground a little wooden marker and I laid a little pose of flowers.
Joseph is in a common grave, so there was probably never a headstone. But he does lie in consecrated ground. Joseph whilst living at the London Hospital was confirmed into the Church of England by the suffragan Bishop of the East End of London– Dr William Walsham How.
In June 2019, The City of London Cemetery and Crematorium are putting in a little brass plaque to mark the place where Joseph Carey Merrick rests.
Apart from posts of the social media pages, I don't think anyone has officially said that Josephs' remains will be dug up and examined. Chances are thereis nothing left now and Joseph has returned to the ground. The only thing I can say is, that there is somewhere to go for those who wish to remember Joseph and place some flowers and say a little prayer.
Mr Joseph Merrick, one who is probably the most remarkable human being ever to draw the breath of life - Tom Norman