Next Steps

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







Progress Update

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.

Charles Ethelred

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.


First Working Party

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.


Our First Survey

Survey site from direction of chapel

Finally we have our public liability insurance and a completed risk assessment. This means that Teignbridge have now been able to give us official permission to be able to work in the cemetery.

Last Thursday a group of us visited the Cemetery to survey the first area which we will be clearing. This gave us a chance to test out the risk assessment document and to mark out the area – this now cordoned off with barrier tape in accordance with the risk register. Looks a bit like a crime scene, doesn’t it?!!

Survey site from below

We photographed all the graves and have also made written records of what could be deciphered on the graves. Interestingly (more to come) we have been offered some assistance with cutting edge technology (associated with Exeter University) which can photographically reconstruct wording which may be unclear or eroded.

One of our volunteers will be starting some historical research on the graves and we also carried out a quick flower survey of the area. We will be attempting to conserve any interesting wild plants which may be dug up as part of the clearance.

Close up of two of the large tombs

Now the hard work can start in clearing the graves. Fortunately much of the bramble and ivy had been cut away previously by Dawlish Garden Trust but there are still roots to be grubbed out. The first working party is planned for next Thursday 4th May at 1pm – anyone who would like to help is most welcome. We are still in the process of purchasing tools so for this first working party it would help if everyone could bring a fork or spade or some hand-tools themselves.

This first area will be significant for us in testing out what the best approach to clearance could be and also how long it takes. That will help in mapping out a long-term plan.

Thanks to everyone for your support so far.

Finding Mary Bowden’s Grave

Katrine Smith at the site of Mary Bowden’s grave

Last Thursday I went up to the cemetery armed with a stake and a hammer ….. and before anyone says it, no I wasn’t vampire hunting – I also had a makeshift plaque and a tape-measure.

I was there to meet up with Katrine Smith, the Cemetery Officer from Teignbridge.  She came clutching two maps which were the plot maps from two areas of the cemetery marked as “F”.

We were in search of the unmarked grave of Mary Bowden, the first person to be buried in the cemetery on 4th February 1856.

It turned out I didn’t need the tape measure since Katrine was skilled in pacing the area and ‘feeling’ the ground to ascertain whether there was actually a grave at the spot we were standing on.  We meticulously cross-referenced the spot against nearby marked graves so that there could be a cross-check later, back at the office.

The improvised plaque


One hour later, SUCCESS!!  We were 99% certain that we had identified Mary Bowden’s grave and planted the stake and plaque in the ground there.  Katrine double-checked the records later and confirmed the location of plot F51.

A job well done.

It would be nice to mark the spot a little more ceremoniously in the future – perhaps with a special memorial plaque.


Adjacent grave of Henry Earl, Jane Earl and Thomas Finch


In the process we came across the adjacent grave which had been purchased 50 years after the original interment and with a headstone erected at that time – it looks like there might be an interesting story there for the future.




Cemetery Records

Last week I met with Katrine Smith, the Cemetery Officer for Teignbridge District Council.  She very kindly, and with great enthusiasm, showed me the records that are held on the Teignmouth Old Cemetery.

We looked at the fascinating old map of the burial plots and looked up the records of Leah Laforgue, the first person whose grave we cleared as part of this project.

We also identified the records of Mary Bowden, the first person to be buried in the cemetery on 4th February 1856 and is in an unmarked grave.

We are planning to find that grave!

I have posted details on the following pages:

We are not alone

Help Volunteer

Help Volunteer

A few days ago I received an email from Jaki, one of the FOTC Friends:

“Was just in London and friend’s flat backs onto Brompton Cemetery.  Walked through there.  Some areas totally overgrown but they are clearing and working to restore and have an ongoing project.”


Accompanying the text below are some of the photos that Jaki took.




National Federation of Cemetery Friends

Protect our cemetery for everyone

Protect our cemetery for everyone

All over the country there are groups working to restore local cemeteries.  We have contacted the National Federation of Cemetery Friends which represents groups of volunteers interested in conserving cemeteries large and small.  The Cemetery Friends give their time clearing and maintaining areas, often working with local ecology groups to maintain a balance between wildlife and heritage.  Friends may also provide guided walks, open days and special events and work on projects with English Heritage and other organisations.  Some groups have restored memorials and chapels.

Associate members of the National Federation include trusts, councils, organisations who manage cemeteries and burials and individual members who are not part of a Friends group but share in their values.

They have produced an excellent booklet “Saving Cemeteries, A Handbook for Cemetery Friends” which draws on experiences from a number of Friends groups across the country.  It includes case studies on:  Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol; Woodbury Park Cemetery, Tunbridge Wells; Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead; Sheffield General Cemetery; Beckett Street Cemetery, Leeds; The Rosary, Norwich; Nunhead Cemetery, SE London.

Why should our cemeteries be saved?

A Green Sanctuary

A Green Sanctuary

Cemeteries are pieces of ground set aside for burials.  There are around 14,000 cemeteries in the UK. Many cemeteries are closed for new burial plots, although they may be open for the interring (burying) of ashes.  Many cemeteries are attached to churches, some are operated privately and many are run by Local Authorities.

However, urban burial grounds in the 19th century were originally envisaged as public open spaces, and were professionally designed to be attractive places to visit in their own right.  As well as functioning as burial sites, they were also regarded as places for visiting and promenading of “a more dignified and morally uplifting kind”.  The nineteenth-century legislation that provided for new burial grounds seemed to have envisaged that they would in due course become public open spaces (for which provision was made in the Open Spaces Acts 1887 and 1906).

Today, many cemeteries are neglected, with little to attract anyone apart from those visiting specific burial plots. This lack of design, planning and ambition means that the potential health and environmental benefits of cemeteries are not being realised.

Incredible Heritage Assets

Incredible Heritage Assets

There is a strong case to be made that cemeteries have especial architectural and landscape interest because they have often been trapped in a time-warp, and have not been modified, adapted, overlaid, or even destroyed, as has so much else in the historic environment.

This is an argument that is becoming increasingly heard elsewhere in Europe.  There are a very large number of listed buildings in cemeteries, according to the National Monuments Record Centre, including lodges and houses, boundary walls, gates, mortuary chapels, cemetery chapels, tombs, and mausoleums.

So cemeteries are a unique mirror on our history and heritage whilst offering an opportunity for the future – a return to the original concept of “Open Space”, providing opportunities for encouraging wide community use.

The above includes extracts from the following sources:

Funeral Map ….

National Federation of Cemetery Friends ….

Cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds ….