E.J.Wilkins

05 Dec 2008 936 views
 
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photoblog image Southampton Old Cemetery

Southampton Old Cemetery


The cemetery as a Nature Reserve

Southampton Old Cemetery is managed as a Nature Reserve by Southampton City Council's wildlife team and a large group of volunteers from the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

It is one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in England and was established as part of the 1843 Burial Act, using 10 (or 15) acres of Southampton Common. (Different sources quote different areas). The first burial was on 8th May 1846. The site was extended in 1863 and again in 1886 to its present size of about 27 acres.

There have been over 116,000 burials, few since the early 1900s. There are approximately 8 new interments a year in family-owned plots.

.....

This picture was taken on a dull day and shows mature grasses, with mature deciduous trees in the background. The largest tree in the middle is a Horse Chestnut.

Some people have commented that parts of the cemetery appear neglected, it might look this way but it's part of the management. I actually think these grasses look beautiful, but I know some would disagree.

The Council along with the Wildlife Team have a carefully planned "mowing programme" that ensures there are plenty of suitable low growing plants, grasses and ivies to support the rich wildlife of the area. It's a tough call really, but if the whole cemetery was kept spruced up throughout the year it would lose its' character and look like any other large burial place - just headstones and short grass.

Wandering through the cemetery at any time of the year is surprisingly relaxing. In the spring some parts are carpeted with bluebells and celandines, during the summer other areas are a sea of white ox-eye daisies dotted with cornflowers, scabious and ragged robin. There is a wonderful range of roses too - some rambling over walls and memorials, others clambering through trees. During the autumn months the trees are full of fruit and of course winter brings its own surprises. You can get an idea of the wide range of flora and fauna by looking at the FOSOC site  - here -

Some of the planting is deliberate, part of W. H. Rogers' original landscaping design dating from 1843. The Yew Avenue was planted in the 1880's as part of the final extension. Some plants, shrubs or trees will have been introduced by families when caring for the graves of their loved ones.

All in all it's a very special place and it's astonishing that only a few years ago the site was under threat of development - which, I believe, led to the foundation of the  Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery in 2003. So, you see, it's only been properly 'looked after' for a very short time since regular burials ended almost 100 years ago.

.....

The cemetery lies next to Southampton Common which covers about 365 acres of common land (always open to the public). The two sites together are recognised as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)

The Common and Cemetery together were awarded a Green Flag Award in 2007, which is the "National Standard" for public parks and green spaces in England and Wales.
.

Southampton Old Cemetery


The cemetery as a Nature Reserve

Southampton Old Cemetery is managed as a Nature Reserve by Southampton City Council's wildlife team and a large group of volunteers from the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

It is one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in England and was established as part of the 1843 Burial Act, using 10 (or 15) acres of Southampton Common. (Different sources quote different areas). The first burial was on 8th May 1846. The site was extended in 1863 and again in 1886 to its present size of about 27 acres.

There have been over 116,000 burials, few since the early 1900s. There are approximately 8 new interments a year in family-owned plots.

.....

This picture was taken on a dull day and shows mature grasses, with mature deciduous trees in the background. The largest tree in the middle is a Horse Chestnut.

Some people have commented that parts of the cemetery appear neglected, it might look this way but it's part of the management. I actually think these grasses look beautiful, but I know some would disagree.

The Council along with the Wildlife Team have a carefully planned "mowing programme" that ensures there are plenty of suitable low growing plants, grasses and ivies to support the rich wildlife of the area. It's a tough call really, but if the whole cemetery was kept spruced up throughout the year it would lose its' character and look like any other large burial place - just headstones and short grass.

Wandering through the cemetery at any time of the year is surprisingly relaxing. In the spring some parts are carpeted with bluebells and celandines, during the summer other areas are a sea of white ox-eye daisies dotted with cornflowers, scabious and ragged robin. There is a wonderful range of roses too - some rambling over walls and memorials, others clambering through trees. During the autumn months the trees are full of fruit and of course winter brings its own surprises. You can get an idea of the wide range of flora and fauna by looking at the FOSOC site  - here -

Some of the planting is deliberate, part of W. H. Rogers' original landscaping design dating from 1843. The Yew Avenue was planted in the 1880's as part of the final extension. Some plants, shrubs or trees will have been introduced by families when caring for the graves of their loved ones.

