Nathaniel Brown

This is the grave of a man said to be completely at home in this cemetery.

This was Nathaniel Brown, stonemason. When looking at his memorial, we are led to wonder how many other memorials he had constructed during his 52 years as Geelong’s foremost mason. 

Born in 1815 England, he arrived in Geelong in 1854 and commenced his business of sculpture and monumental work in Ryrie Street. 

His work was of exceptionally high standard and it was displayed all around the roofline of his building – which was opposite the Post Office in Ryrie St – as well as throughout the cemeteries of Geelong. He even got to work on his own memorial as his wife had died in 1855 aged 34 years. The memorial he built for her was engraved with his own name when he joined her half a century later.

This memorial was constructed of local bluestone and imported marble, and, though small in comparison to some of his work for wealthy clients, the detail shown on this memorial captures the essence of the love he must have felt for his wife.

A lesser known, but highly dramatic part of Nathaniel Brown’s life was an incident that occurred in 1868 in this cemetery. This resulted in the fatally of his employee of seven years, George Duncan, who was then aged 21 years. 

He, with Nathaniel Brown and another worker, John Laidlaw, were erecting a large monumental tombstone, and were working on a scaffold nine feet in height, fixing the top stone of the monument. The scaffolding gave way and all three men fell to the ground together, George Duncan falling awkwardly and dying.

The resulting inquest found from the position of his body that George Duncan had landed with his back against the stone, receiving spinal injuries to cause his death. It was further determined that the ropes used had been soaked by recent rains to become weakened when the strain of raising such a heavy weight was put on them.

George Duncan was buried at Geelong’s Western Cemetery and his headstone reads ‘Erected by teachers, scholars & friends of Wesleyan Sabbath School, Newtown; accidentally killed in the Eastern Cemetery’. 

There is no mention if Nathaniel Brown assisted with the costs of his burial or memorial, however his company did make that memorial.

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