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John Clarke

Historian of Brookwood Cemetery

Service of Dedication of the Memorial to Edith Thompson

Service of Dedication of the Memorial to Mrs Edith Thompson and Others,

Saturday 13 November 1993

The following is an account of the special service held in plot 117 to mark the placing of a permanent memorial to Edith Thompson and others. The service was the result of several months’ work behind the scenes and involved working with Professor René Weis, Patricks of Farnham (who donated virtually the entire cost of the memorial stone) and Mr Ramadan Guney (who agreed to waive all cemetery fees) and other interested parties. Despite the appalling wet weather, about 70 people attended the service. Afterwards, guests adjourned to the Lord Pirbright Hall for refreshments. The service was covered on the early evening news by Carlton TV, and subsequently featured on Woman's Hour (22 December 1994) and Radio 5’s AM Alternatives (2 February 1994).

Service of Dedication of the memorial to Edith Thompson and others 13 November 1993

Mary Lucas (Secretary of the Brookwood Cemetery Society) hands Rene Weis his wreath during the special service to dedicate the memorial to Mrs. Edith Thompson, 13 November 1993. The Rev. Barry Arscott, of St Barnabas, Manor Park, who led the service, is in the background.


The service was led by the Rev. Barry Arscott, Vicar of St Barnabas Church, Manor Park.


I am the life

He who believes in me though he die

Yet shall he live

And whoever lives and believes in me

Shall never die.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

His compassion never fails

Every morning they are renewed.

We are gathered here this morning particularly to dedicate this stone in memory of Edith Thompson, to mark her resting place. But I guess that there will be other thoughts in our minds at this time as well which will be developed I hope in this service.

We are going to start the service by saying together the opening prayer:

Heavenly Father, in your Son Jesus Christ you have given us a true faith and a sure hope.

Strengthen this faith and hope in us all our days, that we may live as those who believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to eternal life. through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.


And we will say together Psalm 121.

Now I'd like to read you a short reading from a letter which St Paul wrote to the Christian church in Rome, the main thrust of which is that whatever happens to us, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

This is what St Paul wrote:

For I consider that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is in store for us.

In everything, as we know, the Spirit co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Then what can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or hardship? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or sword?

Throughout it all, overwhelming victory is ours through him who loved us. For I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be. in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths - nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8, verses 18, 28, 35, 37 - 39]

Here ends the reading.


Those who have worked hard to see that Edith’s resting place does not go unmarked are to be congratulated. Edith’s tragic death and the circumstances are well known to all of us, and she will not be forgotten. But we place and dedicate this stone here today first, because it would be what her family would have wanted and because we want to acknowledge and recognise Edith alongside all the departed; no-one should be treated as though they never were. Secondly, we have this ceremony I believe because the way in which she died and the injustice of that should never be forgotten. John Donne the poet said that, “any man’s death diminishes me”, and it is true that when someone whom we love dies part of us dies too. But in the case of this particular death we may well say that Edith's death diminished humanity, and there are a number of lessons that we need to learn and take to heart from it.

But first of all I want to reinforce the Christian view about death: that it is not an end; that we go through death to eternal life; that all the departed remain in the loving hands of God: and if that is your particular belief, then thank God for it and ask him to strengthen your faith and your hope in eternal life. The God that I believe in is a God who is present with us at all times here and forever. He is a God of love and forgiveness who holds us all in his heart and - as our reading suggested - nothing can separate us from him and his love whoever we are, whatever we have done. Now we don't try to paint Edith as a saint: we know that like all of us she wasn’t blameless; but it is not our place to judge. We leave whatever judgement there may be to God, who - I have to say - is much more loving and accepting and forgiving than we can ever be. It is reassuring to know that God knows us and understands our failings, and he knows the truth about Edith. She is not beyond his love.

I believe that there are other lessons to be learned that need reinforcing. We believe that Edith was unjustly put to death. Her execution was just one of a number that have proved to be unjust. It is a salutary reminder that it is not man's place to play God, and it is incumbent on all of us - I believe - who feel that capital punishment is wrong to make sure that those who may seek to reintroduce it fail to do so. In a sense this ceremony today prevents that whole sordid issue from being swept under the carpet.

As we remember Edith today, we cannot forget all those other people who were caught up in this tragedy. Edith’s parents and the rest of her family, especially Avis Graydon who kept faith with Edith right up to the end of her life; Percy Thompson and his family; Freddy Bywaters and his mother and family; they all too remain in God’s loving embrace. We pray that they along with Edith may know God’s eternal peace and joy and mercy in the belief that nothing can separate them or us from him and his love.

Now we are going to dedicate the stone and commend Edith into God’s loving hands.

To the Holy Spirit

To the memory of Edith Jessie Thompson

In your mercy we ask you to bless her with your love

And pray that she with all the departed

May know the peace and joy of eternal life

In fellowship with you

We ask this in the name of

Jesus Christ our Lord


Now let us commend our sister Edith to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer.

Prayer Heavenly Father, by your mercy

By your almighty’ power you gave us life

And in your love you have given us new life in Christ Jesus

We entrust Edith and all those buried here

To your merciful keeping

In the faith of Jesus Christ your son our Lord

Who died and rose again to save us

And is now alive and reigns with you

And the Holy Spirit in glory for ever


[Floral tributes were now placed on and around the memorial]

The memorial to Edith Thompson and others, 13 November 1993


The Lord’s Prayer

Father of all, by whose mercy and grace

Your saints remain in eternal light and peace

We remember with thanksgiving Edith

And all those whom we love but see no longer

And we pray that in them your perfect will may be fulfilled

Through Jesus Christ our Lord


Eternal God and father

Whose love is stronger than death

We rejoice that the dead as well as the living

Are in your love and care

And as we remember with thanksgiving

Those who have gone before us in the way of Christ

We pray that we may be counted worthy

To share with them the life of your kingdom

Through Jesus Christ our Lord


Then followed the singing of The Lord’s my Shepherd, followed by the final prayer and blessing.

You can read another account of this service in the Preface to Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson by René Weis.

On 22 November 2018, Edith Thompson was reburied in the grave of her parents in the City of London Cemetery. You can read an account here.

Copyright © 1994 by John M. Clarke. All Rights Reserved