Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The First

Landscaping work was started in York cemetery in Jan 1837. I have often wondered what the cemetery looked like before it was filled with graves. How did they decide where to start digging! Which was the first burial in York cemetery? What did the remainder of the site look like? Well having come across the grave above left I now know who was The First. The inscription reads
to the memory of 
Charlotte second daughter of 
Thomas Fishburn Hall and Betsey his wife 
of Heworth. 
Who died Jany 17th 1837. Aged 25 years
A lovely flower
removed, alas how soon
from the tender watchful care
that had reared and cherished it
to be THE FIRST transplanted
into this garden of death
yet not to continue here for ever
but at the appointed season to be taken
onto the paradise of God
there to revive and flourish
in perfect and unfading beauty 

Originally the cemetery was divided in two, with half for Church of England burials and the other half for Dissenters. As the Dissenters  were in the minority three of their four acres were let out as grazing at first as they were not expected to be needed for some time. Charlotte was a Unitarian who died on Jan 17th 1837, and on Jan 21st became the first burial in the cemetery. She was buried in the Dissenters section.
The details on the burial arrangements are taken from the book

 'This Garden of Death' The History of York Cemetery 1837-2007 by Hugh Murray. 

For anyone interested in finding out more about the founding of Public Cemeteries in general and the rise, fall, and rise again of York Cemetery in particular, it is warmly recommended (follow the link through via the York Cemetery website to Publications)
Taking Part in Taphophile Tragics


  1. Poor Thomas and Betsey, 25 is no age, but sadly at that time early death was common. I get more emails about graves than any other subject.

    1. Really? More emails about graves than any other subject. Oh now that would be exciting. To me at any rate.

  2. I have also often wondered how it was decided where to buy the first inhabitants of cemeteries, especially since our older graves seem to be laid out in such a haphazard fashion.

  3. Sometimes, the haphazard fashion of earlier graves lends to the sense of adventure exploring them! Disorder can be so attractive! York looks like an intriguing cemetery! And still with a rural feel?

    1. Yes, in some areas, other parts border roads or are overlooked by houses so a real mix.

  4. Interesting to think about!

  5. I always like to find out who was first in particular cemeteries. Then to find out the the layout was not 'secured' until about 20 years down the track!

    Is York a cemetery where plots are held 'in perpetuity'? They are in NSW, but not necessarily all over Australia. That book looks like a useful accessory for a taphophile.

    1. Yes plots were held in perpetuity for private burials, although the wording on grave certificates was changed in 1910 from "the grave numbered........ is the property of....." to "all right of burial in the grave numbered.......belong to". This was to try to prevent the cemetery company being left with the obligation to maintain graves long after all the plots had been sold and the income stream had dried up.

  6. How fascinating. The inscription leaves ou in no doubt she was the first poor soul to rest there.

    Herding Cats

  7. I admit, this is the first time I've even thought about the first in a cemetery. :-D Maybe a little lonely...? I was at a funeral last Sunday in a brand new cemetery that looked a bit forlorn for being so empty.

  8. funny, how (some) people always want to be first, or best, or whatever.
    or note down that this or that is the first, or biggest, or smallest.... :)


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