Overgrown appearance of Southampton Old Cemetery divides opinion

Southampton Old Cemetery

Southampton Old Cemetery

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

CHILDREN laugh and play, running about and riding their bikes.

Elderly people walk together in the sun, admiring the flowers and looking for squirrels in the trees.

Dragonflies, butterflies and birds sit in the trees and fly through the air.

The only sound other than the plants rustling in the wind is the hum of an occasional car driving past.

These all sound like hallmarks of an idyllic park in the countryside or a nature reserve – but instead they’re features of an unusual cemetery in Southampton.

The city’s Old Cemetery, at the southern end of the Common, divides opinion among nearby residents and those who walk through it.

Some are enamoured with the untamed foliage and animals that scuttle around, while others consider the lack of maintenance disrespectful to the thousands of dead who lie there.

Daily Echo:

Southampton Old Cemetery divides opinion among residents and visitors

There are many First World War graves in the cemetery, including memorials for a number of British casualties and Belgian servicemen.

An all-day event will be held at the cemetery tomorrow when Southampton mayor Sue Blatchford will lay a wreath at the cross of sacrifice.

Freemantle resident Stan Walker, 50, said: “I walk here at least two or three times a day and I quite like it overgrown, but I don’t think a lot of people do.

“It’s a lovely place. I do go on the Common but it’s busy and there’s not as many people here.”

Others aren’t so keen, pointing to the head-height grass, fallen trees and occasional rats as evidence that the “natural” aspect of the site has gone too far.

Portswood resident John Bandee, 91, has tended his mother’s grave at the cemetery since she died in 1966.

Daily Echo:

John Bandee at the family grave where his mother is buried

The area around his mum Nellie’s memorial has now had its grass cut but previously it was covered in thick, high growth, causing difficulties for John. A tree that leaned over the headstone has been cut down.

The grave also bears the names of his grandparents, Benjamin and Sarah Servante, and his sister Joan, who died when she was 10.

His wife, Frances, used to visit the site with him but due to the rough ground can no longer do so.

Mr Bandee, who worked as a joiner, said: “Cleaning the grave is a bit of respect I can pay for the dead and she was a wonderful mother to me.

“I do enjoy it and when the weather’s like this I can spend time here, but my wife can’t walk across here anymore.

“It’s no good to complain because nobody takes any notice.”

The 27-acre site has been used for nearly 117,000 burials, including headstones for Titanic victims.

The grounds are maintained by Southampton City Council but volunteers from Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery (FoSOC) clean up areas of the site.

Huge trees line the cemetery and plants have grown around the outside of many headstones. In other areas there is rubbish including plastic bottles and bin bags. The difficulties suffered by Mr Bandee are not the first to have plagued visitors to the city’s cemeteries.

A year ago a fire at the Old Cemetery blackened a 30 sq m area containing historic headstones, and some walkers complained about cyclists and dog mess.

FoSOC member Bruce Larner is much more positive about the burial ground, and said it is a home to animals including deer, kestrels, nuthatches and lizards.

He said: “There’s an awful lot of wildlife, and they have a mowing programme which gives the wildlife a chance to move to another patch.”

“I would like it to be cleaned up, especially bringing back the litter bins.”

Southampton city councillor Jacqui Rayment said: “Every effort is made to ensure that the grass is cut to an acceptable standard throughout the year.

“However, wet weather earlier in the year had been a contributing factor to delaying some grass cutting within the cemeteries and the spell of wet and warm weather we have recently been experiencing has caused a flush of growth as the grass is seeding.

“Grass cutting around headstones and other obstructions placed around the graves of loved ones is extremely labour intensive and it can take several weeks to complete one full cut of the cemetery.”

Comments (21)

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7:27am Sun 10 Aug 14

Abkhazsoyuz says...

With the exception of dedicated people like John Bandee, it beggars belief that many of these graves have been so abandoned and forgotten by most, and treated with less dignity than that shown by archaeologists when unearthing human remains from the Bronze Age for a popular television show.
With the exception of dedicated people like John Bandee, it beggars belief that many of these graves have been so abandoned and forgotten by most, and treated with less dignity than that shown by archaeologists when unearthing human remains from the Bronze Age for a popular television show. Abkhazsoyuz
  • Score: -4

9:35am Sun 10 Aug 14

Kirsty666 says...

