Historical, Environmental and
22. Calderdale MBC's memorandum sets cemeteries not
only in their historical context, but outlines how cemeteries
were viewed when they were first conceived:
As well as being a major
social benefit, these cemeteries were also seen as major civic
amenities on a par with parks, libraries, art galleries and museums,
and with the same recreational and educational implications. They
were the joint products of landscape design, architecture and
sculpture and provide a valuable insight into the attitudes and
beliefs of our Victorian ancestors. Often planted with specimen
trees and shrubs, they were not only practical solutions to provide
resting places benefiting the status of the departed, but were
also designed to cultivate the intellect with their botanical
riches and variety of monuments, whose morally uplifting inscriptions
would also be educational and civilising. In terms of writing
the social history of a town, the cemetery should be seen on a
par with all the other Victorian developments, such as mills,
town halls and public parks.
Similarly, the Garden History Society, setting out
in more detail the principles which lay behind 19th-century cemetery
design, quote J. C. Loudon from his book On the laying out,
planting and management of cemeteries:
a general cemetery in the
neighbourhood of a town, properly designed, laid out, ornamented
with tombs, planted with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants,
all named, and the whole properly kept, might become a school
of instruction in architecture, sculpture, landscape-gardening,
arboriculture, botany, and in those important parts of general
gardening, neatness, order and high keeping.
23. Whilst some of the more didactic elements of
Victorian cemetery design might not be considered entirely appropriate
to 21st-century Britain, nevertheless cemeteries retain many of
the qualities which the Victorians considered important and which
sit alongside and complement their primary purpose as places for
the service of the bereaved. In some cases, this includes the
original features of the cemetery, such as the 'tree trails' of
the City of London Cemetery which guide visitors around the many
varieties of tree species planted by the original designers; or
the geological walk in Rochdale cemetery which follows a line
of pillars made from different types of stone taken from across
the British Isles.
In others, the original instructional purpose of cemeteries is
being revived as schools use them as an educational resource.
24. The Victorian concept of the cemetery as a place
for retreat and contemplation is also just as valid today as it
was when they were laid out. As our towns and cities have grown,
and development has taken place around the out-of-town sites where
cemeteries were originally situated, they have taken on an important
role in terms of urban green space.
Hounslow council wrote:
are, or can be, places of great beauty and interest, an oasis,
making them a welcome relief from the busy world outside ... These
places of beauty are viewed as supplementary lungs of our towns
and cities, particularly with the advance of the built environment.
The historic importance of cemeteries
25. The historic interest of cemeteries is multi-faceted.
They are important as historic landscapes, as collections of historic
buildings and as documents rich in social and cultural history.
As landscapes, they have been called, along with urban parks and
hospital grounds, "one of the three great innovations in
public landscape in the nineteenth century".
Faced with the critically unsanitary condition of urban burial
grounds in the early-mid nineteenth century, the Victorians seized
the opportunity not merely to establish the necessary spaces for
burial but to create ornamental landscapes of the highest order.
The Ancient Monuments Society states that "It is worth remembering
too that cemeteries were set up not just to bury the dead but
to stir the Muses among the living."
Fiona Green, a landscape historian, quotes John Strang's Necropolis
A Garden Cemetery is the
sworn foe to preternatural fear and superstition ¼
A Garden Cemetery and monumental decorations are not only beneficial
to public morals, to the improvement of manners, but are likewise
calculated to extend virtuous and generous feelings ¼
They afford the most convincing tokens of a nation's progress
in civilization and in the arts ¼The
tomb has, in fact, been the great chronicler of taste throughout
26. Apart from the landscapes, cemeteries contain
one of the nation's most significant collections of memorial sculpture
and funerary buildings.
Dr Chris Brooks of the Victorian Society wrote that "the
cemetery buildings created during the great period British cemetery
design - from the 1820s to the early decades of the twentieth
century - make a richly varied, distinctive and often distinguished
contribution to the country's historic architecture."
The Ancient Monuments Society said that together with churchyards,
cemeteries "provide the country's single greatest legacy
of vernacular art of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries."
The damage inflicted on cemeteries as revenues fell and maintenance
problems grew is well documented by Dr Brooks, who summarises
the post-war decades thus:
between the 1950s and early
1980s, extensive damage was inflicted on historic cemeteries ¼numerous
chapels, no longer used for burial services, have been destroyed;
lodges have also gone, catacomb ranges have been sealed, and boundary
walls have been dismantled.
