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, and what implications this may have for the use and management of these hidden places. It draws on interviews with cemeteries managers and observation in cemeteries from throughout England and Wales to outline two arenas of contestation. First, that of the cemetery’s role within a city, and second the role of the space inside the cemetery boundary. The differing constructions of these spaces raise questions for spatial policy makers about acknowledging multiple and potentially conflicting constructions of cemetery space and the possibility of acknowledging ‘spiritual’ values within planning and land management.