The Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery have achieved much since we formed in 2010 and this feature aims to show you the difference we've made in those five years.
What you see below represents the first phase of our efforts, the most intense work we'll have had to do, that of tidying the site and bringing some order after some forty years of neglect. We're now in a position to start enhancing the site, to again make it a fitting garden of remembrance for the community and resting place for our ancestors.
Pictures on the left show the cemetery in September 2010, just after the Friends formed; those on the right in the first week in August 2015.
More on all these efforts can be found in the members section of the website. You'll see below all that we've achieved in the last five years, but also that there's much more to do. We need your membership and support to do this. We work in the cemetery section by section, grave by grave, if you can help with this we'll be delighted to hear from you. If you have a family memorial in need of repair, do get in contact as we can look into its repair.
The main gates as seen from across the Wembdon Road. You'll see that the central shrub has been trimmed back, allowing passers-by on the Wembdon Road to see right into the cemetery. To the right you can see the new black marble memorial donated to the Friends by the Cooperative Funeral Care, which gives information about the cemetery. On the right of the gates is the new sign put up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The old 'keep out' sign is now happily recycled as the Friends' notice board.
Just inside the main gates looking along the main path. Here you see how the simple act of trimming back the hedges has really opened up the interior of the cemetery, making it much more accessible. Although before the overgrowth was great for wildlife it was seriously damaging the memorials, as well as providing secluded nooks for all sorts of anti-social behaviour, creating much misery. In time we will be replanting along the periphery of the cemetery so it will be equally fit for the dead, nature, heritage and community.
The patch of the cemetery to the left of the main path as you enter from the Wembdon Road. You'll see here how the hedge to the right has been tamed, again opening up the vista. You can also see the the profusion of crosses and other memorials which have sprouted and shot up towards the sky, all repaired by the efforts of the Friends, relatives and the kind help of Fine Memorials of Bridgwater.
The grade II listed monument to James Cook, a former town clerk of Bridgwater, was fast becoming another part of the overgrown hedge. Terrifyingly, a shrub was also growing inside the memorial, forcing the delicate stonework apart. Fortunately, you can now see it standing un-harassed, the shrubs to the left modestly tidied up, rebuked for being too intimate. In the foreground you'll also see the stocky West family memorial standing proud again.
The same patch, this time looking towards the Wembdon Road from the mound which was the site of the Anglican chapel. You can see the kerbs tidied and most of the crosses repaired. There is still some work to do here, but it has been transformed over the five years. The great Bradbeer family cross commands the attention in the middle; the Jones memorial in front of it still gently nods to one side.
Looking towards the main path from the mound of the former Anglican chapel. The slovenly hedge is now standing up, neat and tidy; the memorials have been woken from their slumber and stand proud, in fitting tribute to the dead. The Friends spent a great deal of effort working on this section, partially as it is so conspicuous from the Wembdon Road, but also as a sample section for the rest of the cemetery, teaching us a great deal, but also showing what we can do with your support. The short Cottam cross to the front and left was repaired thanks to a donation of a member of the public, Mr. Gibson, in memory of a local family of architects and astronomers.
The mound of the former Anglican Chapel. The Cornish cross of the military Barham family stands to the front, commanding a whole host of repaired crosses across the left of the picture. The Fitzgerald cross to the right has been straightened up, but is still in need of more work.
From the mound again looking across to the main path. It took a long time to cut back a heap of brambles and sort out a disarticulated pile of memorial parts. The effort was worth it. The Smith obelisk dominates this part of the cemetery, as it had from 1854 to when it was toppled in the 1990s.
Looking from the mound of the former Dissenter chapel towards the Wembdon Road. The weeping Symons angel to the right is leaning on her cross again, having previously been smashed into pieces. The Smith obelisk can be seen in the distance, as can a number of other memorials, previously obscured by brambles.
From the Dissenters chapel mound, looking along the main path towards the Wembdon Road. The worst of the overgrowth has been cut back, the memorials tidied. Before we started work we had no idea that the memorials along the left of the path were there.