I was walking there the other week and thought it looked lovely all overgrown but it can get too much as for dog walkers they should pick up their dog mess rather than leave it
I was walking there the other week and thought it looked lovely all overgrown but it can get too much as for dog walkers they should pick up their dog mess rather than leave it Kirsty666
  • Score: 36

9:59am Sun 10 Aug 14

sparkster says...

I love wildlife, I know a lot may think the people are dead so does it matter if a cemetery is overgrown, personally out of respect for the deceased I feel it should be kept tidy. When I was growing up in Devon there was a chap who used to tend the cemetery, he used to put in way over his hours because he enjoyed it, he used to say he liked to keep the cemetery up together for the people visiting, it was like a park, he died several years ago and now contractors come in, obviously times change and the cemetery isnt looking the same but it is kept in some sort of order. 0ne idea would be why not get people who are doing community service or maybe people who are retired and looking for voluntary work to help keep cemeteries in some sort of order, even if its just keeping the grass down as that would help keep graves looking tidier, just a thought
I love wildlife, I know a lot may think the people are dead so does it matter if a cemetery is overgrown, personally out of respect for the deceased I feel it should be kept tidy. When I was growing up in Devon there was a chap who used to tend the cemetery, he used to put in way over his hours because he enjoyed it, he used to say he liked to keep the cemetery up together for the people visiting, it was like a park, he died several years ago and now contractors come in, obviously times change and the cemetery isnt looking the same but it is kept in some sort of order. 0ne idea would be why not get people who are doing community service or maybe people who are retired and looking for voluntary work to help keep cemeteries in some sort of order, even if its just keeping the grass down as that would help keep graves looking tidier, just a thought sparkster
  • Score: 18

10:27am Sun 10 Aug 14

Nearly an OAP says...

With only 10 Council workers to maintain 5 Southampton cemetaries is it any wonder that they are often overgrown, due to cuts by a Council which is deep in debt. Hollybrook Cemetary is a classic example where one year the grass was cut once in 9 months and then on overtime at a weekend. The cemetaries foreman told me that if one or two of his workers goes sick he is in real trouble. Since moving to Manchester nearly 3 years ago and still working part-time in the funeral trade I have been amazed at how well the cemetaries and crematoria here are maintained. Bear in mind that Southern Cemetary here was the biggest in Europe and is about 5 times bigger than Hollybrook and is immaculatelly maintained as are all the others that I have seen in Greater Manchester. These put Southampton to shame. Putting volunteers in cemetaries to maintain them is probably not going to happen with Councils due to health and safety issues but I have seen Community Payback offenders working in New Forest church graveyards.
With only 10 Council workers to maintain 5 Southampton cemetaries is it any wonder that they are often overgrown, due to cuts by a Council which is deep in debt. Hollybrook Cemetary is a classic example where one year the grass was cut once in 9 months and then on overtime at a weekend. The cemetaries foreman told me that if one or two of his workers goes sick he is in real trouble. Since moving to Manchester nearly 3 years ago and still working part-time in the funeral trade I have been amazed at how well the cemetaries and crematoria here are maintained. Bear in mind that Southern Cemetary here was the biggest in Europe and is about 5 times bigger than Hollybrook and is immaculatelly maintained as are all the others that I have seen in Greater Manchester. These put Southampton to shame. Putting volunteers in cemetaries to maintain them is probably not going to happen with Councils due to health and safety issues but I have seen Community Payback offenders working in New Forest church graveyards. Nearly an OAP
  • Score: 14

10:32am Sun 10 Aug 14

netleyj says...

Take a look at the FoSoc site and see what they have managed to achieve over the past years. If you are moaning about the state of the cemetery, join them and help on their task days which are on the first Saturday of the month (weather permitting)

http://fosoc.org/new
s/477/
Take a look at the FoSoc site and see what they have managed to achieve over the past years. If you are moaning about the state of the cemetery, join them and help on their task days which are on the first Saturday of the month (weather permitting) http://fosoc.org/new s/477/ netleyj
  • Score: 23

10:55am Sun 10 Aug 14

excusemoi says...

