Closed burial ground
The cemetery is one of only three cemeteries designed by Loudon and it opened in 1842, following cessation of burials in the Abbey itself. It contains memorials to many of the great and good of Bath of that time, as do Lansdown and Bathwick Cemeteries and, slightly later, Locksbrook Cemetery. It was closed by Order in Council at the Court at Osborne House, Isle of Wight on 21st July 1855.
Inside the gate an interpretation board, funded by a grant from Bath and North East Somerset Council, gives information on the native flora and fauna to be observed in the cemetery.
At the top of the main drive into the cemetery the visitor will encounter a Crimean War Memorial and continuing on towards the mortuary chapel will come to an expanse of grass immediately in front of it which was the first resting place of Beckford. However, his daughter, the Duchess of Hamilton, arranged for the land adjacent to Beckford's Tower to be consecrated for burial as Lansdown Cemetery and had his remains and memorial transferred there two years later.
Maintenance of grounds
Grounds maintenance responsibility for Abbey Cemetery was transferred to the then Bath City Council in 1995 following years of neglect. Since that time Bath and North East Somerset's Bereavement Service has managed it to maximise the ecological value acquired during those years, whilst creating pathways which are mown fortnightly (weather permitting) during the cutting season to enable easy access for people to enjoy the peace and tranquility of this beautiful spot.
The rest of the cemetery is mown in the autumn/winter following the growing season when the cuttings are removed to encourage wild flowers. Trees are inspected annually by one of the council's arboriculturalists.
The mortuary chapels remain the responsibility of the Church of England and enquiries about the building should be directed to the Abbey office. Ownership of the cemetery remains with the Church of England, so Bereavement Service's staff work as closely as possible with Abbey officers.
There are many famous and/or interesting people buried in Abbey including more recently Arnold Ridley who played 'Godfrey' in Dad's Army - all records are now kept at the Abbey office.
The Widcombe Residents' Association has produced several tombstone trails, accessible from the mown paths.
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 only Victoria Cross holder buried here was John Bythesea, Lieutenant, HMS Arrogant. He was born at Freshford and received the award for bravery in the Baltic, Crimean War. He landed behind enemy lines and remained hidden before intercepting and capturing Russion dispatches between 9th and 12th August 1854. He died in London, but his grave is situated on the third row on the left (as you walk from the mortuary chapel) just over half way down the central aisle of the first block. It is marked by an 8ft Celtic Cross. This V.C. was the second to be gazetted and there is a plaque commemorating the event in Freshford Church, where his father was rector.
World War 1 war graves - Privates J. St C. Cotterell of the 10th Btn Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regt) who died in May 1917 and C. J. H. Rawlings of the 4th Btn Gloucestershire Regt attd. Royal Air Force.