Looking from the Dissenter chapel mound in the direction of the Jam Factory Lane. The skyline of trees remains roughly the same, the brambles to the right have gone and all the kerbs and stones along this path have been straightened up, tidied out and levelled where they needed it. A single memorial can take up to a day to put right, which gives you an idea of the amount of work involved.
Part of the Anglican section of the cemetery, looking at the Sealy memorial, now freed from the encroaching brambles, as is the handsome tree they were choking. We found four lost memorials under that tree.
Another tree freed from choking brambles, this one is right in the middle of the cemetery in the Dissenters section. This is seen from the middle path looking towards the Jam Factory Lane. The memorials along the central path have been tended; all dug out and straightened up. Some had sunk at quite sever angles into the ground.
Looking along the middle path towards the Halesleigh Road side of the cemetery. The path had been blocked by a large bramble hedge, now the hedge is gone, the tree freed and the way clear again. The memorials and kerbs on each side of the path have been tended and the white tombstone on the right was repaired by a member of the public, Ms. Sheridan. in memory of Captain James Hunt, a heroic Bridgwater mariner.
The Dissenters' corner at the far north east of the cemetery. The Browne mausoleum has been cleared of the nettles and the area around it levelled and tidied. Much to our surprise, you'll see that the large bramble hedge behind was cleared to reveal a great stone cairn, a very unusual memorial to the Spiller family. To the left you'll also see a new cherry tree, part of the wider efforts of the Friends to start fostering flora and fauna in a controlled, sympathetic manner.
The Dissenters' corner again, from the other side of the Browne vault. The ground was very uneven around here and quite dangerous. The Friends spent a lot of time and effort levelling it up. The brambles were cleared up to the far wall, revealing many interesting memorials along the way, including the giant marble slab recalling former town mayor, W.T. Holland. This had sunk very badly and was lifted at the expense by the ward councillor, Gill Slocombe.
The Dissenters' corner again. With the ivy growing about the Spiller cairn and the backdrop of green hedging, this area retains some of the wildness it had before, but it a much safer and much less damaging way. Some of the buddleia on the left of the 2010 picture is also kept for the butterflies.
Perhaps the greatest transformation of part of the cemetery. Part of the Dissenters section looking towards the Jam Factory Lane. Use the two Commonwealth War graves as reference points. The hugely invasive, damaging and massive bramble hedge here took ages to clear, but in doing so it revealed over forty memorials we had no idea about before. Its removal really opened up the cemetery, such that you can now see from one side to the other, which has reduced the opportunity and instances of anti-social behaviour.
Looking right across the cemetery, from the dissenters section towards the Wembdon Road end. Gradual, long term working, clearing overgrowth, straightening kerbs and repairing memorials all adds up. You'll see there's more to do and we really need your help to do so. You'll also see in the distance of the 2015 picture that the urn has been placed back on the tall Lott family memorial.
The wilder Dissenter section of the cemetery, looking towards the Halesleigh gate. You'll see that the main effort here was to raise the crown of the trees so that the whole cemetery can be seen from all sides. Here all that was needed was a light touch and it still retains its woodland feel. In the trees the Friends put up bird and bat boxes. Their singing is a delight in the spring and summer.
Looking along one of the paths in the Dissenters section towards the Jam Factory Lane. Again, a light touch was needed here, the invasive brambles are gone and the memorials tended, but this is still a peaceful and natural place of rest.
Looking from the area close to the Halesleigh Gate, past the Roe memorial to the Wembdon Road end of the cemetery. The tree next to the Roe memorial fell down during storms in 2012. With the removal of the nearby brambles, now the whole area is transformed, is open and much brighter. A new tree was planted nearby at the start of 2015, which was donated by the Mayor and Mayoress of Bridgwater at the time, Steve and Stella Austen.
You will have seen from all these pictures the transformations in the cemetery since we formed all those years ago. You'll also see that there is much more left to do. Our efforts would not have been possible without the membership and generous support of the public. All that has been achieved so far has been by small increments, patch by patch, grave by grave. All donations go a long way, if you are able to help our working parties in the cemetery we would be delighted to hear from you. Likewise, if you have a family memorial in the cemetery which is in need of repair, do get in contact. Lots more on all of these efforts can be found within the members section of the website.