Count Eric Stenbock

Our Grave Concern for Count Eric Stenbock

Eric, Count Stenbock was an extraordinary queen and one of Brighton's great characters.

He was born in 1860 into a landed aristocratic Estonian family. A peculiar child, he lived his life 'in a bizarre, fantastic, feverish, eccentric, extravagant, morbid and perverse fashion.' As an undergraduate at Oxford University he caught a very bad case of zeitgeist and began writing morbid poetry and stories about vampires and werewolves. He published three volumes of verse and a collection of romantic tales entitled 'Studies of Death'.

Stenbock had a glittering London career as a man about town and met the love of his life, the composer Norman O'Neill, on the top of an omnibus.

count.jpgBy 1895, however, he was heavily addicted to opium and alcohol and moved back to Brighton to convalesce at his mother's house, Withdeane Hall, on the London Road, where he seems to have spent a lot of time in his room with the curtains drawn, burning candles in front of images of Buddha and the poet Shelley.

He died during a drunken argument with his stepfather - waving a poker he toppled over and killed himself on the fireplace.

Buried by his family in Brighton, the count's grave is now in very bad condition. A rampant growth of ivy has toppled a crucifix and the whole grave is in danger of sliding down the hill. Members of Brighton Ourstory are campaigning with The Lost Club (a society devoted to reclaiming the reputations of unjustly forgotten writers ) to have the grave restored.

Eric Stenbock, a charming man in many ways, has been described as 'the first Goth' and 'the Quentin Crisp of the 1890s'. We want justice for his bones.

How to find the grave:
The grave is No. 31259 at Brighton Extra-Mural Cemetery off the Lewes Road. It's best approached via the Woodvale Cemetery - you'll find the gates opposite Sainsbury's clock on the Vogue Gyratory. A long carriage drive leads eastwards straight up the hill. After a couple of hundred yards you'll pass a pair of flint-faced lodges, now in use as the cemetery offices. Parking is available at the sides of the drive here. Just beyond the lodges a flight of steps on the left leads up into the Extra-Mural Cemetery. Turn right at the top of the steps and follow a grass path on the crest of the ridge, alongside a flint wall. Eric, Count Stenbock is buried a few graves along on your left.

Further reading:
'Stenbock, Yates and the Nineties' John Adlard. London: Woolf (1969)
The Pink Plaque Guide to London' Michael Elliman and Frederick Roll. London: GMP (1986) pages 194-5


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