Family Events

Town Cemeteries

Old Herts

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Historically bodies were buried in the churchyards of the local parish church and in rural areas, where the church had a large graveyard, possibly still adjoining open fields, the practice (at least for Church of England burials) continues to the present day. Non-conformists may have been buried in the graveyard associated with the parish church, or there may have been burial plot associated with their chapel.

In town centres there was a major pressure on space and the ground was used repeatedly. Private (non-parochial) cemeteries did exist, and one of the earliest, and best known is Bunhill Fields, in Central London, which was used mainly for non-conformist burials. By Victorian times the problems of disposing of bodies was becoming a major problem in the larger towns and in 1853 an Act of Parliament made it possible for local authorities to purchase and use land as a cemetery - and many town cemeteries date from some time after this date. In my experience they were usually surrounded by a low brick wall, surrounded by railings, with one or more funerary chapels. Different areas were allocated for different denominations. At about this time gravestones were becoming more common (at least among those who could afford them) and this acted as a constraint on the reuse of plots. This means that in some towns, such as Berkhamsted, the original Victorian cemetery became full (and has a very neglected appearance) and a new cemetery has been established on the outskirts of the town. Meanwhile the Tring Town Cemetery was much larger, for a smaller population, and there is still a larger area where there have been no burials.

The burial registers for town cemeteries will be kept by the local council and my own experience is that they are always very helpful, and will provide a map of the cemetery on which they mark the position of the grave and grave number (which may be the only mark on the grave if there is no stone). Because of the comparatively recent dates of the town cemeteries, the easy access to their registers, and the fact that they are still in use, town cemeteries are frequently not included in memorial indexes.

Family Events

This is a new web site which plans to provide council burial records of town cemeteries, etc. Searching is free but you need to join the site in order to see the original documents, grave yard plans etc. At the moment coverage of Hertfordshire is limited to Broxbourne (25,291 burials between 1855 and 2003 at Bury Green Cemetery, Cheshunt, and 11,221 burials at Ware Road Cemetery, Hoddesdon). I understand some of the Dacorum Borough Council records for Heath Lane and Woodwells Cemeteries, Hemel Hempstead, Kingshill Cemetery, Berkhamsted, and Tring Cemetery will be available shortly.    [From Blog, 25 March, 2011]


Web Sites

See also Burials, The Condition of Hertfordshire Graveyards  and Looking for 20th Century Burials

Burials in Stevenage, Early 20th century looks at the fate of the older parish graveyards