A Brief History of the Victorian Garden Cemetery at Spital


In the 19th century the country’s population was increasing rapidly so there
was also an increase in the number of people dying. Existing burial grounds
were full to overflowing and were often a health hazard. At the same time the
number of nonconformists (Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists
etc) was increasing and they did not want to be buried in consecrated
ground according to the rites of the Established Church.
Between 1832 and 1857 a series of acts relating to burial were passed; these
allowed the closure of burial grounds and the establishment of public
cemeteries administered by Burial Boards. The cemetery on Uttoxeter Road
in Derby which had opened in 1843 and was operated by a private company,
was taken over by the new Burial Board in 1855. Chesterfield was to follow
soon after.

The ratepayers of Chesterfield were summoned to a meeting by the Mayor,
W. Drabble,  on 19th July 1855 to consider the need for a new burial ground
for Chesterfield and the Hamlets within the Parish of Chesterfield. By the
following March 1856, after some initial teething problems, the new Burial
Board agreed to establish a cemetery at Spital. At first sight a steep hillside
may seem a strange choice for a cemetery but at that time cemeteries were
laid out as garden cemeteries which were attractive places to visit, with
trees, flower beds and winding paths.
It was estimated that the total cost of buying the land, erection of buildings
and layout of the site would be £6,272 17s 6d. In May 1856 a competition
was held for the design of the Plans, Elevations and Sections for the erection
of Lodge with Board Room, Entrance Gates, Reception House, and two
Cemetery Chapels (the Chapels to be under one roof) to be accompanied
with Estimates for the execution of the whole, including enclosing the ground
with walls and fences, Chapel fittings, &c. The cost for the buildings was not
to exceed £2,200. A second competition was held for a design for the layout
of the grounds. Thirty-six designs were submitted for the chapels
and fifteen for laying out the grounds. Messrs Bidlake and Lovatt of
Wolverhampton submitted the winning plans for the chapels and F.C. Gillett
(a local mining engineer) the design for the grounds. Land for the burial
ground was purchased from the executors of the late Mr Lowndes for £3,596
and a mortgage £6,992 on the poor rate of the Chesterfield and Tapton
townships arranged, of which Tapton’s share was be £720.

There was much debate in particular about the balance on the board
between Churchmen and Dissenters and the unfair allocation of land and
about the charges for burials. The Cemetery was outside the

Township of Chesterfield and the cost of burials for people from outside
Chesterfield and Tapton were higher. This penalised Nonconformists from
outside Chesterfield and Tapton who wanted to be buried in un-consecrated
ground. A complex scale of charges was eventually agreed with
specified times of funerals and fines if the funeral late. Also, there was no
provision for Roman Catholics.
Finally everything was resolved to some degree and the Bishop of Lichfield
visited Chesterfield on August 19th 1857 in order to consecrate the new
church at Newbold before proceeding to the consecration of the
Chesterfield and Tapton Cemetery. Spital Cemetery was the second public
cemetery in the county after Derby.

Mary Ann Bridgett, aged 2 weeks, was the first person to be buried on 23rd
August 1857 in an unmarked grave. In 2017 a new headstone was erected to
mark the place of this first burial. The next three burials were of children of
one year of age or less. The first tombstone (a ledger, so flat on the ground)
was that of John Holland, surgeon. The first burial in un-consecrated ground
was on 23rd September. The first RC burial in the Cemetery was of James
Patrick Kelly, a 4 day old infant, in Common Ground. In 1859 land for the use
of Roman Catholics was consecrated and Kate Broomhead Mee, aged 1
year, was buried there in an unmarked grave, on 27th July 1859. Many
people who were prominent in Chesterfield in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries are buried in Spital Cemetery as well as some of the lowliest.