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

Bel Deering 2013

University of Brighton, UK

The kiss of death: sex and love in the cemetery landscape

This paper explores the placing of sex in the landscape of disused burial grounds. Whilst legend-tripping literature considers graveyard sex as an intention-led activity aimed at raising the dead or invoking magic, my research uncovered a different facet of cemetery sex. Everyday conjugation in the sites I studied was driven by convenience, privacy and perhaps the edgework-esque thrill of heightened aliveness in a place of death.  In unpicking the experiences and opinions of research participants, I explore the tensions amongst the living, […]

Brian Parsons 2013

University of Bath, UK

From Brooke Street to Brookwood: nineteenth-century funeral reform and St Alban the Martyr Holborn Burial Society

Largely prompted by the expansion of the urban population during the nineteenth century, in just over a seventy year period commencing 1830 the whole arena of death and disposal was transformed through legal, social, economic and religious influences. Legislation regulated the supply of bodies for anatomical dissection, death registration and the establishment of proprietary and Burial Board cemeteries along with formalising the function of the coroner, the construction of mortuaries and the first cremations. In addition, […]

Janette Ray, Julie Rugg, Sarah Rutherford and Louise Loe 2013

Devising and testing a significance framework for burial space  

This presentation reports on a research task undertaken for English Heritage: to devise and test a framework for establishing the significance of burial space for use in the planning process. The framework had to encompass a range of circumstances in which burial has taken place, from deep time Neolithic barrows, to historic cemeteries and churchyards and modern war cemeteries and woodland burial sites. The framework also needed to accommodate ‘marginal’ sites including institutional burial grounds and battlefields and be compliant with the National Policy Planning Framework significance categories. […]

Matthew Potter 2013

Limerick City Archives, Republic of Ireland

Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery, Limerick in the context of Irish municipal cemeteries

This paper will examine Limerick’s Mount Saint Lawrence in the context of the development of Irish municipal cemeteries. It will examine the circumstances of their establishment, their governance, dimensions, religious affiliation and funerary art. From 1830, garden cemeteries appeared all over Ireland. One of the first and most unusual was St Josephs in Cork which was founded by temperance reformer Fr Theobald Mathew when he purchased the defunct Botanic Gardens there in 1830. Dublin acquired two large cemeteries in the same decade, […]

Matthew Pridham 2013

University of Strathclyde, UK

Social characteristics of deposits in the terrace Catacombs at Highgate Cemetery

This paper is taken from a dissertation which is the first large scale study focussing on a substantial group of individuals deposited in catacombs over a significant time period.  It summarises a variety of social characteristics of more than 600 people deposited in the Terrace Catacombs in Highgate Cemetery, London, during 1839-1878.  Using primary records, the demographics, occupations, prosperity, residence at time of death and relationships to others interred in the Terrace Catacombs are shown. The data reveal a largely homogeneous social group of prosperous people mostly from residential areas near to Highgate.  […]

Roger Bowdler 2013

English Heritage

Ghastly grim: the 17th century London churchyard gateway

Mors ianua vitae: death is the gate of life. This Christian topos found literal embodiment in a group of churchyard portals. Each sported emblems of mortality – skulls, skeletons, and most spectacularly the Last Judgment. Originally numbering just over a dozen, these unusual examples of Anglican architecture parlante are considered as a group for the first time. Their most likely initial source lay in Amsterdam. Hendrick de Keyser’s designs for doors to major new churches constituted over half the plates in Architectura Moderna (1631), […]

Ronnie Scott 2013

University of Strathclyde, UK

What lies beneath? The infrastructure of the Glasgow Necropolis

Studies of the material culture of cemeteries often concentrate on funerary monuments, chapels and other visible structures. This paper, by contrast, looks below the surface of the Glasgow Necropolis (first burial 1832) to examine rock-cut and brick-lined graves, family vaults, trenches for common burials, chambers for temporary burial and proposed catacombs. It also discusses the drains. This presentation will show that Scotland’s first ornamental, or garden, cemetery was as innovative below the ground as it was above, […]

Susan Buckham 2013

Kirkyard Consulting

Not architects of decay: the influence of cemetery management on burial landscapes

The introduction of garden cemeteries in Britain during the first half of the nineteenth century has been seen as heralding a radical change in attitudes towards burial and commemoration. By the turn of the twentieth century a new form of cemetery aesthetic, the lawn cemetery, started to emerge. Until recently, lawn cemeteries have largely been viewed as a triumph of the economy of management over cultural values and as evidence of society’s emotional disengagement with death.  […]

Sylvia Thornbush 2013

University of Edinburgh, UK

The changing styles of inscriptions on headstones in urban churchyards in three English cities between 1600 and 1902

The crudeness of crafting inscriptions on headstones declined in the late eighteenth century, even though some headstones were crafted using calligraphic inscriptions. This shift in styles reflected a change from a craft to an industry.  The use of varied inscription styles was meant to aid in differentiating the different types of text. However, the choice of font was also, to some extent, meant to match the shape and decorative motifs chosen for the headstone. In some cases, […]

Tristan Portier 2013

UMR Telemme-CNRS, Université d'Aix-Marseille

Cemeteries and the Established Church in Bath (UK) (1836-1864) [v]

The cemetery movement (ca. 1825-1850) was partly a reaction to the decay of Anglican churchyards and crypts, particularly in cities. Through private capital, promoters built cemeteries independent of parochial authorities, fuelled by a demand from wealthy urban classes and Nonconformists for alternative burial options. However, the Church’s reaction to these projects proved uneven: at a time when State-sponsored church construction was at its zenith, some viewed cemeteries as undermining the church’s spiritual monopoly over the dead, […]


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