For family historians. The Monumental Inscriptions in the old (pre 1900) section of the cemetery grounds have
been transcribed. The grounds have two areas (see later), Conformist and Non Conformists.
Click HERE to read the Conformist
Memorials and HERE for the Non Conformist.
Note these lists are NOT a list of burials, many are buried in unmarked graves.
With the Church burial ground full and the implementation of The Burial Act of 1857 it
became necessary to find a site for a cemetery well away from dwelling houses.
Newspapers of the day report that a site of 2 ½ acres was found on the road leading towards Gloucester. We know it is in New Street, evidently the road through Dymock and Newent was the preferred route to Gloucester in those days.
The land was purchased from J W Miles of Bristol (1813-1878), son of Philip John Miles
(1774-1845) who owned a lot of land in Ledbury. According to the 1813 enclosure map he
was lessee of Upper Hall.
By May 1861 the cemetery was almost complete. Two chapels, one for the Established church
and one for Dissenters, were designed by London architect Frederick Cockerill and built by
McCann & Everal of Malvern. Both chapels were of local stone with Bath stone dressings and
roofed with high quality tiles.
The Chapel for the Established Church.
The chapel for the Established church, the larger of the two, included a raised platform
and reading desk for the Minister, with accommodation either side for mourners and bearers.
A small separate vestry and beautifully built turret with a bell have doors of oak with ornamental
hinges matching the main door into the chapel itself. Attached, not shown in this view, was the
Sextons accommodation (more later). Built in the same style it consisted of a scullery and
parlour downstairs with two bedrooms over.
The Nonconformist chapel is very similar but smaller, the Hereford Journal was of the
opinion that both buildings present a very neat appearance.
The grounds were laid
out in the style of a landscaped garden, with well planned walkways and planned planting of trees,
bushes and flowerbeds, executed by a Mr Grierson, (of which more later).
A press report tells us he possesses a taste in such matters .
The cost of the whole was £2,775
(£ 230,000 today) covered by a loan from the Treasury to be repaid out of the rates.
The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Hereford, on Wednesday, 22nd May 1861
and was attended by a large number of neighbouring clergy. The first burial was of
Thomas William Tucker on 3rd July 1861. Thomas was 10 years old and lived just outside Ledbury.
This map of 1886 shows the extent of the grounds at that time and the location of the two chapels.
Just inside the main gate is a large circular area and when recording the monumental inscriptions on
this circle I noticed that the first burial to take place in this circle was in 1896, 35 years after
that of the above Thomas Tucker in 1861. This leads me to believe the area was originally a typical
round Victorian park flower bed until more burial space was needed when it was pressed into service.
The following histories have been taken from memorial inscriptions, newspaper reports and appropriate census returns. Mr Peter Grierson (1790-1863) who landscaped the cemetery, owned and lived in The Orchard,
a property of some 3 acres on the Bromyard Road. Born in Scotland he married Sarah Wigley (1787-1875)
in Ledbury in 1829. Described simply as Gardener on the 1861 census he must have been more than the
average gardener of the time who was usually employed by the local gentry and lived in a bothy or
estate house. The property, up for sale after his death, was described as a modern,
substantially built, dwelling house having good cellaring, parlour, kitchen, back kitchen
and four bedrooms with garden and a most productive pasture orchard, cider mill and
labourers cottage with garden. Grierson it seems was a man of property, held in high regard,
not a simple gardener.
In the accommodation, at the back of the Established chapel, lived the Sexton (an official
overseeing the town graveyard) and his family. The accommodation was fairly basic with few facilities,
the small building at the end of the path on the right of the map was probably an outside privy.
In 1871 Anthony Biggs, age 62, (1809-1874), is living there with his family.
The census gives his address simply as Cemetery , next to the Biddulph Arms,
now the Full Pitcher. He is with his wife Mary, née Bowkett, (1803-1877), his occupation
Sexton . The Biggs married in 1838 in Ledbury Church, the marriage register gives his
occupation as Schoolmaster and his wife as Schoolmistress . By 1851 Mary was a Schoolmistress,
Anthony was a Tailor, they lived in The Homend. Anthony Biggs died on February 28th 1874,
in the Cemetery house. Mary died three years later in Church Lane.
