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Memorial design - a case study

A case study into the thought process and decision making that goes into choosing the wording of a memorial for Hugh Stubbs, by his daughter Kitty Allan.

I was recently commissioned to make a memorial for the late Hugh Stubbs by his daughter, Kitty Allan. Kitty kindly sent me some details of the thought process which went into choosing the wording and design for the memorial, in the hope that you might find it helpful.

Having visited a monumental mason and decided that black granite might be okay for kitchen work surfaces, but certainly not for my dad's memorial stone, I set about looking for a true craftsman who would create a memorial that would give a true representation of my father's life, background and personality, and, at the same time, reflect how much he meant to his family.

I found Fergus by googling memorial artists and am I glad I did! I noticed that he does a lot of heraldic work and as I'd thought about including the shield and motto from the family coat-of-arms, I contacted him. Although we never met, we had several phone calls and e-mails and the entire process worked very well. Fergus even professed himself interested in reading my father's obituary to get a feeling of the man. Impressive.

Choosing the wording

I remember we began with a simple Hugh Stubbs, 1917-2014, A Man of Letters, incorporating the Stubbs coat of arms, all beautifully drawn out by Fergus. However, on reflection, this just didn't feel quite right for a man who spent most of his life talking and talking and talking. And when he wan't talking, he was writing... So, we went back to the drawing board, and came up with more traditional wording, all beautifully inscribed on an 18" square piece of slate (church regulations). I am now thinking about what I can get him to put on mine!

Here's the reasoning behind the finished article:

In affectionate memory - traditional, but he also always signed his letters `your affectionate father, uncle, friend,' etc

The shield and motto from the family coat of arms - might seem a bit `posey' in this day and age, but Fergus specialises in heraldry and the coat of arms was granted to my great-grandfather when he became Bishop of Chester (my father's ashes are interred in a churchyard just outside Chester, hence the connection).

Dates of birth and death - the aforementioned Bishop was also an eminent 19th century historian, my father taught ancient history and kept a diary for almost all his life, so precise dates felt important.

Scholar, teacher, writer - reflect his working life as a University lecturer in Classics, and was inspired in part by letters from former colleagues and students. Writer, not only for published works, but also means all the letters he wrote over the years.

Adored husband of Ljubica - because he used the words adored and adoring wife when he put her death notice in The Times. And, as my mother's ashes had been scattered, we wanted her name to be inscribed along with his.
And finally beloved father and grandfather, because he was. I'd also read that the CofE likes memorial stones to be about the person concerned and not list every single descendant!

detail of carving of shield in slate

I hope this gives you an insight into the thought process that can go into the creation of a memorial. I usually try to meet with clients in person, but sometimes as in this case, it is not possible. However, I hope this helps to show that there is still plenty of opportunity to work closely together when physical meeting is not possible. read more on commissioning a memorial

Fergus W
Written by

Fergus Wessel

Designer and letter-carver

Fergus created Stoneletters Studio in 2003, after training at the Kindersley Workshop. He is a member of the prestigious Master Carver's Association.