All in all it's a very special place and it's astonishing that only a few years ago the site was under threat of development - which, I believe, led to the foundation of the  Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery in 2003. So, you see, it's only been properly 'looked after' for a very short time since regular burials ended almost 100 years ago.

.....

The cemetery lies next to Southampton Common which covers about 365 acres of common land (always open to the public). The two sites together are recognised as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)

The Common and Cemetery together were awarded a Green Flag Award in 2007, which is the "National Standard" for public parks and green spaces in England and Wales.
.

comments (25)

The same situation arises at Bristol at Brislington cemetry Ellie
EJWilkins: Is it as nice as this one Chris?
taking these pictures and giving the details is, I think, a very important and worthwhile thing to do. Some of these things are so well known to us we forget they may be of interest elsewhere and certainly of interest down the road. I'm enjoying all these posts you've been making --the photos are great and the information very interesting.
EJWilkins: An interesting insight Dawn, I hadn't thought about it that way, more as my "little project" that I keep returning to. Thank you. smile
I agree with you, Ellie - I think the grasses look beautiful, too. (:o)
EJWilkins: Glad you do Ros, I somehow thought you might wink
I enhance this policey absolutely ... Its a lovely way to retain peoples memories and yet to express the realtionship between humans and the land and also to maintain the beauty of wild life.

richard
EJWilkins: I think it's a really tough call for any city with a large municipal cemetery that's been out of use for so long, or at least isn't often needed. I think the alternative here was for the site to go and/or perhaps have it re-used for new burials. Not many of the individual graves are maintained by family, many are long gone or their descendants have moved away, although some seem to be looked after by charities. It would be tragic to flatten the history too, and lose the local identity, because once gone it could never be recovered, in the same way as it would be tragic to lose Highgate, Bunhill Fields, Nunhead and so on in London
This looks rather wonderful, Ellie to have a field like this with graves stones located within it. I should imagine it's fun to explore.
EJWilkins: I think you'd like it Chad. Let me know when/if you're free next year and I'll take you round
You know me by now, I am not one for cemetries
EJWilkins: I know you aren't Chantal, and I promise no more pictures from here for a while. Thank you for your patience smile
  • Laurie
  • United States
  • 5 Dec 2008, 11:31
Very interesting. It does not look like the neatly groomed cemeteries you usually see.
EJWilkins: No, that's because it's been out of use for almost a hundred years. That's why it's being managed for wildlife now, with due respect for those who rest there.
I wouldn't mind being buried in a nature reserve..well obviously not before I was actually deadtongue

Lovely idea and one I was not aware of
EJWilkins: Woodland burials sites are beautiful too Bill
  • Harv
  • United Kingdom
  • 5 Dec 2008, 11:37
It looks a most relaxing place - I spent 6 years in Southampton but don't think I ever visited here.
EJWilkins: It's somewhere local people walk, pass through on their way to/from the Common, but for the wider population of Southampton, well, I'd doubt they know it exists.
  • Frida
  • Seden (swe)
  • 5 Dec 2008, 11:56
So sad that no one takes care of places like this. Or is it perhaps intended to look this way??
EJWilkins: Because the last burials were somewhere in the region of a hundred years ago few of the graves were tended and the place got overgrown. It's now "managed" for wildlife, with full respect for the dead too
  • Alan
  • Great Britain (UK)
  • 5 Dec 2008, 12:33
You've done well to use the trees to mask out the lack of interest in the sky. Having now read your notes, only now do I understand how the cemetery got like this. I will revisit it wih fresh eyes.
EJWilkins: Well spotted Alan, leaving that little glimpse of sky was, I felt, important because it lifted the top of the picture out of the gloom of the trees.
Plans of the cemetery are online, also at The Hawthorns.
  • FLOOG
  • The valleys of a contented soul
  • 5 Dec 2008, 12:43
I think the grasses are rather beautiful.

Like you, I wander through cemetaries in some of my favourite villages where the stones have immense historic significance. I find it sobering, relaxing and tranquil.

