Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wonderous Words Wednesday 25

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!

Well - I pretty much dropped everything when my copy of Lockwood & Co. 2: The Whispering Skull showed up in my mailbox. Squee!

The good news it it has a couple cool words for this week ...

"Yes, that's a catafalque, girlie," Saunders said. 

catafalque \ˈkatəˌfô(l)k, -ˌfalk\   (sounded more like cat-a-felk to me)
1: a decorated wooden framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state.
2:  a pall-covered coffin-shaped structure used at requiem masses celebrated after burial 
Italian catafalco, from Vulgar Latin *catafalicum scaffold, from cata- + Latin fala siege tower
First Known Use: 1641
So something like this ... 
Abraham Lincoln's Coffin (under that is the catafalque-with the flowers and drapery)
Library of Congress
Which is all well and good, except that the book also says "An old Victorian lift for transporting coffins to the catacombs below."

Cool!  I just found this at

So really we are looking for something like this ... except this is the view from the catacombs, not from inside the chapel ...
The catafalque in the central aisle with the hydraulic mechanism at the end
                                                                                  Photo by Nick Catford
Quoting from the site ...

"The coffin lift made Bramah & Robinson was installed [at West Norwood Cemetery] in 1839. It was worked by hydraulics, which made its operation silent, which was a distinct advantage considering its use. Only the top of the catafalque on which the coffin was placed was moveable and could be swivelled to allow easy removal of the coffin in the catacombs. The system used a single pump.

Bramah & Robinson, also installed a similar coffin lift at Kensal Green Cemetery Catacombs [emphasis mine] in 1844. The main difference is that the whole structure can be raised and lowered and incorporates 2 pumps.

At Kensal Green the box on which the pumps are mounted contains the hydraulic fluid (water). The rams are of 2 in diameter and 5.5 in stroke. The cylinder in which the ram fits extends into the reservoir and is terminated by a non-return ball valve.

 The wheel controls the descent by operating a valve, which bypasses both pump, and valves, feeding water directly from the ram cylinder to the reservoir. One stroke of the pump will raise the catafalque by one inch; therefore 180 strokes are required to raise it to the fully elevated position, a distance of approximately 15 feet. The effort is halved by the two pumps. The coffin lift at Kensal Green has recently been fully restored [in May 1997] and is available for use for transporting coffins from the Anglican Mortuary Chapel Above. That at West Norwood while still largely intact is derelict and unusable."

See, this is amazingly cool because the text I quote from the book, well the characters are at Kensal Green Cemetery!  So this really is pretty much exactly what we are looking for!

The coffin lift or 'catafalque' stands in the central isle. The blocked aperture in the ceiling led to the now demolished Episcopal Chapel above. The stairs on the right
(now blocked) also led up to the chapel.
Photo by Nick Catford

This is a photo of the restored Anglican Chapel Catafalque at Kensal Green Cemetery...

So this would be pretty much exactly what they are discussing, except that the chapel would be in a more dilapidated state and is being used as a temporary office. 


And there went my lunch hour.  Oops - I only got one word done this time. 


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