Papa Belcombe's Corner Office

Dr. William (Bulcock) Belcombe

Born: 1757 Colne, Lancashire

Died: 17 Nov 1828, Scarbro'

Buried: 24 Nov 1828, St Mary's Scarbro'

I say it all the time; gotta catch em all! The Belcombes and their graves. I feel an intense addiction to finding the Belcombe’s and their gravesites, unknown or forgotten to the world for so long, hidden behind overgrown trees, and among brambles and thornbushes. The lost graves that require you to use your machete (if you had one) to hack down the vines that twist and turn to choke out their stories, or those elusive stones, hidden in the open, watching the world go by and waiting for someone to utter their name.

If Mrs. Belcombe picked out Daddy B’s final resting place then I’d like her to pick out mine as well. He sits in the SW corner of St Mary’s church in Scarborough under a weeping willow, technically overlooking the ocean if there weren’t buildings in the way. But some portions of the North Sea are visible from his stone. It’s quite picturesque and funny to know he was hiding in plain sight this entire time. And when I say plain sight, I mean just the stone. It’s so weathered that unless you are looking straight at it, you wouldn’t know it was his. And even then you have to really struggle to make out the name Belcombe.

The journey to Dr. B’s corner office occurred in several stops and starts. Early on, my friend Sarah and I had exhausted all possibilities of finding him. The graveyard of St. Mary’s had undergone quite a few changes since Willie’s time and there was no guarantee his stone still existed. A wonderfully kind chap at St. Mary’s had directed us to his burial record in the church records book, so we did have the proof that he was there, somewhere. Many of the older gravestones at one time had metal plaques and many of those have been moved to inside the church. You can still see the indentations on some of the stones where they originally existed. We assumed the most we could find was his plaque inside the church. And as luck would have it, how many times do you think we got to the church to find them closed or closing? I think between the two of us it was 4 separate visits. I almost felt like the Belcombe patriarch was trying to give us the cold shoulder. But we persisted.

lesbian standing next to old doctor's grave

We know from several sources that he died in and was buried in Scarborough. Anne writes about it in her journal, there are letters between her and Mariana and Lou speaking to the location, and the church record indicates he was buried there. But I wanted to see the gravestone and touch it for myself. On one of my visits this spring, I made a day trip to Scarborough to see if I could see the plaque inside the church, having no expectations that he still existed in the graveyard.

Long story short, I got to the church and it was closed! Daddy B - 5, Me - 0. Ooof, that one hurt! I’ve walked the churchyard before, casually exploring graves out of interest, not actually looking for anything at the time. I believed the information that said he probably wasn’t in the graveyard anymore so why look, right? Eh, I’m always up for a challenge. Some areas of the graveyard are still intact, other areas have been turned into parking lots, and in other areas, the gravestones have been artfully lined up in snaking geometric patterns.

Fuck it, I have all day, let’s start looking! I start in the NE corner of the graveyard and read every single stone that I can. I get to the last section of the yard, right next to the stairs back to the road and I spot him. I can barely make out the tracings of some of the letters. But I know what it says: BELCOMBE!

His stone is very weathered, but you can see the name, the date, and a few other words that let you know it’s the grave of Daddy B. His grave is the most unique of all the immediate family. I would love to see an early picture of it before the sea salt slowly stripped away the grains of stone. You can tell it was purposefully and thoughtfully chosen. And as always, there are now more questions than answers. Why was Mrs. Belcombe not buried with her late husband? Did they plan to bury Daddy in Scarborough or was that a decision made based on costs and illness? Did Mrs. Belcombe originally want to be buried with her husband in Scarbro? Maybe she was buried in York, where she died, to save money. Maybe the widow’s life suited her and she was completely fine living and dying on her own terms those last 14 years of her life. I want all the answers! :)

Courtesy of West Yorkshire Archives - SH:7/ML/305 - Draft letter from AL to Lou Belcombe

So now while I push forward in the name of the Belcombes I can add another notch to the gravestone and a picture to the album and clean the dirt from under my nails. And prepare for my next graveyard celebration dance.

With each final resting place, I’m not just uncovering a lost stone, I’m also uncovering and discovering parts of me that have been hidden. Perhaps traumas and experiences that I had bound in thornbushes and overgrown trees, shoved into dark corners of my internal graveyard of feelings. With each buried Belcombe I find, I quite literally dig up part of my self and I think that’s a wonderful thing. Not every person that helps change our lives has to climb mountains or be famous or buck convention. Sometimes it’s just your average person, struggling through the vines of life that help you cut down yours. And that’s one of the many reasons I love the Belcombes.

And if you want to read Daddy B's final wishes, take a look! There's good stuff in there.

BIA20210600_original will_Belcombe_William_Scarborough_Prog_May 1829
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