September 2023 meeting: Cemeteries of Oxford

On 11th September 2023, Trevor Jackson spoke about Cemeteries of Oxford: more than a century of history.

Between 2005 and 2017 Trevor was the Registrar and Manager of Oxford City’s cemeteries at Wolvercote, Botley, Rose Hill and Headington.  He and his team were also responsible for maintaining the grounds of 11 closed Anglican churches in the city. 

In the first half of the 19th century, Oxford’s churchyards were filling up, partly as a result of high mortality from repeated cholera outbreaks, and in 1855 all of them were closed to further burials.  In 1848 the Diocese of Oxford opened two new cemeteries, at Osney and in Jericho (St Sepulchre’s), but further outbreaks of cholera in 1849 and 1854 ensured that they also filled rapidly.  In 1889 and 1890, Oxford Corporation, as it was then known, purchased land for three municipal cemeteries and in 1894, Wolvercote, Rose Hill and Botley cemeteries opened.  Oxford’s fourth cemetery was established after Headington parish was subsumed into Oxford in 1928; an existing burial ground there was extended to make Headington cemetery.   All the cemeteries have chapels, with those at Wolvercote, Rose Hill and Botley being of similar design; these three cemeteries also have gate lodges, though these are now private homes.  Interments in the four cemeteries since the 1890s total about 58,000, and both Rose Hill and Headington are now closed to new burials.

Oxford’s cemeteries contain many famous people; they are also popular as filming locations. Botley Cemetery is nowadays notable for its large Commonwealth Graves section.  Trevor’s talk included numerous stories from his time as cemeteries manager, some sombre, others, perhaps surprisingly, very humorous.

On Monday 9th October 2023, Tim Healey will talk about Apples! The Myth and Mystery of England’s Favourite Fruit.