In October 1880 a report in the Worcester Journal tells us that Robert Summers of Ledbury was
elected Superintendent of the Cemetery. The census of the following year shows Robert,aged 68,
with his wife Ann (née Hooper) aged 69. They married in 1841 and sons Robert 20, William 16 and
John 11 are all living in 'The Cemetery'. With four adults and an 11 year old, conditions must
have been very crowded! Ann Summers died in 1890 and the following year Robert, now 79,
occupation given as 'Register (sic) and Caretaker at Cemetery' is living with a servant
Jane Williams 54. Robert died in Dec 1891. Robert and Ann are buried together in the cemetery,
their epitaph is touching. Affectionate remembrance of Ann wife of Robert Summers who died May 24th 1890 aged 62 years. A light from the household is gone. A voice we loved is still. A place is vacant at our hearth
which we can never fill. Also of the above Robert Summers who died Dec 5th 1891 aged 79 years. He rests from his labours.
Robert and Ann's son, Robert Summers took over Cemetery duties and in 1894 the Burial Board
increased his salary as 'Superintendent of the Cemetery' to 10s weekly, today about
£ 2,500 annually. On the 1901 census Thomas is Cemetery Keeper living with a wife Emily 29.
Unfortunately he died in October 1901, aged just 40, at Cemetery House and is buried in
an unmarked grave.
The cemetery was enlarged in 1908 to about 5 acres, this map of 1926 shows the area at that time.
A sharp eyed visitor to the cemetery might note that despite the fact that the Cemetery
was consecrated in 1861 there is a memorial stone marking the death in 1858 of James Williams.
The epitaph reads:
James Williams Esquire of Bello Sguardo Great Malvern died August 21st 1858.
Also of Abigail Williams his wife died December 28 1878 aged 84. A tablet to their memory
is in the South Aisle of the Church of this Parish.
The following story admirably illustrates the interesting tales that can be uncovered from researching
James Williams was born 1782 in Worcester. He came from a wealthy family of wine and spirit
merchants in that city and on first appearance had no connection with Ledbury.
Around 1830 James took what was known in those days as the Grand Tour, a trip taken by
wealthy members of the landed gentry who, with unlimited funds, would roam roam around Europe
in search of art and culture. The trip usually included a few months in Florence,
where there was a considerable Anglo-Italian society accessible to travelling
Englishmen. James must have been impressed by the landscape especially Bellosguardo
(beautiful view) a hill overlooking Florence. He chose a similar site on the Malverns near
St Ann's Well to build himself a grand house.
A report in the Worcester Journal of May 29th 1845 by one Albert Way tells the story:
It is only twelve or fifteen years since that a gentleman named William, on his return
from Florence, selected and purchased this picturesque site; he built thereon a dwelling,
in the Italian fashion, and applied to it the name of the Grand Duke's Villa, Il bello Sguardo.
The neighbours now commonly call it Bello Sguardo, or sometimes, I believe Beller's Garden.
Bello Sguardo today.
All James needed was a wife to share it with and in 1835, by now 53, he married Abigail Woodyatt,
aged 41 at the Abbey Church in Great Malvern. Abigail had been brought up in Ledbury having been
baptised in the parish church on Nov 4th 1794. She was the third daughter of George Woodyatt MD
(1764-1824) who, after extensive training at both St Bartholemew's, London and Hereford Hospitals,
decided to set up practice in Ledbury. An introduction to Michael Biddulph had given him access to
leading families in the district and his practice became extensive. Abigails mother Hannah was the
daughter of John Freeman of Suckley Hall and through this marriage George Woodyatt acquired a small
fortune which gave him freedom from practice duties. He moved to Worcester and was appointed Physician
to the Worcester Infirmary. But Abigail's roots were in Ledbury and she wished to be buried here.
Abigails husband, James, died in 1858 and was buried in a vault in Ledbury churchyard
(an amendment to the 1857 Burial Act allowed this). Wishing to be buried with him Abigail
had a problem: she could not be buried in the churchyard with James.
She solved this by having James remains moved from the churchyard to the cemetery after she was buried there.