Abbey Cemetery, Bath 4

England

Brief Description

The cemetery is situated on a steeply sloping, three-hectare site overlooking the town. It was designed by JC Loudon, and consecrated on 30th January 1844.

History

The cemetery was opened in 1844. It was a private Anglican cemetery financed by W. J. Broderick, Rector of Bath Abbey. The landscape was laid out in 1843 by John Claudius Loudon. The chapel was designed by G. P. Manners of Bath.

Visitor Facilities

This is a municipal cemetery for general public use.

Detailed Description

Abbey Cemetery lies on a steeply-sloping site with splendid views over Bath city to the north and the Vale of Widcombe to the east. To the south-east lies Prior Park. The site is triangular and is entered from its northern point. The entrance path runs uphill along its eastern boundary, parallel to Ralph Allen Drive. At the top it sweeps round to the Mortuary Chapel which stands at the head of the site. There is a path running through the central north-south axis and a circular path in the upper half. There are many mature specimen trees (ash, copper beech, holly, lime, sycamore, English oak, Turkey oak, redwood, yew). It is evident that there was a considerable period of intense and continuous planting. This probably took place between 1850 and 1930, and runs throughout the whole site.

The cemetery has been closed to new burials for several years. It is in reasonable condition but some areas are overgrown.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/

A private Anglican cemetery laid out by John Claudius Loudon in 1843.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Abbey Cemetery is situated c 1.3km south-east of Bath city in a residential area. The c 3ha triangular site lies north-west of Prior Park (qv), on a steep, south-facing hillside. The boundaries of the cemetery are formed by retaining walls which separate the site from the public roads and residential housing defining it: Prior Park Road to the east, Perrymead Hill to the west, and Perrymead Roman Catholic Cemetery to the south. To the south-west a wire fence has been erected between the boundary wall and the grave plots.

From the site there are very fine and extensive views of Bath, the opposite northern height of Lansdown Hill, and to the east over the vale of Widcombe.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Abbey Cemetery is approached by an entrance situated at the far north corner of the site, at the junction of Prior Park Road and Perrymead Hill. This entrance consists of a wooden gate, a replacement copy of the one introduced in the mid C19, which hangs between mid C19 gate piers of Bath stone and is flanked to the west by a roofed pedestrian gate. Both gates are decorated with grilles in open panels and iron rivets.

The main drive, formerly lined with elm trees, leads from the main entrance to the south- eastern part of the cemetery, running parallel to the public road. A short distance from the southern boundary it swings west-south-west to a turning circle on the north side of the mortuary chapel.

There is a service entrance in the far south-west corner of the site which is now (2001) no longer used. Here, wooden gates formerly gave access to a straight track (now overgrown) leading north-eastwards to the rear of the chapel.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

The main focus of Abbey Cemetery is provided by the mortuary chapel (listed grade II), designed by George Phillips Manners in 1844. It is built in Norman style, with its tower and short body standing adjacent to the south boundary at the top of the sloping site, and at the head of the path bisecting the cemetery through its north-west to south-east axis.

Some 10m west of the mortuary chapel, in the south-west corner of the cemetery, is the site of a former building, possibly a greenhouse or gardener's hut (OS 1884, 1902).

OTHER LAND

The layout of Abbey Cemetery comprises a perimeter walk which encloses the different cemetery sections (see Index Plan, pre 1848) with formally laid out plots on either side of a central north-west to south-east axis. Immediately north of the chapel, which is ,situated centrally on the south boundary, is an area laid out as an informal meadow. This is the former site of William Beckford's tomb, whose burial at Abbey Cemetery took place in 1844, just after the opening of the cemetery. Four years later, in 1848, Beckford's tomb, including its surrounding railings, was returned to the newly consecrated Lansdown Cemetery (qv), which was laid out on the site of Beckford's own garden.

The central path at Abbey Cemetery runs north-west from the chapel downhill towards the far north-west end of the site, where it turns east, before it meets the main drive 15m south of the main entrance. The north end of the central path, at its turn to the east, is marked by two mature Wellingtonias. Halfway along its length, c 15m north-west of the chapel, the central path crosses the main drive, which is marked by steps and four mature yews planted on each corner (OS 1885).

Abbey Cemetery contains many mature trees, mostly evergreens, including English and Turkey oak, ash, beech, holly, elder, cherry, hawthorn, box, hazel, cotoneaster, horse chestnut, redwood, and Wellingtonia. Several Roman burials were discovered in the south- east corner while the ground was being prepared for the laying out of the cemetery in 1843 (OS 1885), this fact being marked by a monument, presented by Blauchard Coward, which is sited on the main carriage drive.

The graves in Abbey Cemetery are arranged in a formal grid and are connected by paths.

There is a fine collection of mid to late C19 tombs and funerary monuments belonging to eminent local residents such as diplomats, military men, bishops, musicians, actors, and poets. Amongst these monuments are the Hinds Memorial of c 1847, signed by Reeves, a monumental stonemason of Bath, and the Partis Memorial of c 1846. Both are in the Greek Revival Style and situated in section III to the north-west of the mortuary chapel. At the turn of the main approach that leads to the chapel, in the south-east corner of the site (section II), stands the Crimean War Memorial. The Greek Revival-style obelisk, unveiled on 31 May 1856, lists both the officers and the other ranks who died during the Crimean War.

