musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

United Reformed Church Burial Ground, Tewkesbury

I originally read about this graveyard while researching other possible sites of interest in Tewkesbury, and to be frank I mixed it up with another potential site close by. However, thanks to my sharp work colleague I was able to confirm the location of the graveyard, but was not able to physically get into it to photograph it.

The graveyard is situated behind the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Barton Street, and is not accessible except through the Kingdom Hall front gates. I did try to see whether access was available from the back, but to no avail.

I reconnoitred the surrounding alleys and possible access points, hoping that one day it would be open and I could get behind the building, but that never happened and I then decided that the best thing to do was to go there just before a service and see if I could find somebody who would let me take a quick look.  The Sunday service was at 9.45 so it was do-able and that is why I am writing this post. 

The graveyard is not a large space but it is full, and surrounded by walls that make access impossible. It does not back onto an accessible piece of land, although the area behind it is waste land that is overgrown and unused. Could that have been part of the graveyard? 

It is hard to know how many are buried here, and there is no space for additional graves,  A number of headstones have been laid against the walls of the classroom wing, and I suspect that some may have been wall memorials from when this was a United Reformed Church, but that is speculation on my part only.  The marker below is particularly interesting as it commemorates the wife of the  pastor of the original church. It could be the pastor is also buried here somewhere. Sadly not all the headstones are legible and a number are in a poor condition. 

Overall though the graveyard is in a surprisingly good condition because it is rarely disturbed, the person I spoke to said that they do clean it up and clear any litter or detritus.

The original building dates back to 1820, while the classroom wing was added in 1836 and 1839. It is a grade II listed building

There were a number of low headstones with only initials and a year on them. I have seen these before and usually they were footstones of a grave, but I cannot wonder whether these are not the graves of very young children or babies. A glance at the register may provide an answer, that is assuming a register does exist. In the meantime, who was EH, MAH, LH and JH? Are their ancestors buried here? do descendants still live in Tewkesbury? 

And then it was time to leave as the service was about to start. I did find out that the service ends around about midday and was invited to stop by to have a look at the interior of the church and I may just take them up on that offer. My special thanks to the kind people of the Kingdom Hall for permission to look at the graveyard, 

Update: 04/12/2016

I returned to the Kingdom Hall a week later and shot new images in the glorious sunlight that we had on that day. These images replace the originals here. 

I was also able to see inside the building and it bears no real resemblance to the original, but then it had been altered a number of years ago, although I believe aspects of the original chapel still exist, but it has since been blocked off by the suspended ceiling. 

Once again I was struck by the friendliness and helpfulness of the members of the Kingdom Hall who went out of their way to assist me in my quest. It is such a pity that many of the conventional parish churches that I have been in had not learnt that lesson. Thank you.

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