Cemeteries and Graveyards
As the population of England grew there was a need for more places to bury our dead. Each church’s graveyard held the dead of its parish and burying the dead was only allowed on the lands near a church. The church graveyards became full to overflowing and there was a need for more space, which often could not be found by expanding the size of existing graveyards. Cemeteries came into being to provide this space. Cemeteries are a particular type of burial ground that developed in Britain from the 1820s.
After the initial opening of private cemeteries in the 1830s and 1840s, a second wave of local authority cemeteries was opened from the 1850s onwards. These were run by ‘Burial Boards’, and offered burial space for all sectors of society, based on the established garden cemetery model of the private companies. Anyone could be buried in a cemetery, not just orthodox Christians. They provided burial places for non-conformists and non episcopal burials as well as Christians who could not or did not wish to be buried in their local church’s graveyard. The word “cemetery” comes from Old French cimetiere, which originally comes from Greek koimeterion, meaning “a sleeping place”.
Alverstoke Burial Board
Before the mid 19th century most cemeteries were run as a private business and others by local authorities. The Burial Act of 1852 established Burial Boards which provided new publicly run cemeteries. At Gosport the renowned Portsmouth architect Thomas Ellis Owen was engaged to design a new cemetery at Ann’s Hill Lane, Gosport, south of Leesland Road. The layout and design was supervised by the Alverstoke Burial Board who acquired by purchase eight statute acres of land from the then current leaseholder. Owen designed two mortuary chapels and a porter’s lodge adjacent to the entrance, together with the perimeter brick wall. The wall was enhanced by trees that bordered its entire length. The two small chapels were at first referred to as the Dissenter’s Chapel to the north and the Episcopal Chapel to the south, which also had a small integral bell tower. The bell is sadly no longer in place. Beneath the bell tower, through the side door, is a small (night)watchman’s room with its own fireplace.
Through the entrance, with the porters lodge to its north, paths led out in four directions from a central circular flower bed with a fountain in the middle. In the north-east corner a small gate led to a church path, or corpse road which ran northwards to Leesland Road. This was for mourners to carry the dead to the cemetery if they could not afford a cart or carriage. To the south-east of the cemetery was a small mortuary building now completely demolished.
The ground was consecrated on 27 March 1855 and the cemetery opened in April 1855.
The east wall of the cemetery was bounded by a large brick field which was no longer in use by 1887 when the cemetery was extended eastwards. By this time each of the chapels was given a porch. A date stone bearing this date with A.B.B. (Alverstoke Burial Board) can be seen in the outside wall of the small St Faith’s Mission Hall in Tribe Road, with another inside the brick wall at the end of Vernon Close.
Gosport Council Cemetery
In 1891 it was reported at a meeting of the Alverstoke Burial Board that the aggregate burials was 12,700, a yearly average of 353 .It was proposed in December 1900 that the duties of the Alverstoke Burial Board be transferred to the Council as provided by the Local Government Act of 1894. By 1898 an office was added to the south side of the entrance opposite the porter’s lodge with a covered gateway connected the two. Ann’s Hill Cemetery came under the control of the District Council in 1901 and the cemetery was extended by adding an area of land on the west side of Ann’s Hill Road, north of Wilmott Lane. By this time the north chapel had become the ‘Nonconformist’ chapel and the south one the ‘Church of England’ chapel. A proposed further extension to the west end was discussed by the Council in 1920, costing £800 and four and a half acres of land on the west side of Ann’s Hill Lane (to become Ann’s Hill Road) were added in 1934. Today only the south chapel is in use.
There are many interesting monuments to the departed on the East side of the road, the earlier cemetery. This includes a large monument, close to the two chapels, which dominates the entrance. This is the family resting place of Sir John Somner Sedley, Baronet of Morley Hall in the county of Norfolk: Born 21st August 1762: Died 21st February 1829, who lived in Ballard Lodge, Bury Road, Gosport.
Other prominent Gosport names can be found on nearby monuments, including one to John Griffin Parham of Forton Lodge. He built the Parham Road estate and Leonard Road, which was named after one of his sons. There is another to the Sloane Stanley’s of Bay House. A stone to Henry Cook records that he founded the Seamens’ Missions in Gosport. One to Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Fry, Gosport Architect who laid out Gosport Park. This is still well-kept but most others are overgrown and neglected such as the one to Charles Mumby of the well-known Portsmouth and Gosport Mumby’s Mineral Water Company.
Hampshire Telegraph – Saturday 31 March 1855
Portsmouth Evening News – Tuesday 10 September 1901
Hampshire Telegraph – Friday 29 June 1934