The dead are sleeping and are conscience of nothing. But that really is no excuse to leave the cemetery that overgrown. And as for the dog walkers, its disgusting that some don't pick up the 'mess' afterwards. And i agree that people on community service should help to keep these places tidy. It gives them work experience as well.
The dead are sleeping and are conscience of nothing. But that really is no excuse to leave the cemetery that overgrown. And as for the dog walkers, its disgusting that some don't pick up the 'mess' afterwards. And i agree that people on community service should help to keep these places tidy. It gives them work experience as well. excusemoi
  • Score: 9

10:59am Sun 10 Aug 14

Popcorn Sutton says...

The old cemetery is so beautiful as the seasons change but they do need to stop the young 'undesirables' drinking in there because they never put their cans in the bins.
There are some real interesting burials up there as well & that makes it well worth a visit.
it's always nice to be able to read the grave inscriptions but I don't think they should 'pretty it up' too much because that is part of its appeal.
The old cemetery is so beautiful as the seasons change but they do need to stop the young 'undesirables' drinking in there because they never put their cans in the bins. There are some real interesting burials up there as well & that makes it well worth a visit. it's always nice to be able to read the grave inscriptions but I don't think they should 'pretty it up' too much because that is part of its appeal. Popcorn Sutton
  • Score: 21

11:24am Sun 10 Aug 14

fritzer says...

Abkhazsoyuz wrote:
With the exception of dedicated people like John Bandee, it beggars belief that many of these graves have been so abandoned and forgotten by most, and treated with less dignity than that shown by archaeologists when unearthing human remains from the Bronze Age for a popular television show.
Totally agree. my grand, great and great great grand parents are all in that Cemetery.
[quote][p][bold]Abkhazsoyuz[/bold] wrote: With the exception of dedicated people like John Bandee, it beggars belief that many of these graves have been so abandoned and forgotten by most, and treated with less dignity than that shown by archaeologists when unearthing human remains from the Bronze Age for a popular television show.[/p][/quote]Totally agree. my grand, great and great great grand parents are all in that Cemetery. fritzer
  • Score: 1

12:42pm Sun 10 Aug 14

jankirkcaldy says...

Like the cemetery as it is - old overgrown, full of wild life and so much of interest that the children love it too. Nothing more boring that a well tended uniform OLD graveyard unless maybe if you're researching family history. Do agree the litter collections are non existent these days and bikes (almost always ridden by adults) are a real nuisance - having been hit a few times while dog walking. As a local I enjoy walks there most days
Like the cemetery as it is - old overgrown, full of wild life and so much of interest that the children love it too. Nothing more boring that a well tended uniform OLD graveyard unless maybe if you're researching family history. Do agree the litter collections are non existent these days and bikes (almost always ridden by adults) are a real nuisance - having been hit a few times while dog walking. As a local I enjoy walks there most days jankirkcaldy
  • Score: 12

2:10pm Sun 10 Aug 14

Lazy says...

Theres plenty of criminals on community service that could clean this place up am i wrong ?? Would save alot of council costs too !
Theres plenty of criminals on community service that could clean this place up am i wrong ?? Would save alot of council costs too ! Lazy
  • Score: 6

3:07pm Sun 10 Aug 14

*ay*carumba* says...

It's lovely to think that in an area dedicated to the dead there is so much wildlife thriving.

There is nothing stoping the relatives tending their family graves and if they don't, they have no right to complain about graves being overgrown. Take responsibility for your dead relatives as you would the living.
It's lovely to think that in an area dedicated to the dead there is so much wildlife thriving. There is nothing stoping the relatives tending their family graves and if they don't, they have no right to complain about graves being overgrown. Take responsibility for your dead relatives as you would the living. *ay*carumba*
  • Score: 8

3:39pm Sun 10 Aug 14

WalkingOnAWire says...

In a time of little money and tough choices I'd rather the council prioritise services that protect vulnerable living people, rather than worry about how tidy a cemetery is.
In a time of little money and tough choices I'd rather the council prioritise services that protect vulnerable living people, rather than worry about how tidy a cemetery is. WalkingOnAWire
  • Score: 11

5:55pm Sun 10 Aug 14

muzzz63 says...

