FEATURE: Group hopes to give Victorian Cemetery a new lease of life

A print of Boston Cemetery believed to date from about 1860 as it shows the avenue of Lime trees when they were saplings and they were planted in 1854. There is an obelisk memorial in the background which may be the Ingram grave. The view is looking down towards the lodge house on Horncastle Road, and the chapel on the left which was non-conformist was demolished in 1961. The Anglican chapel on the right is the one that survives and is currently redundant. Picture: supplied. EMN-170809-151001001
A print of Boston Cemetery believed to date from about 1860 as it shows the avenue of Lime trees when they were saplings and they were planted in 1854. There is an obelisk memorial in the background which may be the Ingram grave. The view is looking down towards the lodge house on Horncastle Road, and the chapel on the left which was non-conformist was demolished in 1961. The Anglican chapel on the right is the one that survives and is currently redundant. Picture: supplied. EMN-170809-151001001

A trip to a cemetery is not the usual idea of a day out, but a group looking to restore Boston’s historic Horncastle Road burial ground is hoping visitors will support their work.

The Friends of Boston Cemetery is hoping to holding an open day in the near future, where volunteers will be available to guide visitors around the 19th Century graveyard.

The Friends of Boston Cemetery. EMN-170809-132756001

The Friends of Boston Cemetery. EMN-170809-132756001

The team, a new friends group officially constituted in December of last year, is hoping to work to restore the Victorian buildings back into use, potentially also clear up some of the forgotten or uncared for gravestones, and create an area that people can enjoy.

Group chairman Gerry Robb said: “People come through here all the time, but it’s amazing how many people don’t know what is around them.

“They may have the burials in the new section, but if you go down some of the pathways down here you enter a different world altogether.”

However, since the area is now registered as a Park and Wildlife Haven, they will have to work with nature in the area in their bid to improve it.

Boston Victorian Cemetery EMN-170809-131236001

Boston Victorian Cemetery EMN-170809-131236001

The group are hoping to apply for Heritage Lottery Funding with plans to use the chapel and mortuary as centres for the community with ideas including crafts classes, and a history display.

There could also be programmes of events and activities to celebrate the fascinating wildlife and heritage within the Victorian cemetery.

Several key names also rest within the cemetery and the group is hoping to clean-up some of their memorials.

The council maintains the area around the graves, but it is the responsibility of the family to maintain the actual grave inside the kerbs, and the memorial. The exception to this is with lawn style graves, including war graves, where they mow across the turf.

Boston Victorian Cemetery EMN-170809-131259001

Boston Victorian Cemetery EMN-170809-131259001

This means the families must give permission for the group to tidy them - however, the group believes this would an ideal project for volunteers and for teaching heritage skills, and this lends itself to accessing funding.

The group is currently 13 strong and is looking for more volunteers to help out and feed into the plans.

Anyone interested in joining can contact Gerry by email on cornwell.sharpie@hotmail.co.uk

The following is a brief history of Boston’s Victorian cemetery.

Boston Victorian Cemetery EMN-170809-131248001

Boston Victorian Cemetery EMN-170809-131248001

The cemetery was built by JP Pritchett of Darlington in 1854 and opened in 1855. The original design was almost symmetrical with a central drive from the original main entry from Horncastle Road Lodge up to the Mortuary which was flanked on either side by two identical chapels – one for Conformists and one for non-Conformists.

The chapels were constructed of brick and slate in a gothic style, with a tall spire rising over a covered arched entrance lobby on the north front. The design aimed to form a symmetrical picture with the entrance lodge when viewed from the west end of the central lime avenue.

In 1885 the cemetery was extended by Pritchett’s own son, to where the rear of the mortuary now stands - a short hedgerow behind the building marks the new boundary

Since then, the cemetery has been extended twice more, the non-conformist church was demolished in 1961, and the cemetery has been designated a wildland area - though many of the trees which lined the path are still alive and well today.

The mortuary is split into two rooms and would have been separated out similar to the chapels, due to the antipathy between Anglicans and non-conformists - today it is used as storage for grounds staff.

The lodge at the Horncastle Road entrance, once used by the groundskeeper, is now a rented property.

Herbert Ingram's grave in the Victorian Cemetary on Horncastle Road, Boston. EMN-170809-131221001

Herbert Ingram's grave in the Victorian Cemetary on Horncastle Road, Boston. EMN-170809-131221001

Graves include that of Boston journalist and politician Herbert Ingram who launched the Illustrated London Newspaper and brought water to much of Boston.

The cemetery also contains the grave of the first official war death of the First World War, Major Walter George Burnett Dickinson who died while requisitioning horses in the Boston area just a few days into the conflict.

These are as well as some other historic family names from Boston and the surrounding area.

L Note: The original version of this article in the Wednesday, September 13, edition of the paper stated the open day was due to be held this Sunday (September 17). This is no longer the case. This Sunday has been one of several suggested to be used and the Friends will look to confirm a date in the near future.