Website of the Laceby History Group

The Haagensen Connection

The Haagensen Connection

Photograph: The Haagensen Memorial in Laceby Cemetery after the funeral of Peter Henrik Haagensen in May 1919.

It was the year after the ending of the Great War, 12 May 1919. In Laceby Cemetery a Priest conducted a burial service in the Norwegian tongue and laid to rest Peter Henrik Haagensen in the tomb he had had erected for his wife, Janna, twenty-two years before. Many elaborate wreaths of laurel, roses and madonna lilies filled the air with their heavy odour and encrusted the base of the wonderful marble monument that was now a memorial to both husband and wife. For Peter Haagensen, though he had died far away in Bournemouth, was well-known to this district and his funeral was a notable event.

Born at Moss in Norway in 1837, he had come to Grimsby in 1867 and became Consul for Sweden and Norway four years later. In the meantime his business prospered and by 1881 he had moved from 64 Orwell Street, Grimsby, to Norman Villas, in Bargate. In the 1890s he moved to Spring Villa, a large and stately house in Bargate. He had Chambers at the Royal Dock from 1882 to 1896, he was a ships’ broker and a coal and timber merchant with businesses in both Grimsby and Hull. It is thought however that he lost the greater part of his fortune at about the time of the start of the First World War, perhaps by some unfortunate investments.

Peter and Janna Haagensen had four children, Henry, Clara, Frederick and Macia. The four children clinging to the skirts of the woman on the memorial are thought to represent them.

Although mossy now and stained by the weather, the memorial still dominates Laceby Cemetery, set as it is at its highest point and against a background of dark yews. In its bright and pristine state it must have been quite a remarkable sight and it certainly attracted many visitors who came from Cleethorpes in the early 1900’s by landau and charabanc to visit it and to purchase for 2s 6d a china replica or a coloured postcard. To complete their outing they would then have tea in the Laceby Tearooms at the bottom of the lane. Several members of the History Group have come across these china replicas which have survived the years. They have been found in local antique shops where they are on sale for several pounds.

The memorial was hewn out of one single block of marble which came from Carrara in Italy where Michelangelo himself obtained the marble for his wonderful statues. There is a vault beneath the memorial lined with marble slabs and with a mosaic floor. Two faces, in relief, are set into the walls and represent the Consul and his wife. Laceby Parish Council decided to open the tomb for one day in 1982, so that people could have an opportunity to see the vault. The inscription on the memorial reads as follows –

“In memory of the late Consul Peter Henrik Haagensen, born at Moss, Norway, August 3rd 1837, and his beloved wife Janna, born Vinger, Norway September 7th 1837. Died at Grimsby Decemebber 11th 1897. Also their four children, Henry, Clarea, Frederick and Macia.
To the Glory of God in hope of resurrection and recognition in eternity.”

The story does not end for us in this quiet corner of Laceby however. Its sequel follows the fortunes of the Consul’s second son, Frederick.

In 1895, whilst the Consul’s wife was still alive, the family spent a protracted holiday in Florence, hoping that the climate would be good for her chest. Whilst they were there Frederick followed his studies in Art and Music. When the family finally returned home Frederick stayed to continue his studies and subsequently with his tutor travelled all over Europe learning languages and absorbing culture. He would have been about eighteen at this time.

Frederick returned eventually to work in his father’s business until the business failed and the Consul left to live in Bournemouth. There is a passport issued in 1910 by Sir William Grey, Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to Frederick Haagensen to enable him to travel to Finland, Russia and Europe, possibly in pursuit of his father’s business.

Not until the age of 47 years did Frederick Haagensen take up the art of Etching for which he was to become widely renowned during his lifetime. Amongst his patrons were some very well-known names, including Lady Chalmers of Chelsea - 1925, Her Majesty Queen Mary - 1930, Mrs Campbell Dodgson, Keeper of Prints, British Museum - 1930, and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone – 1932. Two etchings were also bought by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Acknowledged as we see as one of the foremost etchers of his time, the late Frederick Hans Haagensen returned in spirit to his home town of Grimsby when an eighty-one piece exhibition of his work was held in the Central Library to celebrate the centenary of his birth in 1877.

The exhibition was mounted by his widow, Mrs Audrey Haagensen, of Maldon in Essex and included many famous etchings as well as charcoal sketches. Mrs Haagensen, then 77 years old, not only organised the display but also mounted all the exhibits and framed them. The exhibition had been staged in Chelmsford, Southend, Doncaster, and, the height of the tour, in Norway, “For”, said Mrs Haagensen, “Despite his birth in Grimsby, he was of pure Norwegian blood”.

During his early life, he made many trips across the North Sea to his Mother Country. “Although he came so late to etching”, Mrs Haagensen said also, “He had a certain genius. Everyone who knew him said so, and there is tremendous interest in his works. His works remained in my private collection until about seven years ago, when I realised that a great number of art students are very interested in it”.

After its exhibition in Grimsby the collection was to go on view at a Gallery with many local connections, that created in the former Humber Paddle Steamer, “Tattershall Castle”, moored on the Thames.

Whilst in Grimsby Mrs Haagensen learned from History Group member, Mrs Violet Bowen, about the tomb in Laceby and Mrs Haagensen generously asked Violet to present one of her husband’s pictures to the village on her behalf. This etching, entitled “Peasant’s Homestead”, was presented at a meeting of the Laceby History Group, and was received on behalf of the village by Mr Pat Anderson, Steward of the Stanford Trust. It now hangs in the Stanford Centre, Laceby.

Mrs Haagensen’s association with the village, through her friendship with Mrs Bowen, has continued and she, together with her family, descendants of the Consul, has re-visited the memorial several times.

John Haagensen, eldest great-grandson of the Consul, has now also visited the tomb as have descendants of the family now living in Australia. So the threads of the story are drawn together, from Norway, Italy and Australia, finally to Laceby.

A lasting memorial to the art of the Consul’s son, Frederick, is also now to be found nearby. A collection of his pictures has been given on permanent loan to Welholme Gallery in Grimsby and Mrs Audrey Haagensen has commissioned a copper plaque which will be placed upon the wall of Spring Villas, Bargate, Grimsby to record a little of its history.