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Restoration of Lt Col Northey’s Grave - Event 9th December 2017


On the 9th December, Zulu royalty will join members of the Northey family in rededicating the restored grave of a Zulu War officer at Epsom’s cemetery in Ashley Road. So in a unique ceremony of reconciliation, it will be able to bring together the families of those fighting on both sides on that fateful day.


On 9th December 1879, Lt Col Francis Vernon Northey was carried to his grave. The streets were lined by people from Epsom as a mark of sympathy for this brave young officer who had died earlier that year in the Zulu Wars. Francis was shot whilst leading his troops at the Battle of Gingindlovu in Zululand. After treatment he continued to encourage his men but the wound was mortal and he died four days later. He was buried at first in South Africa, his grave marked with a cross cut from a wooden packing case. However, it was decided that his body should be returned to Epsom for reburial in the family plot in Ashley Road Cemetery near Epsom Racecourse, home of the Derby. This was a very rare occurrence at the time, military casualties from active service were usually buried near where they fell. His second funeral was intended to be a low-key affair but still attracted many Epsom townspeople, the Northey family were held in high regard. The grave stone marking his Epsom grave incorporated the wooden cross also brought back with his body from Zululand. In 1999 the wooden grave marker appeared in a ‘Then and Now’ book on the Zulu War. Due to this and the vulnerability of the grave it was decided to remove the original grave marker. From the stone marker where it had been displayed for over 120 years. It was taken with permission of the Northey Bourne Hall Museum where it underwent a course of preservation and is now in the care of the museum.


At the cemetery there will be a service of blessing for the reinstated grave at 12.30pm, led by the Rev Rosemary Donovan Vicar of Christ Church Epsom. Afterwards the chapel will host a display of items from the Zulu War, and there will be a short talk on the battle, while the original grave maker will be on display until 3.30pm.


The Mayor of Epsom and Ewell will be attending with Her Royal Highness Princess Zama-Zulu Shange, Princess Pakamile Shange and Prince Nqaba of the Zulu Royal House, who are in the direct line of decent from a commander at Gingindlovu. Members of the Northey family will also be present including Lt Col Simon Bedford (Rtd) of the Rifles along with his mother and aunt. So in a unique ceremony of reconciliation, it will be able to bring together the families of those fighting on both sides on that fateful day.


The ceremony will take place at the grave side in the Northey enclosure and will include the playing of the Last Post and a volley fired over the grave. A guard of honour will be formed by members of the Victorian military re-enactor society.



2nd April 1879

As dawn broke, the enemy did exactly what Lord Chelmsford had hoped for. An impi of 10,000 warriors, all veterans of Isandlwana, came storming across the Inyezane River in their classic fighting formation. ‘It must’, wrote a contemporary observer, ‘have been about 6.20 am when the Zulus made their first great effort to storm the front, right and rear faces of our defences. Their advance was indeed a splendid sight, as just at that moment the sun came out and shone full on the lines of plumed warriors, who, with their arms and legs adorned with streaming cow-tails and each brandishing his coloured ox-hide shield and flashing assegais, rushed forward with a dash and elan that no civilised troops could have exceeded’. In the laager at Gingindlovu all was ready; a few orders were given – ‘no independent firing – volleys by companies when they are within three hundred yards’. The Gatling gun was allowed a short burst at 800 yards, and cut a swathe through the Zulu ranks which was a foretaste of what was to come. The Zulus closed in on all sides of the laager, coming under increasingly heavy fire from the regulars and an assortment of others perched in the waggons. Again and again the Zulus stormed up the laager, taking terrible losses. Only one got inside, a young boy who was captured and ended up a mascot on a ship of the Royal Navy. After about an hour and a half, the Zulus began to fall back in a retreat, which became a rout when Chelmsford unleashed the colonial mounted infantry and natives in pursuit.

Lieutenant Colonel Northey was serving with the 3rd battalion of the 60th Rifles. He commanded six companies of the 3/60th as part of the Rear Division of Chelmsford’s column. The Zulus could not breach the British defences at Gingindlovu, but they were able to use captured rifles to open fire on Chelmsford’s men. Lt Col Northey was hit deep in the right shoulder by a Zulu bullet. He turned his command over and went to the surgeon who removed the bullet. As he cheered his men on, shouting to be heard above the din, he suffered a sudden haemorrhage and collapsed, bleeding heavily from his brachial artery. He died four days later, on the 6th of April.



 David Brooks, Bourne Hall Museum