Lennie Kellaher and David Lambert 2010

The Cities Institute, London Metropolitan University, UK/The Parks Agency, UK

The significance of an historic cemetery site to local sets of interest

Cemeteries are frequently sites of contestation. Grave owners and cemetery managers; clergy and the public; interest groups and mourners; ‘romantics/conservationists’ and ‘tidiers’; new and traditional user groups – to cite a few of the groups that can sometimes find themselves in opposition. The living and the dead rarely seem to be pitched in battle, though ‘ the liminal power of the mourner’ (Turner, 1969) sometimes seems to invoke the dead to render the living more powerful or dominant in contest. A study of West Norwood Cemetery, undertaken from 2008 through to the summer and autumn of 2009, aimed to understand how far and in what ways the local community valued the Cemetery. It was undertaken in two phases; first came an account of the landscape, made up of the vegetation and monuments and recommendations for their management. Second came a survey of around 100 people who lived or worked locally, who visited or knew of the cemetery and were prepared to say what aspects of the site they valued. This paper summarises the main findings and speculates on the possibilities for bridging gaps between the different sets of interest, insofar as such bridging is necessary for the Cemetery’s’ sustainability.


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