Janine Marriott 2022

Arnos Vale Trust, Bristol, UK

The never-ending spreadsheet of historic cemeteries in the UK and Ireland

When I began my research, I naively believed there would be a complete list of all the cemeteries in the UK and Ireland that I could use to underpin my research on public engagement. I was wrong, so I began one. This is a review of the interesting information I discovered whilst attempting this Sisyphean task; the lessons about the development of these sites that I learnt along the way – when does a cemetery start being a cemetery, what is a cemetery, when is a cemetery officially closed, who now runs and manages these spaces and the often-complicated relationships that occur between friend’s groups, councils, and private companies. This research also revealed the wide extent of the grassroots public engagement that is occurring all over the UK and Ireland and how much local communities were using their local historic cemeteries, and the different ways they were undertaking this. It also revealed the extent to which social media is being used to engage people with these historic sites. The development of the spreadsheet also my challenged ideas about the development of historic cemeteries, and the long-held theories about their development, use and decline. This paper will also hopefully share some useful insights into the state and use of 19th century cemeteries in the 21st century and begins to explore what the future may hold for some of them.


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