On Saturday November 3rd 2018 at 11am at Teignmouth Old Cemetery there was a unique historic event – the first time ever that the war graves of Teignmouth Cemetery had been commemorated.
You can see a record of this ceremony on the following link: War Graves Ceremony
We have come a long way since this project first started in the summer and we are now approaching the end of the first phase.
This will be marked in a short ceremony at the cemetery on Saturday November 3rd at 11am. This will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 and recognise those who died in service and are buried in the 49 war graves scattered throughout the cemetery. As part of the ceremony a small cross and poppy will be placed on each grave.
Everyone is welcome to attend this historic event – the first time ever that the war graves of Teignmouth Cemetery have been commemorated in this way.
The provisional agenda for the ceremony is as follows:
||Neil Howell, Chairman FOTC
|Prayers and Blessing of Poppies
||Minister Jamie Redfern, Teignmouth Baptist Church
||Remembrance Committee/Royal British Legion
|Last Post, two minute silence, Reveille
||Terry Aisthorpe, Trumpeter
||Remembrance Committee/Royal British Legion
|Closing words and unveiling of the War Graves Commemorative Board
|Dispersal to lay Poppies on War Graves. Trinity School CCF
Returning to what the Friends of Teignmouth Cemetery have achieved since earlier this year?
- We have identified the location of each grave, both those solely with Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) headstones and those recognised by the CWGC but in family plots;
- We have secured a contract with the CWGC to tend for the graves which involves keeping the area around each grave clear of overgrowth and also providing access to the graves from the main paths;
- All the graves have now been cleared and are maintained on a regular basis by our group of committed volunteers;
- We have photographed every grave and those can be seen on the record pages on this site;
- A small group has been researching those people buried in the war graves and we are now starting to consolidate that information. This is very much work in progress; the information we gather will be added to the record pages over the next month or so and supplemented as and when new information comes to light;
- In our efforts we have been working with the Teignmouth branch of the Royal British Legion and the Town Council Remembrance Committee;
- We have produced a commemorative display board which will be unveiled at the ceremony on November 3rd. This lists everyone who is buried in the war graves and shows a map of the various war grave locations;
- Finally, as an interesting by-product of all this work we have come across a number of other graves of people who have died in service but who are not in official CWGC sites. We are clearing those graves as well and affording them the same respect of attention that has been given to the official graves.
In phase 2 of the project we shall be continuing the historic research and developing the web-site pages as more information comes to light. We are also planning to place some appropriate plants on or near each of the war graves.
This has been a significant project for us and has only been achieved through the energy and enthusiasm of our group of volunteers in all areas . We look forward to seeing everyone who can make it to the unique ceremony on November 3rd.
The children’s graves exposed
The area of the cemetery that we decided to clear first brought an unexpected finding – a row of children’s graves. We believe there are six, although only five have kerbstones which suggests that the sixth is an unmarked grave.
Most of the hard clearance work in this area has now been done which begs the question of “what next?” here. It has always been the plan to gradually plant up the graves and surroundings but we feel that that could be a waste of time at this stage because of the high likelihood of remaining roots and weed seeds in the graves.
So we are trying out an intermediate strategy – to cover the graves with weed-membrane and mulch and mark each grave with a small plant buried in its own pot for ease of lifting next year. We have started this with four of the children’s graves, each of which now has its own pot of lavender. The following photos show the steps:
First grave, re-weeded, raked over and with pot buried ready for planting
First grave with membrane
First grave completed and planted with lavender
4 graves completed and planted up
Charles Ethelred, first born son of Rev Charles A and Sarah V Sladen taken home 4th February 1895 aged 13 months
Charles Edward Cecil Moir born November 7th 1894, died Feb 8th 1895
Here are a few pictures showing the progress made so far on the main area of graves we have been working on. It has been HARD work, especially trying to eradicate the many years of growth of brambles and ivy, but we’re getting there. The next stage for this area will be to decide how we plant up to make it more attractive. There is also some work being undertaken around the buildings – pictures to follow. We still have some concerns which we are trying to address with the Council such as removal of all the waste and most importantly whether we can use one of the buildings for storing our equipment.
