musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Finding the Fallen: Prestbury, Cheltenham

The nice thing about moving to a new city is that there are new cemeteries to explore, and Cheltenham was no exception. They have a large cemetery very close to the city centre called Prestbury, and it was to this cemetery that I wended my way on the 18th of January.
There are 181 CWGC burials in the cemetery, as well as 28 Crematorium mentions, so I would have my work cut out for me if I wanted to grab most of the graves. Naturally I would be on the look out for the Angel population and of course anything that would grab my interest.
I had a feeling that the cemetery was a big one, it certainly looked like it on Google Earth, so I was not quite sure what I would find. The Lodge is just inside the main gate and it was now privately owned like so many other cemetery lodges. 
The map was interesting, because it showed the curves that were popular before the bean counters took over, and I suspected there was a mix of old and really old graves, with the more modern iterations moving away from the main gate.
The first military encounter I made was with the Gloucesters Memorial, and it is really a step back in time. The memorial comprising original crosses erected over the graves of men who were killed on the battle fields. Unfortunately the crosses were painted brown and that has really made them look less than historic. If anything they should have been varnished and left as they were originally. Most of the inscriptions are no longer legible either, which is really a pity.

And then we were off…. list clutched in my hands and shutter finger cocked. It was quite a warm day and the sun kept on coming and going which really messed with my photography. Just inside the gates is the Cross of Sacrifice, and the all crucial split that dictates how much of the cemetery you will get to see. I decided to head left because there was a CWGC grave on that side.
This was a Roman Catholic area, and it was in this area where I encountered the first angel statue. and it was the first of many. Prestbury has an impressive collection of oldies and new versions, and most were in a very good condition.
In fact that was one thing that impressed me about this cemetery, it was clean, well maintained, with very little sign of vandalism or neglect. Unfortunately though I did find that legibility on the headstones was not great, which was a pity because there were quite a few very impressive family stones.

 And then there is the chapel building….

I have seen a number of these in my travels, and I think the one at Prestbury outdoes them all. It is a spectacular building, in an excellent condition, and as beautiful as any church could be. Unfortunately I could not access the two chapels or the crematorium in it, but I spent quite a bit of time photographing the gargoyles and stonework of it.

I worked my way towards the back of the cemetery, crossing off names as I went. There was a small Australian plot close to the chapels and it did make walking the rows much easier.

But most of my graves were individuals scattered throughout and consequently I covered a lot of ground although I did not really concentrate too much on the thousands of graves all around me.

At some point I reached the boundary between 1950 and upwards, and it was unlikely that I would find any CWGC graves after that and started sweeping my way across the cemetery. It was really a pleasure to work this cem because I did not have to concentrate on not falling into a hole too much. The beauty of good maintenance is that my life was much easier.
My list was also shrinking and it was about time to find the cremations that were mentioned on the CWGC website. There were also three graves mentioned on the cemetery plans, but they were not historic in the way I would have liked. There are 5 VC graves in the cemetery, and I picked up the plaque for one of them,  although I was not specifically hunting for them. At some point I probably will, but this was not the day.
In fact I was starting to get tired, and home was looking more like an option. I started weaving my way towards the exit, although I really wanted to look at the Gardens of Remembrance before I left. 
It was a very pretty area, and I considered that if I pop my clogs one fine day this would be a suitable place to end up. Where do I sign? Unfortunately I did not find my missing crem plaque, but with hindsight I was looking in the wrong area. One more thing to do on a return visit. 
Behind the Gardens of Remembrance is the Ukranian Memorial
And that pretty much was the last image I took.  Unfortunately the 21 graves I am missing are probably PM’s so finding them is going to be very difficult, so I cannot completely mentally tick off this cemetery. One day I will be back.
And I am confident that the visit will be enjoyable because this is a very enjoyable cemetery to walk.

Update: 08/08/2015

Yesterday I revisited Prestbury to find the 5 Victoria Cross graves in the cemetery and clear some of the missing CWGC graves. I managed to find 13 more, and understand a bit more about how the cemetery is numbered, although I am still puzzled about where some of the graves are.

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