Walstead Burial Ground

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Until the early part of the 19th century burial facilities were mainly provided by the Church of England in parish churchyards and in some cases high status burials inside churches in vaults sunk into the floor. Across the country many parish churchyards had existed for close on a thousand years and had become full. Existing burials were frequently disturbed by new graves with the consequent risk to public health. Similarly new interments within the church also gave rise to health concerns. There were also issues concerning the burial of non-conformists and members of other religions, as parish churchyards were exclusively Anglican.

The churchyard at Lindfield was so full, it is understood, that new burials were being interred on top of existing graves, which accounts for the raised ground in the northern part of the churchyard.

The government recognising the widespread nature of these problems passed the Burial Acts 1852 and 1853 the later extending the provisions to all parts of the country. The Act allowed for the Parish Vestry [forerunner of a parish council] to form a publicly financed local burial board to establish a burial ground. Furthermore by ‘her Majesty in Council’ could order that burials be discontinued at specific locations. Such an Order in Council passed on 30th January 1854 applied to Lindfield requiring ‘burials to cease at once under the church and from and after the first of May 1854 in the burial ground.’

The churchwardens and parish overseers were faced with establishing a burial board together with the urgent and difficult task of finding a new burial ground. Two grants extending the closure date for the Lindfield churchyard were given with the final deadline being 1st September 1854.

A two-acre plot on Walstead Common on the northern side of East Mascalls Lane was eventually identified as a suitable site. Walstead Common at that time covered over 35 acres and was part of the Manor of Walstead held by the Earl of Chichester.

A Vestry Meeting held on 11th May 1854 agreed that the Lindfield Burial Board could borrow the money ‘required for providing and laying out the new burial ground,’ and for it to be charged to the parish poor rate. It was further agreed that the Board should ‘provide fit and proper places in which bodies may be received and taken care of previously to internment and to make arrangements for the reception and care of the bodies to be deposited therein.’

At a further Parish Vestry on 29th June 1854, the Burial Board as authorised ‘to expend the sum of Twelve Hundred pounds for the purpose of providing and laying out the New Burial ground.’

The following are examples of the Burial Fees set by the Parish Vestry to apply from 19th October 1854;

 

Vaults 4ft
Minister £1 15s 0d
Clerk £0  7s 6d
Sexton £0  3s 6d
Registering £0  0s 6d
  £2  6s 0d

 

Children under 12 Years of Age buried in a Common Grave
Minister £0  1s 8d
Clerk £0  0s 9d
Sexton £0  0s 9d
Registering £0  0s 6d
  £0  3s 8d

 

Persons Buried at the Expense of the Parish
Minister £0  1s 0d
Clerk £0  1s 0d
Sexton      £0  1s 0d
  £0  3s 0d

 

There was no tradition of cemetery design to draw upon and small burial grounds, like Walstead, were often utilitarian but with design references drawn from small country estates, i.e. an entry lodge, some landscaping, boundary walls and the mortuary chapels taking the place of the country house as the focal point. These four elements can be seen to this day in the Walstead Burial Ground.

 

Mortuary Chapels

Two mortuary chapels standing a short distance behind the Entry Lodge formed the focal point of the burial ground. The identical adjoining chapels each having their own porch and doorway, were dedicated for the separate use of the Church of England and Non-conformists. The Church of England chapel is on the eastern side. On the 1875 Ordnance Survey they are described, in language of the day as being for the ‘Episcopal’ and ‘Dissenters’ respectively.

 

 

The simply designed brick chapels with tiled roofs are in tradition ecclesiastical style with wood lined tunnel vaulted ceilings and tall stone framed three light arched windows. By the 1900’s the Chapels and Lodge were heavily covered in ivy.

 

Today the Chapels have been sympathetically restored to retain there their original character and are used as the offices of Impact Art.

 

 

Entry Lodge

The Lodge built of brick with a tiled roof had living accommodation on either side of the central arch and gabled entranceway that ran through the middle of the building. This archway, with sufficient width to permit the passage of a horse drawn hearse, aligned with the Mortuary Chapels behind which were connected by pathways running to their respective porches. The arch although now bricked in remains visible in outline at the rear of the lodge.

 

Boundary Wall

The specification for enclosing the ground required that ‘The walls to be built of good sound well burnt stock bricks, one brick thick on one course of one and half brick footings to a uniform height of five feet from the surface of the ground inclusive of a half round brick coping excepting a pier at each angle and on each side of a gateway. The bricks to be laid with a close neat joint in well tempered mortar of grey lime and sharp sand.’  It was stated that the wall should be completed with two months.

The original brick walls were replaced when the burial ground was enlarged and the boundaries realigned with the more substantial walls that largely exist today.

Grounds

The original two acre site is shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey 25” scale map as being laid out with two wide curving pathways running northwards across the burial ground from each mortuary chapel. The map also indicates that trees had been planted around the perimeter.

In the original layout the ground to the east was consecrated land for Church of England burials. A central area was given over to common graves, burials without headstones and those buried at the expense of the Parish. The ground the western side was non-consecrated ground for non-conformist and other burials.

An early postcard, probably dated around 1900, shows that the ground was generously planted with evergreen trees and bushes, e.g. yews. Remnants of this pattern of planting remains to this day.

Around the turn of the nineteenth century a further two and a quarter acres of land was acquired and the enlarged site remains unchanged to this day. The two footpaths that were extended to the new northern boundary have since been removed.

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