Ah. Great excuses from the council. Wet or wet and warm weather stop maintenance work. Sounds like the "wrong type of leaves" rubbish on the railways. This cemetery has been left to rot for years and years. It's not a recent thing. Services have been cut and cut for years in all areas. I've left Southampton and I now live in Vietnam. This is an undeveloped country (supposedly) but our streets are cleaned everyday and our rubbish is collected every morning. The parks are immaculate and we have masses of sculptures in them - I still remember the unveiling of that lump of concrete rubbish in the park opposite the Civic Centre that cost so much money! It's obvious that the council has decided to leave this cemetery to fall apart in favour of having local streets cleaned once every 6 months. There are some things that England/Southampton is great for - getting services from the council is not one of them these days.
Ah. Great excuses from the council. Wet or wet and warm weather stop maintenance work. Sounds like the "wrong type of leaves" rubbish on the railways. This cemetery has been left to rot for years and years. It's not a recent thing. Services have been cut and cut for years in all areas. I've left Southampton and I now live in Vietnam. This is an undeveloped country (supposedly) but our streets are cleaned everyday and our rubbish is collected every morning. The parks are immaculate and we have masses of sculptures in them - I still remember the unveiling of that lump of concrete rubbish in the park opposite the Civic Centre that cost so much money! It's obvious that the council has decided to leave this cemetery to fall apart in favour of having local streets cleaned once every 6 months. There are some things that England/Southampton is great for - getting services from the council is not one of them these days. muzzz63
  • Score: -6

6:01pm Sun 10 Aug 14

freefinker says...

WalkingOnAWire wrote:
In a time of little money and tough choices I'd rather the council prioritise services that protect vulnerable living people, rather than worry about how tidy a cemetery is.
Indeed.

Also, if I recall rightly, the council went out to public consultation in the 1980's about what to do with the Old Cemetery. The public chose the option to manage it for its flora and fauna; which they have been doing very successfully since then.

Everywhere in there gets at least one strimming each year. You can read all about it on the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery website at http://fosoc.org/the
-cemetery/wildlife/
[quote][p][bold]WalkingOnAWire[/bold] wrote: In a time of little money and tough choices I'd rather the council prioritise services that protect vulnerable living people, rather than worry about how tidy a cemetery is.[/p][/quote]Indeed. Also, if I recall rightly, the council went out to public consultation in the 1980's about what to do with the Old Cemetery. The public chose the option to manage it for its flora and fauna; which they have been doing very successfully since then. Everywhere in there gets at least one strimming each year. You can read all about it on the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery website at http://fosoc.org/the -cemetery/wildlife/ freefinker
  • Score: 10

6:55pm Sun 10 Aug 14

sotonboy84 says...

The cemetery should be better maintained not just out of respect to the dead but out of respect to a really special place in the city that a large amount of its past inhabitants are buried and contains some beautiful listed buildings.

Some graves are broken to pieces and some have trees and plants growing out of them. I understand that the Council have had to make a lot of cutbacks but for the past 25 years I remember this place, it's never looked any better so that is no excuse.
The cemetery should be better maintained not just out of respect to the dead but out of respect to a really special place in the city that a large amount of its past inhabitants are buried and contains some beautiful listed buildings. Some graves are broken to pieces and some have trees and plants growing out of them. I understand that the Council have had to make a lot of cutbacks but for the past 25 years I remember this place, it's never looked any better so that is no excuse. sotonboy84
  • Score: -2

9:23pm Sun 10 Aug 14

elvisimo says...

muzzz63 wrote:
Ah. Great excuses from the council. Wet or wet and warm weather stop maintenance work. Sounds like the "wrong type of leaves" rubbish on the railways. This cemetery has been left to rot for years and years. It's not a recent thing. Services have been cut and cut for years in all areas. I've left Southampton and I now live in Vietnam. This is an undeveloped country (supposedly) but our streets are cleaned everyday and our rubbish is collected every morning. The parks are immaculate and we have masses of sculptures in them - I still remember the unveiling of that lump of concrete rubbish in the park opposite the Civic Centre that cost so much money! It's obvious that the council has decided to leave this cemetery to fall apart in favour of having local streets cleaned once every 6 months. There are some things that England/Southampton is great for - getting services from the council is not one of them these days.
Easily pleased
[quote][p][bold]muzzz63[/bold] wrote: Ah. Great excuses from the council. Wet or wet and warm weather stop maintenance work. Sounds like the "wrong type of leaves" rubbish on the railways. This cemetery has been left to rot for years and years. It's not a recent thing. Services have been cut and cut for years in all areas. I've left Southampton and I now live in Vietnam. This is an undeveloped country (supposedly) but our streets are cleaned everyday and our rubbish is collected every morning. The parks are immaculate and we have masses of sculptures in them - I still remember the unveiling of that lump of concrete rubbish in the park opposite the Civic Centre that cost so much money! It's obvious that the council has decided to leave this cemetery to fall apart in favour of having local streets cleaned once every 6 months. There are some things that England/Southampton is great for - getting services from the council is not one of them these days.[/p][/quote]Easily pleased elvisimo
  • Score: 0

11:56pm Sun 10 Aug 14

BeyondImagination says...

