OldCiren - Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
Whenever I’m heading up to Chesterton, I often take a little while out to visit the Cemetery. Its a tranquil part of town which seems to be rapidly becoming engulfed by office buildings and houses. When it was built in 1871, it was rural; there being no sign of the housing estate that exists today (built in 1938). Chesterton cemetery has expanded significantly over the years as more and more Cirencestrians “ Cross over the Churn” to rest in peace under the well mown grass.
When it was opened in May 1872 the Cemetery had a full time Keeper who lived in the Neo-Gothic Lodge at the entrance to the burial ground: Gothic style was popular at the time as it added gravitas to sombre situations and it was only two years previous that the Houses of Parliament had reached completion in this particular style. The advert in the Standard at the time for the Keeper’s position offered £1 a week and free rent. The Keeper was expected to devote 100% of his time to the Cemetery to dig graves, tend the gardens and lock the gates. He was also required to keep a register of burials and it was essential he could read and write. The Lodge is still there although I believe it has recently been sold as a private house. Two Neo-Gothic chapels also remain, one of which was used at one time for inquests and is unconsecrated as is the adjoining Western part of the cemetery. Back then the cost to be buried varied according to the rateable value of the house the deceased lived in: 6 shillings being the lowest and 14 shillings for a house rated at over £15. Extras were available or as we call them today “upgrades , and it was possible have a grave deeper than the standard 7 feet for 5 shillings a foot. For those worried about grave robbers, it was possible to purchase a brick lined graves for £3.10 shillings (£288 in todays money.)