The south-west corner of the site, now (2001) overgrown, was formerly the site of a small nursery with a greenhouse, as indicated on the OS map of 1885.

REFERENCES

J C Loudon, On the Laying out, Planting and Managing of Cemeteries, and on the Improvement of Churchyards (1843)

'Bath Abbey Cemetery', Bath Chronicle Gazette, 31 January 1844

J Tunstall, Rambles about Bath and its Neighbourhood (1856)

N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (1958), p 111

C Brooks, English Historic Cemeteries, (English Heritage Theme Study 1994), p 54

S Harding and D Lambert, Parks and Gardens of Avon (1994), pp 108-09

T Gorst, Bath: An Architectural Guide (1997), pp 278-9

MAPS

Bath Abbey Archives: plans and watercolours of the cemetery by G P Manners

Index Plan of the Bath Abbey Cemetery, pre 1848 (copy on EH file)

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1884, published 1889; 2nd edition surveyed 1902, published 1904

OS 50" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1884, published 1885

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION

Abbey Cemetery is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Abbey Cemetery is an important example of an early Victorian garden cemetery developed from an initial plan by J C Loudon, the leading mid 19th century writer on cemetery improvement.

* The cemetery contains an outstanding collection of funerary monuments which reflect the social, economic and aesthetic life of Bath in the second half of the 19th century.

* The cemetery survives intact.

Description written: October 2001

Amended: October 2001

Edited: January 2004

Features
  • Chapel (featured building)
  • Description: The mortuary chapel was designed by G.P. Manners, the Bath architect, in 1844. It stands in a prominent position at the head of the cemetery. It is in the Norman style with a tower and short body. The chapel is closed and in need of repair.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Entrance
  • Description: This entrance consists of a wooden gate, a replacement copy of the one introduced in the mid-19th century, which hangs between mid-19th century gate piers of Bath stone and is flanked to the west by a roofed pedestrian gate.
  • Drive
  • Description: The main drive was formerly lined with elm trees.
  • War Memorial
  • Description: The Greek Revival-style obelisk, unveiled on 31 May 1856, lists both the officers and the other ranks who died during the Crimean War.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Specimen Tree
  • Description: There are many mature trees, mostly evergreens, including English and Turkey oak, ash, beech, holly, elder, cherry, hawthorn, box, hazel, cotoneaster, horse chestnut, redwood, and Wellingtonia.
  • Sculpture
  • Description: A monument, marking the discovery of several Roman burials on the site, was presented by Blauchard Coward. It is sited on the main carriage drive.
  • Tomb
  • Description: There is a fine collection of mid to late-19th century tombs and funerary monuments belonging to eminent local residents.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

This is a municipal cemetery for general public use.

Directions

Off the A3062 south of Bath city centre.
History

Detailed History

Abbey Cemetery was one of the main cemeteries laid out during the early 19th century movement for burial reform. In the 1830s and 1840s the great urban cemeteries were set up by churches and municipalities in England as private enterprises. J. C. Loudon was a pioneer in this movement. In 1843 he laid out Abbey Cemetery. Roman burials have been found on the site (SMR 1804). William Beckford was originally buried here but was removed when Lansdown cemetery was built.

In his ‘Rambles about Bath and its Neighbourhood', James Tunstall described the views from the cemetery:

‘From the Cemetery we obtain varied and extensive views of the most beautiful description. The back of Beechen Cliff forms a noble prospect, towering 360 feet above the city, which, with its churches, the Abbey rising in the midst, stretches up the height of Lansdown. Below to the westward, is Bagatelle, formerly a public tea garden, and Perrymead, with the road leading through the romantically-situated archway to Popes favourite walk; eastward the picturesque ivy-covered tower of Widcombe old church, with its manor house and hanging plantation rising above its rural graveyard; to the south, the grounds of Prior Park; while Lyncombe Hill, with its diversified scenery, contributes to the calm enjoyment of those who walk in sadness among the graves of the beloved dead.....'

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

During the 1830s, with a lack of further burial space at Bath Abbey, a new cemetery was proposed to be laid out at the edge of the city. The land was purchased from the Prior Park estate by the Rector of Bath Abbey, Rev Brodrick. The architect, social reformer, and landscape gardener, John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) was probably responsible for the initial scheme for the layout and planting of the cemetery. That scheme was altered in the execution by the Bath City Architect, George Phillips Manners, who was also responsible for the cemetery chapel. In 1843, the year Loudon completed Abbey Cemetery, he published his book, On the Laying out, Planting and Managing of Cemeteries. The design for Abbey Cemetery, which he had just completed, is included in it as an example for a 'proposal for a cemetery on hilly ground'. Besides Abbey Cemetery, Loudon designed two other cemeteries in England: Southampton Cemetery (qv) in Hampshire and Histon Road Cemetery, Cambridge (qv), and he gave advice on the design of various other cemeteries throughout England. Loudon died just a few weeks before Abbey Cemetery was consecrated on 30 January 1844.

Abbey Cemetery remains (2001) in private ownership and burials are only permitted in existing family plots. The mortuary chapel is currently closed, awaiting repairs.

Period

  • Victorian (1837-1901)
Associated People

People associated to Abbey Cemetery, Bath

Contact

Telephone

01793 445050

Official Website

Click Here

Owners

  • Bath & North East Somerset Council,

    The Guildhall, High St, Bath, BA1 5AW
References

References

Contributors

  • E.T. Thacker

    1

  • Avon Gardens Trust