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

Brian Parsons 2017

Independent researcher

Who is your neighbour? The issue of non-parishioner burial fees

The Burial Act 1852 created and empowered Burial Boards to provide cemeteries for the interment of those living within their parish. Financed by the fees from those interred, a higher non-parishioner charge was levied on those desirous of utilising the cemetery but not living within the Board’s boundary. Research has identified that although non-parishioner status remains today (and is now known as ‘non-resident’ burial), its intended purpose of preserving burial space through the deterrent of a higher charge has been subjected to wide interpretation. […]

Dirk Rieber 2017

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Death and the city: how cemeteries cope with change

‘He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.’ This statement of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom James Harold Wilson in 1967, exemplifies the most common perception of cemeteries as being insusceptible to change. But cemeteries are not ahistoric places and like any other human institutions they are exposed to changing socio-cultural, demographic, political, and economic parameters to which they are bound to respond. […]

Hannah Thomas 2017

University of Durham, UK

Memorials in migration: death, dying and burial in a displaced English convent, 1794–1829

This paper examines the history of the convent cemetery of the English Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, and associated changes to death, dying and burial practices within the community – physically, spiritually and culturally. Founded in Liège in 1642, where they lived as an English convent in exile for some 150 years, the Sepulchrines were forced to migrate from mainland Europe to England in 1794 as a result of revolutionary changes sweeping the continent. After arrival in England, […]

Harold Mytum 2017

University of Liverpool

Toxteth Park Cemetery, Liverpool: reflections on cemetery monument recording with students

Archaeology students recorded one of the areas in Toxteth Park Cemetery as part of their archaeology field methods module. This paper described the process and assesses preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of this activity both as a pedagogic experience and as a contribution the recording and long-term management of the cemetery. Toxteth Park, as with most cemeteries in Liverpool, is managed by the local authority but is also supported by a friends’ group; it is listed on Historic England’s Parks and Gardens Register. […]

Jennifer Lewin 2017

Conservation Accredited Architect, UK

Cemetery design: a neglected landscape?

The cemetery and churchyard commonly present problems with maintenance issues, contentious memorialisation sensibilities, economics and allowing for an evolution of rituals and customs. If architecture began with the tomb, has the story line for cemetery design been lost along the way? This landscape interface between mortality and immortality could be seen as it has in the past, as the greatest design brief of all, but current design ethos is surely falling short. Is this landscape a place of exclusive use for the visiting bereaved and has it been so in the past? […]

Kelly Mayjonade-Christy 2017

Paris-Sorbonne University, France

George Alfred Walker’s burial reform discourse in mid-nineteenth-century England

George Alfred Walker was one of the very first sanitary reformers to be actively involved in the burial reform debate which took place in the 1840s in England. Although historical interest in Walker is not new, most historical works have focused on the sanitary reformer Edwin Chadwick. There are only a few academic articles specifically dedicated to Walker, and yet such articles never offer a thorough analysis of Walker’s contribution to the burial debate—although Peter Jupp had been calling for it since 1997 (The Changing Face of Death). […]

Sian Anthony 2017

Lunds Universitet, Sweden

The fear and fascination with premature burial

The young, beautiful and rich widow Giertrud Birgitte Bodenhoff was buried in Assistens cemetery, Copenhagen on 23 July 1798 but was she dead? Family stories claimed she had been buried alive but unconscious (skindød in Danish) from an excess of opium. They suggest that when grave robbers opened her coffin to steal her jewellery, she woke up and they killed her to conceal their crime. An exhumation on the 9 January 1953 took place to investigate the stories. […]

Siobhan Maguire-Broad 2017

Leeds College of Art, UK

Once and now – an overview of St George’s Field

This paper will be delivered as an illustrated talk, using contemporary and historical images of St George’s Field and images of the artwork I have made in response to it. St George’s Field is now a disused cemetery within the grounds of Leeds University. Using Barthes Camera Lucida as a theoretical starting point and an interdisciplinary approach, it will contain an overview of St George’s Fields rich historical and social narrative and  will concentrate upon its transformation from farmland to cemetery to public park during the last two hundred years.  […]

Susan Buckham 2017

Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy, University of Stirling, UK

What are the new challenges and opportunities for managing historic graveyards in Scotland arising from legislation-led changes to burial provision?

In 2016, the Scottish Government updated the laws governing burial and cemetery management. The previous primary legislation, drafted in 1855, enshrined the ability to purchase burial rights in perpetuity. The 2016 act enables grave reuse and seeks to clarify procedures for burial authorities to deal with ‘ownerless’ graves and gravestones, many of which are historic in date. Local communities tend to perceive historic burial grounds as different from their ‘modern’ counterparts by virtue not only of their age but also by their incapacity to provide new burial space and it can be argued that this has resulted in a more ready acceptance of their greenspace and heritage values. […]


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