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

Brian Parsons 2015

Independent researcher

‘Walk down any street’: A South London funeral in 1965

Until the 1980s, visual media coverage of funerals in the UK tended to be restricted to high-profile ceremonies. As far as can be ascertained, the first documentary that included an ‘ordinary’ funeral can be traced to ‘Walk Down Any Street.’ Made in 1965, this fly-on-the-wall production with minimal commentary was filmed in south-east London and captures a family during two contrasting rites of passage: a funeral and then a birthday. The film commences with the former and shows the family viewing the deceased in the home before the cortege leaves for the cemetery; […]

Chloe Sharpe 2015

History of Art, University of York, UK

Cemetery sculpture outside the cemetery: Pre- and after-lives of Spanish funerary sculpture c.1900-1922

A focus on the physical context of the cemetery has both shaped and restricted the way in which Spanish cemetery sculpture has been understood until now. My paper considers the cemetery as a changing and expanding exhibition space with unique characteristics, in which the sculptor’s identity was erased in favour of the deceased, and in which most viewers of the sculptures were not predominantly motivated by artistic appreciation. I explore how sculptors sought to compensate for this by exhibiting these monuments in more conventional art spaces, […]

Helen Stark 2015

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK

Rethinking burial practice: William Godwin’s Essay on Sepulchres (1809)

In 1989 Alan Macfarlane posited that ‘In answer to the question, “What did people feel about death in this period and in what way did the feelings change?,” an obvious source of evidence is the poetry of the period.’ Taking as its starting point the assumption that literature can operate as a source of information about attitudes to death and burial practice, this paper will argue that William Godwin’s 1809 Essay on Sepulchres is positioned at the interstice of war, […]

Hélène Bradley-Davies 2015

Department of Geography, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick City, Republic of Ireland

The spatial and temporal development of a cemetery landscape: the municipal cemetery of Mount Saint Lawrence, Limerick City

The municipal cemetery of Mount Saint Lawrence opened on the 29th of March 1849. Located on the periphery of the then city, the fourteen-acre site initially proved unattractive and the ‘new’ cemetery had to wait until 1855 for its first burial. Burials gradually increased over the ensuing decades, averaging at about 600 per year from the 1880s to the 1950s. The cemetery eventually became the key burial place for all classes of society in Limerick and as such mirrors the social geography of the city over the last 150 years. […]

Ian Dungavell 2015

Chief Executive, Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, London, UK

On the model of Père Lachaise

In the early nineteenth century, the cemetery of Père Lachaise was perhaps the most famous in the world. One of the sights of Paris, it was claimed to be the model for numerous private cemeteries which were being established in England. Indeed, some have seen it as the impulse for the whole private cemetery movement. But isn’t it odd that, given the traditional antipathy between the two countries – and so soon after the Napoleonic Wars – the English were happy to openly model their cemeteries on a French example? […]

Matthew Pridham 2015

Trustee, Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery, UK

Temporary lodgings of the dead: patterns of catacomb usage at Brompton Cemetery

My previous work examined the usage patterns and social characteristics of those interred in the catacombs at Highgate Cemetery in London. It revealed a definite rise and fall of catacomb usage in the middle of the nineteenth century and how it was influenced by legislation. Most users of Highgate loculi were prosperous families from the local area, with a surprising number of deposits being moved to other locations. My recent work looks at Brompton Cemetery, the last of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ garden cemeteries. […]

Sam McCormick 2015

Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University

Ashes creations: The incorporation of cremation ashes into objects and tattoos in British contemporary practices

This paper draws from a qualitative research study that investigated the irreversible incorporation of human cremation ashes into a wide range of objects and tattoos in British contemporary practices. Referred to collectively as ‘ashes creations’ the practices in the research included human cremation ashes incorporated or transformed into: jewellery, glassware, diamonds, paintings, tattoos, vinyl records, photograph frames, pottery, and mosaics. The study explored the experiences of two groups of people who participate in these practices: people who make and sell ashes creations and people who commission ashes creations incorporating the cremation ashes of their loved ones. […]

Sian Anthony 2015

Lunds Universitet, Sweden

Excavating the above- and below-ground materiality of a modern cemetery

Excavations within the modern cemetery of Assistens Kirkegård in Copenhagen created a new and more tangible aspect to the cemetery environment. 1000 burials and cremations and any surviving gravestones dating from the 1800s to the 1980s were recorded and analysed before the bodies were reburied.  The archaeological perspective includes the above-ground materiality and extends three-dimensionally into the below-ground contexts giving a rare integrated insight into funerary material culture of this period. The gravestones and plot decorations are interpreted together with the surviving burials highlighting differences in public and private material expressions of death combined with chronological change. […]


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