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Original 6” x 8” Keystone View Company reverse blind stamped photograph of the final burial of composer Frederick Delius in the St. Peters churchyard in Limpsfield, Surrey, United Kingdom, May 25th, 1935.  We have identified in the photograph, Eric Fenby (2nd from the left top), Ralph Vaughan Williams bottom left holding a handle of the casket and Sir Adrian Boult second from the right. 


This photograph was the front page image of the “Sunday Dispatch” newspaper on May 26th, 1935.  The photograph is contained in the unnumbered image pages in Eric Fenby’s book, Delius as I knew Him, Cambridge University Press softcover edition, 1981 (with revisions and additional material). The press release dated May 27, 1935 attached to the photograph likely was issued a day late as the job was a dispatch exclusive.  The Press release reads:




At midnight on Saturday, Frederick Delius, the blind British composer, was buried in the churchyard of Limpsfield, Surrey by the light of oil lamps.  It was the composer’s last wish that he should be buried in a peaceful sunny corner of England.  The body was brought from Grez-sur-Loing, France, to fulfil his wish. C.P.S. The coffin being lowered into the grave by the light of oil lamps, at Limpsfield, Surrey.

196/S Keystone


Delius (1862-1934) had spent the last twenty plus years as a blind invalid, paralyzed and blinded by syphilis which he likely contracted in America helping to manage his father’s orange grove in Florida as a young man.  He spent the last thirty years of his life with his wife Jelka (Ignaz Moscheles granddaughter) in the Grez-sur Loing commune in Seine-et-Marne, south of Paris.  Eric Fenby due to his physical handicaps became his amanuensis, friend and most prolific supporter after Sir Thomas Beecham from 1929 until the end of his life.  He made two requests, one to be buried in the garden in his home which ran afoul of the French government’s policies, especially for foreigners. Secondly if that wish could not be fulfilled was to be buried in “a peaceful sunny corner of England in a garden”. He was initially buried in a local cemetery as Jelka was too ill to cross the channel for his final burial, so his second wish was delayed until she felt stronger.   According to Fenby, Jelka felt well enough to go to England later in the year and met the violinist and Delius’s friend Margaret Harrison who lived in Limpsfield and selected a plot near her mother who had passed away earlier that year for Delius’s reburial. Fenby first took a very ill, but determined Jelka by Ambulance on May 22nd from Grez to Paris where she was flown to England.  Fenby accompanied the crated casket by hearse to Boulogne, where it was loaded on a channel boat for transport.  A hearse met the boat at the British dock and by the time they reached Limpsfield, it was midnight.  The graveside service which was lit by oil lamps is not well accounted for by Fenby, he purposefully left that out in his book, save the Vicar’s prayer, Let light perpetual shine on them, O Lord and may the souls of the departed through the memory of God rest in peace. Jelka conversely took a turn for the worse and had been hospitalized, too ill to attend the reburial   She joined her husband in death on the 28th of May and was interred next to him.  Sir Thomas Beecham in his book, Frederick Delius only mentions that a section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra came to play a few pieces prior to the burial and that Ralph Vaughan Williams was there.  Another account states 60 people were at the burial.


As a postscript, several of Delius’s musical friends are buried in the St. Peter’s churchyard near their friend, Sir Thomas Beecham and the Harrison sisters: Beatrice, Margaret, May and Monica,


An unusual photograph, we could not find another example on-line and to the best of our knowledge the only time it has been reproduced, other than Fenby’s book, was the original printing in “The Sunday Dispatch”.