Death, landscape and memorialisation in Victorian urban society: Nottingham's General Cemetery (1837) and Church Cemetery (1856)

Journal article


Elliott, Paul 2021. Death, landscape and memorialisation in Victorian urban society: Nottingham's General Cemetery (1837) and Church Cemetery (1856). Transactions of the Thoroton Society. 124.
AuthorsElliott, Paul
Abstract

This article argues that through their buildings, landscaping, planting, monuments and management, Nottingham’s Victorian garden cemeteries functioned as heterotopias and heterochronias enabling visitors to traverse the globe, serving as portals to remote places and linking past with present and future and the living and dead. By the 1820s, the town faced problems associated with a high population density, crowded churchyards and poor public health, exacerbated by space restrictions caused by burgess rights to surrounding common lands. From the 1830s campaigners called for a comprehensive enclosure act with associated public green spaces intended to compensate the burgesses for loss of rights of common. As the first specially-designed public green space established under the reformed corporation, the General Cemetery (1837) played a crucial role in winning support for the Nottingham Enclosure Act (1845). This enabled the creation of the Nottingham Arboretum (1852) and other interconnected public parks and walks, providing additional space for the General Cemetery and land for a new Anglican Church Cemetery (1856). Landscaped and planted like a country-house garden with some (but not universal) interdenominational support, the General Cemetery provided a model for the public parks laid out after the 1845 act. It was also seen as an arboretum because of its extensive tree collection, which pre-dated the arboretums in Derby (1840) and Nottingham (1852). The Church Cemetery too, with its commanding location, landscaping, planting, antiquities and rich historical associations, likewise effectively served as another public park. Although quickly joined by other urban and suburban cemeteries in the Nottingham vicinity, the two Victorian garden cemeteries served the needs of a modern industrial population whilst invoking memories of communities long gone. Like the botanical gardens, arboretums, art galleries, museums and libraries, the two cemeteries were intended to further the objectives of middle-class rational recreationists as well as to serve moral and religious purposes and foster urban identity, even if, like them, they remained institutions divided by class and religion.

Keywordslandscape and environmental history; historical geography; death; memorialisation
Year2021
JournalTransactions of the Thoroton Society
Journal citation124
PublisherThe Thoroton Society
ISSN0309-9210
Web address (URL)http://www.thorotonsociety.org.uk/publications/tts/trans124.htm
hdl:10545/625817
Output statusPublished
Publication dates13 May 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited14 Jun 2021, 09:04
Accepted14 Dec 2020
ContributorsUniversity of Derby
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File Access Level
Restricted
File
File Access Level
Open
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