Municipal cemetery closed 1937
A municipal cemetery, Locksbrook Cemetery (which is situated on the Upper Bristol Road) was opened in 1864 and closed in 1937 together with St James Cemetery (on the Lower Bristol Road) when Haycombe Cemetery was opened.
There have been over 30000 burials there, including some of cremated remains in old family graves in recent years. The tally of the great and good, famous and not so famous, buried here is as great as that in Abbey or Lansdown Cemeteries. And Locksbrook boasts an enormous number of large memorials, having over twice as many above 4' as its nearest rival (Abbey); one of which boasts a copper mermaid.
Unfortunately, its popularity in the past has resulted in difficulties in identifying graves unless marked by memorials. Its beautiful old maps bear very little relationship to the burials on the ground as burials were carried out in pathways and anywhere that there was a space when the cemetery was approaching the end of its life. Its fairly chaotic numbering system, totally unlike the rigidly numbered/lettered rows at Haycombe and elsewhere, also adds intrigue and is a major learning curve for cemeteries staff.
And to cap it all, the grave register, which must have been maintained in the past, is missing. The burial register is in tact and available, but it means that only individual burials can be researched. Normally in other cemeteries/churchyards once a particular individual is identified and his/her burial date ascertained, staff are able to pinpoint the grave space by number and then referring to the grave register they can tell who else is buried in the same grave - often adding another thread to the weave for family history buffs. Unfortunately to everyone's frustration this cannot happen if the burial took place in Locksbrook Cemetery.
More information on the general area can be found on the environmental planning pages of the council's website.
Maintenance of grounds
Locksbrook Cemetery is designated a Nature Conservation Site in the Bath Local Plan. It is important as an area beneficial to local flora and fauna for several reasons:
- it is not heavily used by the public.
- no pesticides are used in its maintenance.
- it is a green oasis in an urban landscape
It has a similar grounds maintenance regime to all closed cemeteries and churchyards with Bath and North East Somerset. It is mown/strimmed fortnightly (or as close to that as the weather allows) during the cutting season - March to October/November. Winter works such as pruning, tree works, etc. are carried out if necessary between December and February. Some designated areas are left to grow slightly longer to encourage small rodents such as shrews in order to feed the owls which hunt in the cemetery at night.
The species of trees in Locksbrook are most unusual including Phillyrea latifolia, Sequoiadendron gigantea, Ailanthus altissima, Thuja plicata 'Zebrina', Araucaria araucaria and unidentified but very aged Japanese Cherries. They are such an important feature and are looked after by the council's Parks Arboricultural officer. Although all trees are inspected annually, the cemetery is notionally divided into five areas enabling a cyclical programme of works to remove the majority of invasive trees and scrub species which threaten the species trees and grassland habitat which are the main features of the site. A planned programme of re-planting will take place to maintain the characteristic style of the cemetery.
HM Probationary Service have recently been of great assistance to Bereavement Service's staff in clearing overgrown areas of the cemetery by bringing groups of people willing to carry out their community service doing this type of work.
The famous painter Frederic, Lord Leighton, although buried in St Paul's Cathedral, is commemorated on the grave shared by his parents and siblings.
Whilst not perhaps so familiar a name today outside of archery circles, Horace Ford is also buried in Locksbrook Cemetery. He was a British Champion archer 12 times during his career - from 1849 until 1859 and again in 1867 - and wrote a definitive guide entitled Archery; Its Theory and Practice, still in use. (His name would have been a household name then in the same way that present day footballers' names are today.) His memorial was refurbished in 2004 by the Grand National Archery Society.
On a more sombre note, on the left-hand side of the pathway leading to the mortuary chapels, two stone angels mark the graves of two little girls murdered together by John Straffen in 1951.
Many of the lovely memorials in Locksbrook are in need of conservation and/or repair - unfortunately a function that is outside the council's remit. If anyone is interested in forming a friends group, please contact Bereavement Services (see contact details) - staff will be more than ready to offer advice and support for such a venture.
Bereavement Services carries out a 5 year rolling programme of memorial testing to ensure that memorials are preserved as well as possible. The council does not have the right to restore memorials, but it does have the responsibility to make the cemetery a reasonably safe place to visit which enables it to lay down any memorials in danger of falling. Safety in cemeteries has improved so much since such programmes were introduced, that now the main benefit from testing is to ensure that memorials are not left to rot until they fall smashing themselves, or neighbouring memorials, or both, in the process.
The Commonwealth Grave War Commission finance the maintenance of the war grave section in Locksbrook Cemetery. This section contains the graves of 44 casualties of World War 1. There is a Cross of Remembrance on the same site. Another 44 war graves from the same war 1914-1918 are spread out in family graves throughout the cemetery with 32 more from World War 11also buried in individual family plots.
Five VC holders are either buried or commemorated on a memorial in Locksbrook Cemetery:
- William Francis Frederick Waller - Lieutenant, Bombay Light Infantry - for action during the capture of Gwalior, Indian Mutiny, 20th June 1858.
- George Alexander Renny - Lieutenant, Bengal Horse Artillery - for bravery in mounting the walls and flinging live shells from the Dehli Magazine, Indian Mutiny, 16th September 1857.
- Thomas Egerton Hale - Assistant Surgeon, 7th Regiment - for gallantly saved several wounded men during the second assault on the Redan at Sebastapol carried out on 8th September 1855 during the Crimean War. He is not buried here, but is mentioned on the grave of his wife Emily.
- Charles Henry Lumley - Captain, 97th Regiment - for extreme valour during the same assault. He is not buried here, but is mentioned on the grave of his wife Letitia.
- Herbert Taylor Reade - Surgeon, 61st Regiment - for courage in attending to the wounded under fire and also leading an assault against the rebels, Siege of Dehli, Indian Mutiny 14th - 20th September 1857.
In front of the Chapel is the double spaced grave, surmounted by a cross adorned with laurels and a sword, of Thomas Everard Hutton who survived the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava despite being seriously wounded.
Another casualty of war was the ornate railing that bordered the cemetery, sent for scrap in the call for metals during the second World War.
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