The story of how a Bridgwater cemetery’s graves were condemned to be flattened, saved by local people and are now being restored by the Friends of Wembdon Cemetery was vividly told by Dr. Miles Kerr-Peterson at the October meeting of the Bridgwater & District Archaeological Society.

The Friends achievements, in what had become a wasteland, include ongoing conservation with the transformation of the paupers’ section into a wild flower meadow.  Victorian graves have been listed by English Heritage and of particular importance is the compiling of a memorial database which enables descendants from across the globe who visit the cemetery to find the graves of their forebears.

Dr. Kerr-Peterson, an authoritative historian and prominent figure in local heritage matters, explained the history of burial sites in Bridgwater from post-Roman times to the present day.  He stressed how the dead were viewed with more reverence in mediaeval times and how there were no paupers’ graves as even the poorest person had a decent funeral. With time, the idea of remaining undisturbed in your grave for eternity was lost.

After the eighteen hundreds Bridgwater’s population increased and the churches and chapels all had their own burial plots.    Examples included the Wesleyan Chapel’s plot now under Broadway, the Unitarian Chapel’s burial plot stretching to St. Mary’s Street and the Mariners’ Chapel’s that is now a car park.

Dr. Kerr-Peterson concluded by saying that it is the desire of the Friends of Wembdon Cemetery to restore it to a garden cemetery where people can come and enjoy their heritage and peace.

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