Although Dr Brooks identifies a reduction in wholesale
destruction in the past fifteen years, the management problems
of which we heard clearly remain enormous.
27. The national historic importance of cemeteries
is reflected to some extent in the listing of some 2286 buildings
and monuments in cemeteries, and the presence of 26 cemetery landscapes
in the English Heritage Register of parks and gardens.
But they are equally of irreplaceable importance to the local
heritage and environment. As the Ancient Monuments Society said,
"they are an invaluable source for local history and local
Ms Sandra Hull wrote of her local cemetery in Boston, Lincolnshire,
that the "fine collection of exotic trees" with which
the cemetery was originally planted, remains "much treasured
The Heritage Lottery Fund wrote
Cemeteries evoke a sense
of history and a sense of place ¼Cemeteries
are also important places within the collective identity of families
or communities, as they are often social documents to the past
life of a locality expressed in a telling and memorable fashion.
Quite apart from the personal memories they evoke, they are also
a document, through the remains of those buried within them, to
the lives and work, the social and economic history of past ages.
28. As a result, "cemeteries are vastly more
interesting places than many urban parks."
They represent "a diverse historical resource with tremendous
The mature Victorian landscapes with their buildings "add
immeasurably to the urban landscape [and] still constitute designed
landscapes of striking power and beauty."
The great cemeteries of the United Kingdom "provide some
of the most intense poetic and melancholy experiences that visitors
29. In many cases, cemeteries have also become an
important focus for nature conservation, becoming wildlife havens
and places where people can have safe and informative contact
Cemeteries support a wide range of habitats, including relict
grasslands, heath, ancient and secondary woodland, scrub, hedges,
ponds and flushes, as well as more artificial features such as
high maintenance lawns, stands of trees, ornamental flower beds,
and shrubberies. In addition, buildings, monuments, tombs and
headstones, made from a variety of rocks, can provide support
for lichens, mosses and ferns, as well as providing geological
interest. A large number of rare species of trees, plants, fungi,
invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals are found in cemeteries.
Cemeteries are often designated as local Wildlife Sites, and sometimes
as Nature Reserves.
Cemetery managers should evaluate the biodiversity potential
of their cemeteries, and where appropriate, and in consultation
with local Wildlife Trusts and other interested parties, manage
the cemetery accordingly.
30. However, it is important to note, with cemeteries
as with parks,
that management of an area for nature conservation can be every
bit as demanding as it would be were it managed in the same way
as the rest of the cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
was keen to stress that
conservation must not be
confused with neglect. A neglected cemetery does not become a
haven for flora and fauna. A narrow range tends to dominate, eg
self sown sycamores, brambles and even undesirable species such
as knotweed, to the exclusion of much else of value. True conservation
requires just as much if not more management as the traditional
style of cemetery maintenance. If cemeteries are not adequately
maintained, memorials quickly deteriorate and in due course are
totally lost due to damage by trees, ivy etc. The value of a cemetery
in terms of its history, heritage and environment is lost just
as much as if its land had been used for commercial development.
Management of a cemetery for nature conservation
purposes must not become an excuse for neglect.
31. The role of cemeteries in nature conservation
has been promoted by the "Living Churchyard and Cemetery
Project", based at the Arthur Rank Centre.
The aims of the project are:
- To enhance wildlife and its habitat in all kinds
of burial grounds through conservation management;
- To preserve burial grounds as essential elements
of the historic landscape and to promote their recognition as
- To create an atmosphere of benefit to grieving
visitors and to promote community based action for the environment;
- To encourage educational use of burial grounds;
- To aid the understanding of our natural and cultural
heritage and its importance in God's creation;
- To enhance the amenity of burial grounds.
The Living Churchyard and Cemetery Project was complimented
by several of our witnesses, including English Nature, the Government's
statutory adviser on nature conservation issues.
The project seems to have been very successful in regenerating
rural churchyards and burial grounds, and in promoting churchyards
and cemeteries as an educational resource. Sadly, however, it
appears to have stalled because of lack of funding.
We recommend that the Department for the Environment, Transport
and the Regions consider ways in which the Living Churchyard and
Cemetery Project can be enabled to continue and extend its good
work in regenerating cemeteries and other burial grounds.
