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A Brief History

The Abbey Cemetery was opened in 1844 as there was simply no room left in the Abbey for any more burials. This led the Rector, William Brodrick, to ask noted cemetery designer and landscape architect John Claudius Loudon to lay out a new cemetery. It is likely that Loudon personally drew up the plans; but the construction of the cemetery was left to local architects and builders. The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury on January 23rd 1844, with a special service in the Abbey, a procession from Prior Park Road, and a ceremony of consecration at the cemetery itself.

The three-bay double-height chapel, which is a listed Grade II historic building, was designed by the City Architect George Manners in the Anglo-Norman style. It was built in the same year the cemetery was completed, 1844, by James Birth, a mason who lived in Belvedere. Manners originally intended the chapel to have two cloister wings on either side of the building; but this part of the plan was never carried out. Ninety catacombs were built underneath the chapel. The steps which lead to the underground entrance are still visible today.

The first person to be buried here was Mr John Webb, on 12 February 1844. However, at the cemetery at first was not a popular choice for burials, as people did not like the idea of being buried away from a church building. The burial of the famous author William Beckford later in 1844 helped to counteract this ‘superstition’; and promote the cemetery as a fashionable place of burial. The cemetery continued to be used as a place of burial until 1995, when it was formally closed and handed over to the care of the Local Authority.