The keepers of the Cemetery

Written by Jan Clark

While searching the burial records I was intrigued by two burials recorded in June 1849. They were infant twins whose address was ‘Cemetery Lodge’. The twins, Richard who lived for four days and Jane who lived for seven days, were the children of William and Ann Farmer.

Further investigation revealed that in 1851 William was the ‘cemetery keeper’. He lived with his wife Ann and their four other children, John, Thomas, Ann and George.

Another tragedy befell the family later in 1851 when Ann died and was buried in the cemetery.

In 1853 William married again, to Sarah Strange, originally from Wiltshire.

By the time of the 1861 Census William was 67 and still working as the ‘clerk, sexton and cemetery keeper’. His duties would probably include record keeping, possibly digging of graves and maintenance of the cemetery. The children were still living with their parents. John and George both worked for a seed merchant, probably Sutton’s, whose trial grounds were nearby, while Thomas who was 18 is described as the ‘clerk’s son’ so possibly assisted his father with the tasks that may have been becoming arduous for him.

By 1871 Thomas had indeed taken over his father’s job and was living at the ‘cemetery gates’ with his wife Ann and three sons. Another son was born in 1872 but died at 7 months old.

William, his father, died around 1876.

By 1891 the Farmers were no longer living at the cemetery. A new ‘superintendent’, Alfred Gibbs, lived at the ‘cemetery house’ with his wife and children, two daughters and a son. He had previously worked as a stonemason and was superintendent for 38 years. He and his family seem to have lived at the ‘cemetery lodge’ as long as he worked there. Gibbs died in 1928 at the age of 76. He was buried in the cemetery and his wife, Mary Ann who died in 1934 and eldest daughter Eva Mary who died in 1947, share the same grave. According to the transcription record it can be found in Section 57 of the cemetery, so should be able to be located.

It would be really interesting to know what living accommodation the ‘cemetery lodge’ contained during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because the interior has been so extensively changed during more recent years.