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Gravestone of Wallace Hartley

A Grade II Listed Building in Colne, Lancashire

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Latitude: 53.8564 / 53°51'23"N

Longitude: -2.1576 / 2°9'27"W

OS Eastings: 389732

OS Northings: 440031

OS Grid: SD897400

Mapcode National: GBR FRCV.PB

Mapcode Global: WHB7R.TBRG

Entry Name: Gravestone of Wallace Hartley

Listing Date: 11 March 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423381

Location: Colne, Pendle, Lancashire, BB8

County: Lancashire

District: Pendle

Civil Parish: Colne

Built-Up Area: Colne

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lancashire

Church of England Parish: Colne St Bartholomew

Church of England Diocese: Blackburn

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Gravestone. 1912. White granite.


Gravestone. 1912. White granite.

PLAN: tall, square pedestal topped by circular column and set on stepped plinth.

DESCRIPTION: the approximately 3m high gravestone is made of white, unpolished granite. The tall, square pedestal has a deeply moulded cornice. Above is a cyma recta cap on which a broken column stands, draped by a carved heavy, fringed, cloth with a tassel hanging down. The front face of the pedestal has a dedication using lead lettering. It reads IN / LOVING MEMORY / OF / WALLACE HENRY, / THE BELOVED SON OF / ALBION AND ELIZABETH / HARTLEY, / FORMERLY OF COLNE / WHO LOST HIS LIFE IN THE / S.S. TITANIC DISASTER / ON APRIL15TH 1912 / AGED 33 YEARS / AND WAS INTERRED / ON MAY 18TH 1912. The left-hand side face of the pedestal, which faces up the hill towards the cemetery entrance, also has a lead lettering dedication to Uchtred Harold and Conrad Robert, who both died in infancy, and Wallace's mother, Elizabeth, and father, Albion. The pedestal stands on a high, three-stepped plinth. The front face of the middle step has a relief carving of a violin and above it a bow. The top step has a relief-carved, open music book with notes inscribed on the left page and NEARER MY / GOD TO THEE, / NEARER TO THEE inscribed on the right page.


Wallace Henry Hartley was the band leader on the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912. He had been born in Colne in 1878, to a mill manager and his wife, a worsted weaver. He learnt to play the violin at school, becoming a professional musician in 1901. In 1909 Hartley began working as a musician on Cunard Line ocean liners, primarily the RMS Mauretania. On 9 April 1912 Hartley was asked by the musical agents C W and R N Black to become the band leader on the White Star Line's RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage to New York. He accepted, although he was initially reluctant as the imminent departure meant he was unable to see his fiancée, Maria Robinson, whom he intended to marry in the summer.

On 14 April the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg with disastrous consequences. While passengers were evacuated the band gathered to play to allay panic. Later reports stated that the musicians played continuously during the two-hour evacuation, later confirmed at the British inquiry. At 2.20 am on 15 April the Titanic sank with the loss of just over 1,500 lives, among them Hartley and his seven bandsmen. Early accounts of the disaster reported that the band's final performance was the hymn tune 'Nearer, my God, to Thee', although other witnesses disputed this. However, the moving tableau of the Titanic's musicians playing 'Nearer, my God, to Thee' was widely promoted in reports, memorials, and commemorative and commemorative songs, poems, and sheet music. It made heroes of the band members, particularly Hartley.

On 28 April Wallace Hartley's body was recovered with his violin case strapped to him. He was returned to Liverpool and was then buried at Colne cemetery on 18 May 1912. A thousand people were said to have attended the service with another 30,000 to 40,000 lining the route of his funeral procession. The Colne and Nelson Times reported that 'the coffin bearing his remains passed before the eyes of a multitude, saddened but proud, stricken in the heart but of manly bearing, grave, yet secretly grateful that a townsman and a friend should have died so heroically'.

Reasons for Listing

Wallace Hartley's gravestone of 1912 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: Wallace Hartley was the band leader on RMS Titanic who reached world-wide fame as a hero of the tragedy when it was reported that the band continued to play as the ship sank on her maiden voyage, resulting in the loss of life of all the musicians: a moving tableau of selfless sacrifice which captured the public imagination then and now;
* Design: the bespoke gravestone incorporate the attributes of Hartley in the form of a relief carving of a violin and a music book open at 'Nearer, my God, to Thee', the hymn that was widely reported to have been the band's last tune before it disappeared beneath the waves, emphasizing the sacrificial nature of his death.

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