05 Dec 2008 • 1,125 views
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..