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

Bel Deering 2011

University of Brighton, UK

Dark Enchantment or graveyards as places with the power to charm

Cemeteries and graveyards can intrigue, entice and transport the visitor. With their contradictory qualities of being open and yet closed, harbouring life and death, and bringing nature and architecture into close proximity they foster a sense of mystery; they have the power of dark enchantment. Enchantment comes about when a person is entranced or captivated by an event or place. The simple juxtaposition of the extraordinary within the quotidian can, arguably, bring about a shift or transformation from a disengaged to an enchanted state. […]

Brian Parsons 2011

University of Bath, UK

A nineteenth-century initiative continued: London proprietary cemeteries in the twentieth century

Private cemetery companies flourished in Britain from the 1820s only to be challenged thirty years later by Burial Boards. Whilst the creation of public cemeteries temporarily suspended the involvement of the commercial sector in burial provision, proprietary cemeteries re-emerged in London during the 1870s with further enterprises following in the twentieth century. This paper examines the development of three private cemeteries established between 1909 and 1914. Drawing from reports in trade journals, company documentation and other archival material, […]

Christopher Dingwall 2011


William McKelvie : the life and times of a Victorian cemetery architect

This paper will examine the life and career of William Ross McKelvie (1825-1893), one the more prominent cemetery designers of the mid-Victorian era in Scotland.  Born in rural Wigtownshire in 1825, William McKelvie was appointed Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries in Greenock in 1852, aged just 26.  From there, he moved to Dundee in 1863, where he spent the last thirty years of his working life in a similar capacity, dying in post in 1893.  Although early records describe McKelvie as a gardener, […]

Helen Frisby 2011

University of the West of England, UK

Limb burials, the Lyke Wake and rosemary for remembrance: folk funerary custom and the Victorian cemetery

This forum has regularly addressed the legal, the topographical, sociological, anthropological, archaeological and political aspects of the Victorian burial ground. It is certainly important that we try to understand cemeteries, then and since, from as many perspectives as we possibly can. However it strikes me that throughout, we have rarely considered the ritual aspects of burial during the heyday of the Victorian garden cemetery. What did Victorian mourners actually do in the cemetery? What about the catalogue of folk beliefs and customs which attended the burial liturgy, […]

Julie Rugg 2011

Univesity of York, UK

Burial board cemeteries: a modern invention?

In the England, burial boards were set up following the passage of the Burial Acts from 1852. This legislation was subject to modification: a new Burial Act was passed in practically every year of the 1850s, and further Burial Acts followed until the final Act was passed in 1906. The acts were accompanied by a set of ministry ‘directives’ on cemetery management. These directives presented best practice guidance based on scientific evidence, and were produced by the General Board of Health. […]

Katie McClymont 2011

University of the West of England, UK

‘That eccentric use of land at the top of the hill.’ Cemeteries and the contestation and construction of place

Cemeteries occupy a paradoxical position in contemporary UK cities: they are at the same time public and often civically run, and private intimate spaces of grief and remembrance.  Further, they are second only to parks in terms of size of urban open green space yet largely forgotten in both policy and academic planning literature.  This paper aims to explore the meaning of some of these contradictions through the use of Lefebvre’s threefold conceptualisation of space, to see how official and unofficial interpretations of cemeteries coexist and conflict, […]

Louise Canning and Isabelle Szmigin 2011

Univesity of Birmingham, UK

Cemeteries, sustainability and transformational marketing

Individuals around the world engage in one common yet fundamental activity that is of personal, emotional, social and environmental significance – disposal of the dead. As the global landscape becomes increasingly populated, so disposal choice becomes a critical environmental issue. Disposal of the dead is an essential aspect of our existence; it is an inevitable activity which cannot be avoided. As recognition grows regarding the need to move towards a more sustainable form of existence, so the way of thinking must change amongst individuals, […]

Peter Jupp 2011

University of Durham

Mortonhall Cemetery and Crematorium: the search for burial space in south Edinburgh, 1945-1967

In 1945, the City of Edinburgh took up its responsibilities for post-War reconstruction. Allocating sufficient space for needs of housing, schools, agriculture, transport and burials proved increasingly complex. The Victorian solution had been to supplement the old parish churchyards by a reliance on private cemeteries but only three more private cemeteries had been opened between 1898 and 1928. Warriston Crematorium was opened in 1929 and by 1939 was the place of committal for one-sixth of the City’s deaths. […]

Stephen White 2011

University of Durham, UK, University of Cardiff, UK

Disestablishment and burial grounds: the case of Wales

This paper will describe the lengthy process from 1868 – 1947 by which the Anglican Church of Wales came to be disestablished, and the consequences for its burial grounds. The paper will shed some light on  what may happen to a Church’s property (which will include its burial  grounds if it has any) when a Church is disestablished, and remark on the fate, after disestablishment, of any public rights that exist in the burial grounds at the time of disestablishment, […]

Trish Green, Andy Clayden and Jenny Hockey 2011

University of Sheffield, UK

The implications of natural burial for the funeral profession

This paper explores the implications of natural burial for the funeral profession. Its discussion is underpinned by data gathered during a three-year ESRC funded project which explored the cultural, social and emotional implications of natural burial in the UK. The paper’s arguments are supported by data from interviews with funeral directors who fall into three discrete groups: 1) individuals who extended disposal options for their bereaved clientele through buying land in order to accommodate natural burial; […]


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