We found a line of child graves that had been completely overgrown
We have also now had a response from Teignbridge District Council about our proposal for the renovation of the buildings for community use. Click here to see that response. We are currently reviewing how we should respond to it since it does not match with our proposal or subsequent meetings we had with the Council. Our reply will be published here as well.
Finally we have decided to create a separate Facebook page. Whilst this website is good for keeping a record of everything being done related to the Cemetery it is not as immediate as Facebook. Facebook will enable us to post information and photos very quickly which is important now that we are getting into a regular system of work parties. Details to follow.
I missed it!! Thursday May 4th saw the first working party on the first site we had marked out for clearance and I missed it – away in sunny climes. But there was a lot of activity as you can see from the photographs below and I am told that much progress was made. Thanks to everyone who made it that day and to Elaine for capturing the moments.
We have recently submitted to Teignbridge District Council an Expression of Interest for the community use of the Old Cemetery buildings and site. As part of that we were also asked to submit a business plan.
Our response to that particular point was:
“With only two weeks, and no prior notice, to produce such a plan it would be disingenuous to produce anything which purported to be a definitive business proposition. However, we do have a clearly thought through view which is presented in this Outline Business Strategy. Our strength as a group is that we can call upon a wide range of skills, experiences and views to shape a cogent way forward for full community use of the site.
Our understanding is that at least one other organisation has had prior notice of the Expression of Interest and dealings with Teignbridge about the future of the site. They will, therefore, have had more time to prepare a full business plan. We hope that this is not pre-determination and that our proposition will not be discounted simply on the basis of not having had sufficient time or access to knowledge to produce such a plan.”
Teignbridge have said that they will be evaluating all Expressions of Interest over the next couple of weeks. It is probably best, in case we jeopardise our submission, that we hold back on publicising the full content here. But you can see a brief summary of the approach we have suggested at the following page: Expression of Interest Summary.
Community in Action
Thanks to everyone who turned up at the Community Photoshoot on Sunday. It was an impressive turnout and confirms the level of community support there is for the cemetery and buildings. Tony Wilson took a few photos and I am posting one of the group shots here. I will add the others, which are shots of the buildings to another page when I have a spare moment.
The idea of having a “history trail” around the cemetery has been mooted. The Walk This Way walking group went up to the Cemetery yesterday to have a short history walk around some of the graves which have already been cleared. There are some photos of that published on the Walk This Way Facebook site: walkthiswayteignmouth
I have sent a press release to both the Teignmouth Post and Torquay Herald Express about the photoshoot. It will be interesting to see if they are published (an earlier release to Teignmouth Post was not published last week). Here is what the release says:
“Local residents met on Sunday at the Teignmouth Old Cemetery Chapel to demonstrate their support for a community group comprising local people and charitable organisations, working together to submit an Expression of Interest to Teignbridge. Their aim is to gain a long lease on the buildings and bring them back under the auspices of the local community.
A number of people have volunteered much time over the last couple of years to clear and plant around some of the sadly neglected historical graves. Now they are setting up a ‘Friends of Teignmouth Cemetery’ to enable this work to continue and to develop several ideas for sympathetic and yet sustainable use of both the cemetery and its buildings.
People feel that this is the correct and democratic vehicle through which to submit a proposal and hope that Teignbridge will assist them in taking it out to wider public consultation so that a single project for multiple community use of that area can be established to the benefit of all parts of the community.
If you would like more information or an application form to join the ‘Friends of Teignmouth Cemetery’ email: firstname.lastname@example.org”
Finally, Teignmouth Cemetery is going global. This is a comment I have received from Sharon Williams who lives in Vancouver:
Although I live in Canada, I wish you luck in your fight to keep the cemetery building as a community use. I visited my great grandparents’ grave every month with my Gran back in the 50’s/60’s – to tend and leave fresh flowers – and have vivid memories of the peacefulness of the cemetery. Regards. Sharon Williams, Vancouver. British Columbia.