10 Hansard, April 2nd 1846, col 467. Back
QQ512, 580. Back
Burial Act, 1857. More recent legislation has allowed the redevelopment
of burial grounds for other purposes: see para 114 below, and
ev p.79, for details. In addition, a body which has been buried
in a consecrated churchyard in England may not be exhumed without
a faculty from the Chancellor of the Diocese (Re Dixon 
p 386; for a recent example see Re Durrington Cemetery 
3 WLR 1322). Back
J. & Poppi, C. (1994) 'Flowers and bones: approaches to the
dead in Anglo-American and Italian cemeteries', Journal of
Contemporary Studies of Society and History, 36, 1, 146-75;
also ev p.21; p.68; p.136; Q3. Back
M. (1998) Grave Concerns: Death and Burial in England, 1700-1850,
York: CBA; ev p.57; p.68; p.136. Back
N. (ed.) (1995) Directory of Crematoria, Maidstone: Cremation
Society of Great Britain Back
paras 46-49 below Back
paras 50-55 below Back
para 43 below Back
paras 50-53 below Back
20 Ibid Back
para 42 below Back
para 106-112 below Back
23 Q512 Back
Transport and Regional Affairs Committee press notice 63 (Session
25 Annex Back
are different from churchyards. Churchyards are traditional places
of burial that have been available often for centuries. These
sites are usually no more than one acre or so in size, are generally
located next to churches and are in the main owned by the Church
of England. Cemeteries - large tracts of land originally located
out of towns - came into common use from the 1820s, and are mostly
owned by statutory authorities. Back
Q523. See also the Minister for Local Government, QQ515, 516. Back
31 Q558 Back
N. (ed.) (1995) Directory of Crematoria, Maidstone: Cremation
Society of Great Britain Back
ev p.183; Q208; Q211; Q268; Q578 Back
p.184; Q3; Q211; Q330. See paras 50 to 55 below for further discussion
and evidence of the lack of burial space. Back
not printed (Jim Hindle) Back
Q263; Q268. Back
See also Q211. Back
ev p.112. Back
See ev pp.153-154 Back
40 Annex Back
p.38; p.85; Annex; 'Liverpool gives go-ahead to space-saving green
burials', Local Government Chronicle, 26 January 2001,
page 7/"Liverpool goes green as cemeteries fill up",
Guardian, 22 January 2001. See para 57 below for
concerns about regulation of woodland burial. Back
45 Annex Back
p.135. See also ev pp.16-18. Back
p.40; p.135. "Local authorities are strongly encouraged to
develop and implement Local Cultural Strategies for their areas
in order to promote the cultural wellbeing of the area.
Such a strategy will integrate, implement and monitor the major
cultural goals, policies and actions of the authority and its
partner. Although the development of a Local Cultural Strategy
is not a statutory duty, the Department expects that all local
authorities in England, whether individually, or as part of joint
or consortium arrangements, will prepare a Local Cultural Strategy
for their area by the end of 2002." Creating Opportunities:
Guidance for Local Authorities in England on Local Cultural Strategies,
Department for Culture, Media and Sport, December 2000 Back
C. Loudon, On the laying out, planting and management of cemeteries
(1843), p.13, quoted in ev p.134. Back
not printed (City of London Cemetery; Rochdale Metropolitan Borough
p.37; p.85; p.101; p.105; p.122; p.125; p.151; p.198; Q87; Q284 Back
p.25; p.46; p.52; p.58; p.77; p.85; p.105; p.122; p.124; p.142;
p.146; p.151 Back
paras 43-49 below. Back
pp. 213-214 Back
p.165. See also ev p.159. Back
p.1; p.19; p.25; p.37; p.46; p.52; p.56; p.65; p.77; p.101; pp.
105-106; p.113; p.124; p.138; p.142; p.151; p.162; p.198; Q359 Back
Twentieth Report from the Environment, Transport and Regional
Affairs Committee, Session 1998-99, Town & Country Parks
(HC 477), para 67 Back
Arthur Rank Centre is a collaborative unit supported by the national
churches, the Royal Agricultural Society of England and the Rank
Foundation, serving the rural community and its churches. See
http://www.ruralnet.org.uk/~arc/ for further details. Back
p.37; p.101; p.122; pp. 137, 139 Back