You'd have to be very short to find head high grass. The old cemetry will always be over grown unless more resources are made available. Get Rolph Harris and his like on the job instead of letting them rot in a cell all day.
You'd have to be very short to find head high grass. The old cemetry will always be over grown unless more resources are made available. Get Rolph Harris and his like on the job instead of letting them rot in a cell all day. BeyondImagination
  • Score: 1

8:03am Mon 11 Aug 14

paraboy says...

BeyondImagination wrote:
You'd have to be very short to find head high grass. The old cemetry will always be over grown unless more resources are made available. Get Rolph Harris and his like on the job instead of letting them rot in a cell all day.
very much so the pay back in the commutiy should sort that out get them working hard
[quote][p][bold]BeyondImagination[/bold] wrote: You'd have to be very short to find head high grass. The old cemetry will always be over grown unless more resources are made available. Get Rolph Harris and his like on the job instead of letting them rot in a cell all day.[/p][/quote]very much so the pay back in the commutiy should sort that out get them working hard paraboy
  • Score: 0

11:27am Mon 11 Aug 14

ouscribbler says...

I buried my parents' ashes there last year. The place is how it should be - a haven for wildlife. One look at the Friends of Old Southampton Cemetery look after it well and keep it as it was meant to be. If I was not happy with how the Cemetery is I would have buried my parents' ashes elsewhere.

I am one of the fortunate few who was able to bury my parents' ashes at Southampton Old Cemetery because I already had family buried there. It has been closed for new burials for many a year. I feel privileged that my parents are buried in such beautiful surroundings.
I buried my parents' ashes there last year. The place is how it should be - a haven for wildlife. One look at the Friends of Old Southampton Cemetery look after it well and keep it as it was meant to be. If I was not happy with how the Cemetery is I would have buried my parents' ashes elsewhere. I am one of the fortunate few who was able to bury my parents' ashes at Southampton Old Cemetery because I already had family buried there. It has been closed for new burials for many a year. I feel privileged that my parents are buried in such beautiful surroundings. ouscribbler
  • Score: 3

2:12pm Mon 11 Aug 14

soobear says...

Personally I think the answer is clean it up out of respect not so much for the dead, who are gone and wont know, but for the relatives of the dead buried there. Wildlife havens are lovely but maybe shouldn't be used as a lazy excuse to abandon the maintenance of the cemetery.
Personally I think the answer is clean it up out of respect not so much for the dead, who are gone and wont know, but for the relatives of the dead buried there. Wildlife havens are lovely but maybe shouldn't be used as a lazy excuse to abandon the maintenance of the cemetery. soobear
  • Score: 2

2:58pm Mon 11 Aug 14

ouscribbler says...

As one of the relatives whose parents are interred there I do not want the council maintaining the cemetery more than they do - once a year. I chose to have my parents ashes placed at Southampton Old Cemetery because of the way it is maintained as a wildlife haven. If I'd wanted regimented, sterile surrounding for my parents I could have chosen any of the other cemeteries.

The close relatives of most of those buried in the cemetery are probably long dead themselves. Go on one of the walks organised by Friends of Old Southampton Cemetery and learn more about this precious place...
As one of the relatives whose parents are interred there I do not want the council maintaining the cemetery more than they do - once a year. I chose to have my parents ashes placed at Southampton Old Cemetery because of the way it is maintained as a wildlife haven. If I'd wanted regimented, sterile surrounding for my parents I could have chosen any of the other cemeteries. The close relatives of most of those buried in the cemetery are probably long dead themselves. Go on one of the walks organised by Friends of Old Southampton Cemetery and learn more about this precious place... ouscribbler
  • Score: 3

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