In 1853 new government legislation made it compulsory for town councils to provide adequate burial space for their citizens. Parish churchyards had become not only full to the brim but a downright health hazard. Wycombe was no exception. The Parish Churchyard, All Saints, was chock-a-block – a problem that the town was already aware of back in the 1830s when a cholera outbreak, so it is believed, led to a high mortality rate within the local area. This was principally due to water in the Pepper Pot pump, by the Market House, becoming contaminated as it ran under, and through, the graves in the churchyard only a few metres away. Unfortunately it took until the new legislation of 1853 for the town council to spring into action. Land was found from Carrington land on Amersham Hill and the cemetery took its first burial in 1855, that of eight month old baby Emily Smith, interred in a public grave.
It had been hoped, back in 1855, that the cemetery would profit from the sale of extra-large plots for vaults, mausoleums and large memorials. Sadly very few took this offer up, perhaps because few Wycombe folk had, at that time, visited the large cemeteries in London, such as Highgate and Kensal Green, where such memorials stood in abundance, and so failed to understand that these were the new status symbols of the rich. Or perhaps, quite simply, few Wycombe folk were wealthy enough to afford them. By the mid 1880s it became obvious that the cemetery should review its design, providing more of the smaller plots at the cheaper rate. Thus the numbering became complex as new graves were inserted between those that were already occupied. Poor handwriting, no doubt, added to the muddle as un-con (unconsecrated) and con (consecrated) weren’t always clearly defined - as has later been discovered in time consuming grave searches in the wrong spot.
So losing the plot in Wycombe Cemetery is not hard to do and I hope this website goes some way to helping you find your way around the Victorian sections (about four acres) of this tranquil space which time has now somewhat forgotten.
The cemetery then and now→
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