Pamela Colman Smith is something of a mystery, which is maybe part of her enduring appeal to her followers. It was only when investigating the history of Bude for my forthcoming book, Secret Bude, that I came across her, for she died in the town. Part of the mystery is where she is buried, or whether she was cremated. We all like a grave to act as a marker.
Christened Corinne Pamela Colman, Smith was born on 16th February 1878. Her address was then 27, Belgrave Road, which was in Pimlico, London. Her father was a merchant, Charles Edward Smith, and her mother Corinne Colman Smith, formerly Colman. Her birth was registered on 29th March 1878. Although it does not appear on her birth certificate, the name Mary arrives when she writes her will, coming between Pamela and Colman.
Pamela died on 18th September 1951, by which time she had become Corinne Pamela Mary Colman-Smith. She was 73 years of age, a spinster of independent means, and died of a myocardial degeneration. The actual death occurred at the Conservative Club in Bude. She had lived in Bude since 1946 as tenant of a flat shared with Nora Lake.
Her probate was dealt with by Andrew & Jones Solicitors in Bude on 13th November 1951. George Lyons Andrew and Richard Hugh Studley Jones were the executors (and solicitors). The gross value of her estate was £1048. The net value was nil. When she died, she lived at 2, Bencoolen House in Bude, and was listed as a spinster. In her will, written in 1851, she left all her real and personal estate to her friend, Nora Lake. A sale of her furniture and effects at Villa Hall on 15th November left a cheque of £127.00. Articles included a bed, cooking bowls, a table and an antique chest of drawers.
There were preferential debts owed for wages (£15) and Inland Revenue one year of tax assessment (£688.10) which indicates some earnings, plus Bude & Stratton Unitary District Council £5 13s 1d for rates. She had other non-secured debts: utilities, and various local companies. Plus, more taxes to the Inland Revenue, amounting to £920+.
Payments went to Parkhouse funeral directors, the Cornish & Devon Post for announcements, Notary Public fees, Bodmin Probate Registry, including a certified copy of probate for America, plus other administrative fees. The balance at the bank at the date of death was £59.10. she also had a balance of income due to American Trust Funds (Manufacturers Trust company of New York) of £953.19.9. This looks like being substantial income, but still she died in considerable debt. After the sale of her goods, non-preferential creditors accepted a payment of five shillings and five pence in full satisfaction of their debts. The flat had to be cleared.
In 1982, Kaplan from New York, contacted the County Record Office at County Hall in Truro, to uncover whether Pamela was buried at Bude. It is recorded that a burial took place on 20th September 1951, but there is no plan of the burial ground and no indication in the register of the grave location. The incumbent at the time was Rev E.J.Widdows, Bude Haven Vicarage on Falcon Terrace, Bude. He contacted the vicar, Rev Widdows, who advised that the location undertaker had no reference to it on his plan. Further research by the retired sexton threw no more light on the issue. It seems bizarre that someone can be buried without trace. Mr Kaplan made a donation to the church anyway and asked about the possibility of cremation.
Mr Widdows replied:
“Regarding the possibility of cremation: this is not very widespread occurrence in Cornwall. There is only one crematorium at Truro, and another at Barnstaple in Devon. What should occur in Burial Registers of churches is an entry for the burial of cremated remains in a specific churchyard…sometimes, however, the cremated remains are deposited at the crematorium itself, or scattered in accordance with the wishes of the deceased or the executors, e.g., at sea. So it would appear to me that if a cremation did take place, the deposition of cremated remains must have been at the Crematorium and not in a churchyard, otherwise it would have been turned up in general enquiries. So, the implication is that Pamela was cremated”.
Any light on the mystery very welcome. Thanks to Susanna Dark of Wise Old Crow for allowing me sight of the documents.