This list includes abstracts from the Colloquium since 2005. Papers from the Virtual Colloquium held in November 2023 are marked [v].

Fiona Stirling 2007

University of Sheffield, UK

Grave re-use: understanding the impact on the cemetery landscape and its community

In 2001, the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee published its findings following an inquiry into UK cemeteries.  One of their key recommendations was: ‘if the public are to continue to have access to affordable, accessible burial in cemeteries fit for the needs of the bereaved, there appears to be no alternative to grave re-use’. Cemeteries were first established during the Victorian period to tackle problems of poor sanitation and lack of churchyard space in cities.  […]

Kate Woodthorpe 2007

University of Sheffield, UK

Tension and negotiation: the everyday contestation and construction of culture, discourse and practice in the contemporary cemetery landscape

One does not have to look far nowadays to find evidence in the modern media of cemeteries making the news (see BBC 2003; 2005; 2006). Be it grave desecration, memorial regulation or safety in the local cemetery, they are sites that can frequently garner press attention, usually not for the most favourable of reasons. However, this attention does not equate to a general rise in the profile of cemeteries across the country which, this paper suggests, […]

Maren Kurz 2007

University College, London, UK

Contested futures: contemporary practices in West Norwood Cemetery

During the course of my ethnographic fieldwork West Norwood Cemetery, one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries in London, became one of the focus points of my research. One of the main questions encountered throughout my work is how contemporary practices within the material and social dimension of the cemetery shape its future, with a particular emphasis on Victorian cemeteries as contested landscapes, contemporary heritage practices and material culture. This paper will explore these three themes from an anthropological perspective using an in-depth case-study of West Norwood Cemetery in order to provide ethnographic context. […]

Morgan Meyer and Kate Woodthorpe 2007

University of Sheffield, UK

The return of the living dead: a dialogue between cemeteries and museums

Within the last decade there has been a revival in museum and heritage studies, reflecting the growth of their cultural and economic role in contemporary Western society. Whilst there have been some efforts to explore how cemeteries could benefit from this revival, to date cemeteries have not been widely included or recognised as ‘heritage’ spaces in either policy or research. This paper addresses this disparity and makes tentative links between cemeteries and museums in their wider social, […]

Peter Jupp 2007

University of Durham, UK

A tale of two scandals: burial and cremation in Aberdeen, 1899 and 1944

In 1899 the manager of a privately-owned cemetery appeared in court in Aberdeen. He had ensured sufficient burial space by exhuming and relocating coffins without authority or permission. The manager was imprisoned for six months and the city of Aberdeen made aware of the conditions in which the poor of the city were buried. The cremationist Dr Robert Farquharson, MP for East Aberdeen, used the occasion to press for a crematorium, cremation having been legalised in the UK in 1884. […]

Sam Matthews 2007

University of Sheffield, UK

Necropolis, metropolis: figuring the cemetery in Victorian writings about London

From Lewis Mumford’s influential model of urban civilisation terminating in ‘the final cemetery, the Necropolis’ to Iain Sinclair’s vision of contemporary London as a ‘necropolis culture’, twentieth-century commentators have repeatedly defined the modern metropolis as a city of the dead. The dominance of necropolitan discourse in London literature has had a significant impact on representations of the city’s cemeteries, ahistorically subordinating the particular local, historical, ideological and affective characteristics of individual cemeteries to a transcendent vision of cemetery as city of the dead – in the terms of James Thomson’s 1874 poem, […]

Willy Kitchen 2007

University of Sheffield, UK

Non-conformity or unconformity? The case of Underbank Chapel Burial Ground, Stannington

This paper presents some preliminary findings of a study of headstones and burial records from the Unitarian chapel at Stannington, some five kilometres north-west of Sheffield. The mismatch between individuals named on tombstones and individuals listed in burial records suggests that it may be useful to conceive of each burial plot as having its own individual “life history”, in the same way that archaeologists have talked of the life cycle of individual artefacts or structures. A number of ideas will be explored in relation to this model, […]


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract