History of the Cemetery

Cemetery History

The Newbury Cemetery Act 1847

The Newbury Cemetery Company was set up by Act of Parliament in 1847. The Act allowed a local group of people to issue 800 shares at £5 each and use the money to purchase two adjoining pieces of land between Old Newtown Road and Newtown Road. Once a third of the shares had been taken they were also able to borrow money to develop the cemetery.

The Act laid down the arrangements for the company. Initially there were 15 directors (Edward Brice Bunny, Charles Slocock, Edward William Gray, John Alexander, William Mills, Joseph Bunny, George Dibley, Broome Pinneger, John Satchell, Thomas Wooldridge Fielder, James Blacket, Joseph Taylor, Joseph Witherington, Job Hanson, John Brown), reducing to 10 six months later.

The Act enabled £4000 to be raised but much of this was used in initial start- up costs. The passing of the Act cost more than £1000. The Lodge and boundary wall cost £889.10s.0d. and the two chapels, built by Mr Adey, appear to have cost at least £600.

Dividends were paid half yearly. We know from an auction in 1888 of the property of Robert Atkinson Ryott, which included two fully paid up Cemetery Company Shares (bought for £5 each before 1849), the shares had earned 3/- dividend each in the last February payment.

The land for the cemetery was bought from St. Bartholomew’s Charity (£230) and Coxedd’s Charity (£500). This land was being used as a market garden at that time. Early accounts show that money was also spent on a well, though it is not known where that was. Often baling was required, presumably because the water level was too high. We understand that there were many springs on the land.

Other features of the 1847 Act

The Act also laid down that there should be no more burials in the Parish Churchyard, those attempting to do this could be fined up to £10. The Act suggests that the levelling of the churchyard to street level could be achieved “by sinking them (the already interred corpses) deeper”. This levelling would also relieve the Church building from “daily Injury from the redundant earth and subsequent Damp”.

The Act also laid down fees to be paid for those officiating at burials. The opening of commercial graveyards threatened the livelihood of the local clergy. So the Act ensured the Rector of the Parish would receive a fee of £2.2s.0d for a burial service related to a “vault, catacomb or brick grave” and 5s.0d for others. Even if the service was taken by an incumbent from another parish, the Rector would receive a fee of £1.1s.0d and 3s.6d respectively. Incumbents had to make do with 5s.od or 1s.6d. This was probably a standard statement of these kinds of Acts of Parliament as no catacombs were ever provided in the cemetery.

The Consecrated and Un-consecrated Sections

The Anglican chapel and section (north) of the cemetery was consecrated in 1850 by the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, known locally as Soapy Sam. The southern side of the cemetery was designed for non-conformist burials with their own mortuary chapel, called the Dissenters’ Chapel. Those buried here were often prominent in their own church communities: Baptist (Albert Percy Morton) Congregational (Mary Bew, John Hopson, Henry Jordan Midwinter), Wesleyan Methodist and Primitive Methodist (William Thompson). Indeed the first burial in the cemetery was of Rev. William Wilson, a Presbyterian minister influential in setting up the cemetery and an original shareholder. The un-consecrated side of the cemetery also holds secular and Catholic burials.

The Newbury Corporation Act (1953)

Although there were still occasional burials in the cemetery by 1953 there were no longer any Directors left alive. The sexton (the caretaker) of many years, Billy Cray, had died in 1951 which only left his housekeeper, Mrs Elizabeth King to keep an eye on things. The 1953 Act repealed the 1847 Act and passed responsibility to Newbury Corporation. The Dissenters’ Chapel, already damaged by fire (we are not sure when) was demolished soon after, being too costly to repair.

Consecration of the Cemetery

Transcription of a Newspaper article from the Reading Mercury

The ceremony of consecrating the Newbury Cemetery was performed by the Bishop of Oxford, on Tuesday afternoon last, in the presence of a large body of clergymen and a vast concourse of people. Three o'clock was the hour originally fixed, but it was considerably later owing to the prolonged service at church in the morning.