SAVE OUR CEMETERY
Two years ago Teignbridge announced a proposal to convert the Chapel and other attached buildings in Teignmouth Old Cemetery, Exeter Road to residential accommodation.
There was a huge public outcry and many people wrote to Teignbridge to object to the proposal.
All went quiet and the proposal was never submitted to the Planning Committee.
In the mean time a Community “Right to Buy” proposal was submitted to Teignbridge to enable some protection against any future commercial development of the Chapel. That was rejected by Teignbridge on the grounds that the Chapel was not in community use. Catch 22. Of course it wasn’t in community use because Teignbridge had allowed the buildings to fall into neglect and had boarded them up.
On Friday 13th January Teignbridge issued a new announcement (out of the blue) in the local paper (buried on p64) asking for Expressions of Interest for the renovation of the Chapel etc for community use. They have given only 8 working days to reply.
On the face of it this might suggest that Teignbridge have had a change of heart. But cynically it could be the reverse …. By burying it on p64 and only allowing 8 days to reply they could be hoping that no expressions of interest come forward. They could then say that they have had no expression of community interest and would then legitimately pursue commercial development.
Such a development could in turn lead (legally) to the conversion of the Old Cemetery land into land for building, destroying a significant part of Teignmouth’s history and heritage going back over 150 years.
We need to marshall a lot of community support over the next couple of weeks if we want to protect the cemetery. If you agree to trying to keep the Cemetery and buildings in community use please send an email to that effect to: email@example.com.
If you are able to give any direct help in putting together an Expression of Interest, organising publicity and drumming up support please include that in your email as well.
We already planning a few things and will let everyone know as soon as we have definite details.
Thomas Bidwill headstone
Taking advantage of the sunny weather I went up to the Cemetery yesterday to do a bit of weeding and more investigation, armed with various plot maps.
What are plot maps? See the new page I have added – [Plot Identification]
I eventually found the Thomas Bidwill grave which was completely covered in grass and ivy. The only sign a of grave was a slight ivy-covered mound. Pulling back the ivy revealed Thoma Bidwill’s headstone.
Thomas Bloomfield grave
Thomas Bloomfield’s grave was in a different location from where I had originally thought and was more easily identifiable …..
Finally I returned to Leah Lee’s grave for a bit of weeding. Surprisingly there seemd to be hundreds of natural bulbs coming through -yet to flower. In amongst them were snowdrops, crocuses and the geraniums we had planted last summer. Amazing that they had survived the winter; let’s hope that a late frost doesn’t kill them off.
Leah Lee’s grave
With Christmas and the long spate of wet weather recently there has not been the opportunity for more grave clearance in the past month or so. The next working party is planned for Saturday 6th February at 10am when we are hoping to clear the area of graves of the Croydon family.
Herald Express collage
However, the project did receive some useful publicity in a double-page spread in the Herald Express in early January. Click on the headline to see the full story:
“Stories of forgotten South Devon residents told after their hidden graves are revealed”
The article raised awareness and brought a few responses.
Norman White, from Hampshire, contacted us about his grandfather, Thomas Bloomfield who was a chief coastguard officer and is buried in the cemetery.
Site of Thomas Bloomfield’s grave
I have tracked down the area of the cemetery but as you can see from the attached photograph, more work is needed to identify the exact plot. The photo gives an idea of how overgrown the cemetery has become – this is only grass but I suspect the hedge has also encroached and hidden all the headstones.
Another letter came from Don Cockman who told us about a terracotta bowl he has with a still-life painting of fruit. The painting is signed “T Bidwill, Teignmouth, 1894”. Again we have identified the area of the cemetery where he is buried but can not locate the exact grave because of the undergrowth. We are awaiting a map showing precise plot locations.
Still Life, Thomas Bidwill
Finally Barbara Donnelly offered to help with the research we are trying to do.
Barbara is keen on Genealogy and has already unearthed family information about Thomas Bidwill. He is listed in the census information as a ‘Painter’ so I wonder if we can discover any more of his works?