Brian Parsons 2012

University of Bath, UK

Robertson at the City: portrait of a cemetery superintendent

The origins of the superintendent can be traced back to the establishment of proprietary cemeteries in the mid-nineteenth century. Responsible for day-to-day operations including supervision of grave preparation and routine maintenance along with administration and staffing, the remit has gained complexity through increased bureaucratisation and legislation, the preference for cremation and more recently from customer focus and centralisation of the service. Whilst the contemporary function has been comparatively well documented, little has been written about the development of the occupation in the early twentieth century. This paper examines the contribution made to the formative professionalisation process by John Robertson, superintendent at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium between 1913 and 1936. Drawing from cemetery committee minutes and those of the National Association of Cemetery Superintendents (NACS), archival records and published articles, a biographical note and short assessment of his work at the City is followed by the appraisal of three areas where Robertson’s influence can be identified: the founding of NACS in 1914; as a writer on cemetery management, and lastly, on the design of cemeteries.


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