Bartholomew-street presented a very animated appearance from the constant influx from other parts to witness the procession to the Cemetery grounds. The Mayor* (who appeared in his robes of office) and the several members of the Corporation assembled at the Litten Grammar School to await the arrival of his Lordship and the clergy from the rectory. About four o'clock the Bishop, accompanied by the clergy in canonicals, reached the Litten, and joined the procession, which slowly moved towards the grounds.

The procession was very long, and was headed by the night police and day constables; then followed the boys of the Blue Coat School, two abreast; the mace-bearers, the Mayor, Magistrates, Town Clerk, members of the Corporation; inhabitants of the town; the Apparitor and Verger, the Bishop in his robes, the Rector of Newbury, and several of the clergy. The street was lined on both sides, and the cheerful rays from the sun rendered the scene one of the most imposing that has occurred in Newbury of late years.

On reaching the gate, the petition of the Company, praying his Lordship to consecrate the ground as a place for Christian burial, was read by the rector, Dr. Binney, after which the procession moved slowly over the ground, his Lordship reading such psalms and portions of the consecration service as were applicable to the occasion.

The large concourse of people halted at the Mortuary Chapel, at the entrance to which his Lordship stood, and delivered a very appropriate and heart-stirring address, reminding his auditors that the time was rapidly hastening with them, and that they should be prepared to meet that change which all flesh was destined to undergo; that they should seek by a holy and consistent life to live unto the Lord so that they might die in Him, and finally be raised to everlasting glory, the reward and happiness of those who delight in serving Him and performing His holy will. The Bishop next offered up suitable prayers, and went through the remainder of the service, at the conclusion of which the Old Hundredth Psalm was sung, at the request of his Lordship, as the mass of people left the chapel and walked towards the entrance gates.

The procession again assumed its former orderly appearance, and escorted the Bishop to the Rectory, where his Lordship unrobed prior to going to preside at a meeting at the Mansion House. The crowd then dispersed, and the streets quickly afterwards were as quiet as usual. His Worship the Mayor*, with a liberality worthy of his high office, entertained the members of the Corporation at his residence, in the evening, in celebration of the event.

© Reading Mercury (Saturday 6 April 1850)

* The Mayor then would have been Theophilus Verney Turner (1808-93). Wine merchant in Bartholomew Street. 

The Cemetery Now

Newbury Town Council holds no records of when the last ‘Deed of Right’ were issued and there are no records of the Deeds or their wording. Newbury Town Council does hold some burial records (1917 to the present day) at Shaw Cemetery; however these do not record any grave numbers or deed holder’s names.

In the year 2000 the cemetery was closed for the health, safety, and welfare of the general public and visiting the cemetery was by escorted access only.on 12th September 2011, after a lot of work by Newbury Town Council and the Friends, the cemetery was re-opened to the public. You can now access the cemetery, but please be advised that there is no attendant at the cemetery and the lodge is a private dwelling and not connected to the cemetery in any way, so please do not knock on the door for information. if you do not know where a grave is, you can contact Newbury Town Council on 01635 35486 for assistance.

Full burials and interments of ashes are still permitted if the existing family grave can be found, the last burial took place in November 2007, and an internment of Ashes was carried out in 2017.

Henry Godwin

When the broken pieces of the stained-glass window in the Chapel were pieced together, we found that it was dedicated to a Henry Godwin FSA. Our initial research shows that a Henry Godwin, born in Bath in 1811, came to Newbury in 1837 and died at Speen Hill on 19th June, 1874. He wrote important books such as the “Archaeologists Handbook”, a book on Stonehenge and another on "The Worthies of Newbury". He was also co-Founder of the Newbury District Field Club with Silas Palmer, MD. He is mentioned in Walter Money’s History of Newbury.

Berkshire Geoconservation group

In 2010, the Berkshire Geoconservation Group in association with the Friends undertook a geological survey of the cemetery. their report can be found by clinking the link below.


Can You Help?

Do you know more about anyone buried in the cemetery? We hope to remember all the 'residents' eventually; about 12,000 people are buried here. The Friends of Newtown Road Cemetery hope to display at least one paragraph about each person, rich or poor, here on this website If you have any information, please contact us. We will be delighted to hear from you.


Website designed and maintained by Paul Thompson on behalf of the Friends of Newtown Road Cemetery.

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