St. Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham, sits atop a hill, in the aptly named St. Philip’s Square. Surrounding this magnificent house of worship are a small number of headstones and other monuments to the departed dotted about. As this is an open thoroughfare connecting office buildings, restaurants, and retail shops, commuters can be forgiven for not knowing the names, if not the history, of the deceased.
Directly across from the main entrance to the chapel, at about a 90-degree angle, is a rather diminutive and lichen-encrusted tombstone. The inscription is barely legible, but reads something like this: “In Memory of Nanetta Stocker who departed this Life May 4th 1819 Aged 39 Years The smallest Woman ever in this Kingdom pofsefsed with every accomplishment only 33 Inches high a native of Austria.”
Though the stonemason misidentified the first name, it should read “Nanette.” The rest gives a slight glimpse into the life of the person interred here. Ms. Stocker was a popular Georgian musician and performer. It is true her height never reached over four feet, but that didn’t stop her from winning over the hearts of “Brummies” and other theatregoers around the world.
She toured in 1797 with her music, dance, and singing. She is most known for her duo act with John Hauptman, a German man who also had dwarfism. They were an accomplished double act, she would play the pianoforte and he the violin. They were also known to perform the waltz. She would often headline the annual Onion Festival in nearby Ashton, just outside of the city center.
She toured mainland Europe under the banner, “the smallest woman in the kingdom.” A 16-page pamphlet was printed, entitled: “The History and Travels of the Little Nanette Stocker and of John Hauptmann.” Unfortunately, she passed away in the spring of 1819 while performing in the city where she first became popular.
Know Before You Go
Nanette would tower over her headstone. It is a plain, rounded one that lies directly across from the main entrance to the Cathedral. The Square is open at all hours of the day and night.