You do not need a ghoulish relish to wander around Church Cemetery, but a determination to get clued up about things not everybody knows. Stories hidden away, you might not even know where to look for. Stories of interesting people who are now silenced, but their voices are still alive through melodious epitaphs. Whether they are recounting tales of old happy days or unfolding the bitterness of a poor existence, it is worth going there to find out.

You may know this cemetery by its other name, Rock Cemetery, a bona fide name, suggestive for the slopping side of a barren hill filled with solid sandstone caves, a former execution site. It is interesting to see how evocative this commercial cemetery is for the Victorian era, which is why it is now listed as a grade II heritage site, due to its special historic interest.

Church Rock Cemetery | Visit Nottinghamshire
Erected in 1856 by Edwin Patchitt, spreading across 5.2 ha on the south-east of the Forest Recreation Ground, the place avails itself on the natural characteristics of the land it was built on, also known as St.Ann’s Valley. This implied the separation of the cemetery in four areas, out of which the north-east part, with the natural caves, cliffs and outcrops, as well as the western side, with its catacomb range, transform the funerary grounds into a feast for the eyes.

The quintessence of this cemetery lies, most of all, in the souls of its quiet inhabitants – it is not a mere place of burial, but a sheer demonstration of inequality between the rich and the poor. Among notable interments, we can count the founder of the cemetery, Edwin Patchitt, as well as Sir Frank Bowden, the father of Raleigh Bicycle Company. MP Anthony John Mundella, renowned architect Watson Fothergill and Marriott Ogle Tarbotton, who built Trent Bridge and led the development of modern Nottingham, have also found their eternal peace here.

But the huge crosses and numb, doleful stone angels shield the hapless, forlorn souls as well. The dolorous paupers’ graves, marking the centre of the cemetery, provide a humble shelter for hundreds of less-fortunate individuals. For them, a proper burial was out of reach, as they were too poor to afford it so they were buried together, often twenty or more, all under one slab, carrying their misfortune to eternity.

Joseph Fenwick – five minutes old; George Sheppard – an hour old; Patricia Dormer – ten hours old; Laura Hewitt - six days old. Nellie Beatrice – three years and five months old, who joined her mother, Helen, in death, just one day after she passed away at the age of 29, leaving behind a grieving husband and father. They are the reason why Rock Cemetery is special, why it is a true token of remembrance. The names are slowly wearing away, but the stories beneath the tombs and the vaults transcend time.

Church Rock Cemetery | Visit Nottinghamshire
Not unexpectedly, Church Cemetery is not bereft of legends. Some say that the legendary heroic outlaw himself, Robin Hood, used the caves as stables for his tried and trusted horses, thus leading to the caves on the north-east edge being named “Robin Hood’s Caves”. Some believe that reverend George Oliver was right when he hypothesized that an ancient druid temple used to exist on site. Indeed, it has been discovered that, prior to the construction of the cemetery, in the 18th century, miners used to yield sand out of the sandstones. Truth is, reality tends to be a little less of a fantasy, but flights of imagination are sometimes what sparks off our curiosity, so why not dare to imagine?


This blog was written by Andra Elekes, Marketing Intern at Visit Nottinghamshire.

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