Dorchester & Fordington

Dorchester Joint Burial Committee Report 1852

İTranscribed by Michael Russell OPC for Fordington October 2008

South Chapel East Window 1890

In 1852 Dorchester’s Board of Health published a report declaring the graveyards attached to the churches full,
which paved the way for new cemeteries to be created and on 3rd July 1854 an Order of the Privy Council decreed:-

“[Burials] to be discontinued from and after the 1st January, 1855, in the churches and churchyards of  ALL SAINTS, the HOLY TRINITY and ST PETER” and, in respect of Fordington, “To be discontinued forthwith in the church of ST GEORGE, and in such part of the churchyard thereof as is within five yards of the church, or of any dwelling-house, and one body only to be buried in each grave”.

The first proper cemetery to be created was at Weymouth Avenue, on 4 acres 3 roods 30¾ perches of land acquired from the Duchy of Cornwall by the Burial Board of the Parishes of The Holy Trinity, St Peter and All Saints in 1856 at a cost of £515 0s 2d. The cemetery was subsequently extended by the purchase for £400 of an additional 2 acres 2 roods of land at the northern and southern extremities of the cemetery to give the shape of the cemetery with which we are familiar today.

Pressure for burials in Fordington (which was not at the time part of Dorchester) was increased  following a number of deaths arising from an outbreak of cholera in 1854. This resulted from an enforced intake in August of 700 convicts from the Millbank Prison in London, where cholera was rife, to the Barracks in Dorchester, which were unusually empty because most of the military had been mobilised to take part in the Crimean War. Two women in Holloway Row were contracted to do the laundry for the prisoners and it is believed that this is how the disease was first introduced into Fordington. The Mill Street area was severely overcrowded (ironically because it was the only area of land in Fordington not owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, which refused to release any of its land for development) and the cholera spread rapidly in the appallingly unsanitary conditions which existed in the area.

At least 30 people died of the disease in September 1854 alone, and all of them are likely to have been buried in St George’s churchyard, adding further to the pressure on burial space there which had already been recognised. In 1866 the Duchy of Cornwall gave 2 roods 38 perches of land (formerly part of the Farthinghold Tenement) to the Fordington Burial Board for use as an extension of the churchyard and this is the area which we now know as ‘Old Ground’.

The ‘New Ground’, 1 acre 8 perches of land, was purchased by the Burial Board in 1885 for £587 to complete the Cemetery as we know it today. Part of the cemetery occupies a site which had been used for burials in Roman times.

In the early 1990s the Dorchester Joint Burial Committee (which succeeded the independent Boards for Dorchester and Fordington in 1927) had formally closed Fordington Cemetery and realised that  Dorchester Cemetery was approaching capacity. It therefore entered into negotiations with the Duchy of Cornwall which resulted in the provision of land at Poundbury and approval of the design which we see today. The site is 4.7 acres in extent and the Joint Committee has a 999 year lease of it, for which we have paid £25,000.


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