And very interesting information as well smile
EJWilkins: Glad you think so Paul, and yes, sobering, relaxing and tranquil are words that work for me too. There are some beautiful old cemeteries in small villages that have wonderful secrets.
I am enjoying the images, Ellie, and appreciate the time you have invested in providing so much information. Quite interesting. Thanks.
EJWilkins: I'm taking a break from these for a while, but will be back again some time next year. I've enjoyed searching for the information too, even though I made a mistake or two on the way.
Thank you so much for your interest, it's quite rewarding to know it's all been worth it smile
  • Tracy
  • Great Britain (UK)
  • 5 Dec 2008, 14:46
Looks like they could do with a groundworker Ellie. I will be there with my strimmersmile
Had to download a new browser to comment on postssad
EJWilkins: Oh goodness, sorry about the browser. John mentioned some sort of conflict with Explorer. Have you thought of using Firefox? It's brilliant.

You'd have no chance here with your strimmer, the council would be pretty annoyed because their mowing programme aims to ensure areas are left like this - in rotation, for the benefit of wildlife. wink
Very nice picture, Ellie and very interesting information.
I always find graveyards restful places, though my husband doesn't, and that can lead to conflict! This one does look relaxing, all those wild flowers will help with that, and just reading the headstones is a relaxing hobby.
EJWilkins: Old cemeteries and graveyards yes, some newer ones no. It's almost as if they retain the immediate emotions, that fade with time. Some also look too stark, not at all comfortable. You'd love to wander round this place though, it would take you at least a good part of a morning.
It is a good idea to manage this place as a wildlife reserve Ellie, but presumably the areas of apparent neglect are moved around from time to time.
EJWilkins: Yes, that's the way they're doing it Brian. The council maintains the mowing programme, the FOSOC are also gradually, and very carefully, removing thick ivy from some memorials and revealing a good few surprises. It's quite a mammoth task because of the sheer size of the place.
I find these grasses beautiful too Ellie.
Thanks for the interesting information.
EJWilkins: I'm glad you thikn they're beautiful Richard
  • Louis
  • South Africa
  • 5 Dec 2008, 18:08
For some reason I like this picture a lot. Maybe because it reminds me of a small burial site - 5 graves, that I drive past every day to work. I have been meaning to take some pictures - but then ...
EJWilkins: Your first few words show the picture did what I'd hoped it would. I'd stood and looked, and looked and was so taken by the scene, it was utterly beautiful and somehow so natural, even with the tops of the stones showing slightly through the grass.
Go on Louis, stop and get your camera out!
  • Philine
  • Germany
  • 5 Dec 2008, 18:37
I very like this kind of cemetery- in the midst of a rich wildlife area- coming and disappearing- life and death- the movement of the grasses and the standing gravestones- a wonderful harmony - I can't explain why I find that so beautiful! Your informations are very interesting and I admire your engagement for this topic and those managements!
Looking at your photo I remember the songtext of Joan Baez "Where have all the flowers gone?"
EJWilkins: - a wonderful harmony -
I think that says it all Philinie, and ultimately I think that's what I was trying to show with this picture.
  • Philine
  • Germany
  • 5 Dec 2008, 20:18
A Gravestone by William Allingham

Far from the churchyard dig his grave,
On some green mound beside the wave;
To westward, sea and sky alone,
And sunsets. Put a mossy stone,
With mortal name and date, a harp
And bunch of wild flowers, carven sharp;
Then leave it free to winds that blow,
And patient mosses creeping; slow,
And wandering wings, and footsteps rare
Of human creature pausing there.

That is a gravestone I especially would love!
EJWilkins: That's a beautiful poem and a beautiful description Philine. I must look up William Allingham now, to read more of his work. I absolutely agree with you.
I think it's a wonderful idea and would like to be laid to rest in a place like this. Lovely shot Ellie.
EJWilkins: Think this, then think of the Woodland Burial sites that are all around the country - where you get a tree instead of a stone
  • Ray
  • Thailand
  • 6 Dec 2008, 10:57
Love the grass, and the mini Stonehenge.
Fine image, Ellie.
EJWilkins: I think it's a bit more discrete than Stonehenge wink
Something optimist in this picture ! Don't ask me why smile
EJWilkins: There's a sort of unity somehow isn't there?
  • martie
  • United States
  • 6 Dec 2008, 19:01
Beautiful image! And I like it much more than well manicured cemeteries.
EJWilkins: It's glorious isn't it
  • paul
  • United Kingdom
  • 6 Dec 2008, 20:17
what a beautiful spot, beautifully captured. I wouldn't mind ending up someplace like that
EJWilkins: You've made my day Paul, because that's what I saw - a beautiful place that happens to be a cemetery. I wasn't sure at the time whether the picture told the story I wanted it to tell

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