Memorandum by Leonie Kellaher, University
of North London (CEM 79)
In response to the Sub-committee's request for
material for an enquiry into Cemeteries, I wish to submit evidence
which touches upon at least four of the headings listed in the
Press Release of 7 November 2000.
As a team of researchers, we have been engaged
in examining cemeteries over the past five years. The principal
focus of our work has been the uses and meanings of cemeteries
for those who use and visit them, for those who live alongside
them and for the increasingly varied minority groups who are "re-populating"
some Victorian cemeteries. Whilst we have, to date, concentrated
our efforts on London, our research has entailed exploration of
new arrangements for burial, notably woodland burial, and this
has required a wider focus than the capital. We do not claim that
our London work represents all the uses and meanings ascribed
to cemeteries by mourners, visitors or staff, and we acknowledge
important regional differences which spring from cultural [eg
religious/socio-economic] and economic [eg differential land availability
and value/cost] variation, and are currently developing a proposal
for funding for a regional comparison which will also take account
of trends in the disposal of cremated remains. Our initial focus
was upon burial only since this was a new area of research and
had to be limited.
The research upon which our offering of evidence
is based was funded by ESRCThe Economic and Social Research
Council [Award; ROOO236493]and conducted between 1996 and
1999, though we have continuously up-dated our findings since
the funding ceased. Whilst the approach to data collection and
analysis has been qualitative and ethnographic, we accrued a large
and rich data set derived from some 1,500 encounters with "users",
in six cemeteries over a 14 month fieldwork period. For each site
we compiled a dossier on the development of the particular cemetery
landscape; the current style of management and its relationship
to patterns of tenure and grave plot ownership etc, and the changes
in use and style, especially around the individual grave plot,
over time. The six main study sites were carefully selected to
cover many of the minority groups who bury in London. These included:
Jewish, Moslem, Greek Cypriot, Irish, as well as "indigenous"
Londoners, though visitors and users of the cemeteries from other
groups were also encountered.
At the start of the research , the issue
of re-use of graves was just coming to the fore. The study was
not specifically designed to explore this particular issue but,
along with a number of other issues which are included in the
press release listing [eg the often different, not to say contested,
perspectives from which owners, managers, staff and usersincluding
friends groupsview the grave-plot and the cemetery as a
whole], re-use emerged as a live issue of considerable interest
and sometimes concern to those who tended graves. We have published
a number of articles and chapters and have a contract with Berg
to submit a manuscript in mid 2001.
All the publications, to date, have presented
findings to illuminate the practical and/or policy implications.
One of these, published in the IBCA [Institute of Burial and Cremation
Authority] Journal is in fairly concise question and answer form
which addresses issues such as: Who and when do people visit graves/cemeteries;
why do people visit; what do people do when they visit; how do
people select a cemetery; does quality of maintenance make a difference
to visitors; who is buried with whom? I attach a copy of this
Also attached is a fuller version, published in Mortality in March
of this year, which offers a more reflective discussion of the
issue of sustainability of cemeteries in modern England and on
the trends arising, or likely to arise, out of what we have identified
as a changing dialectic between man and nature. The question of
memorialisation in relation to cremated remains, as compared to
the longer standing pattern of memorialisation which the traditional
cemetery makes manifest, has been addressedin a somewhat
preliminary way in an address to the cremation society of Great
Britain and a copy of this which appeared in their "trade"
magazine, Pharos, is also attached.
The main source of evidence which we should
be pleased to offer the Sub-committee is the ESRC funded projectentitled
Cemetery as Gardencited above. We were required to submit
an end-of-award report for evaluation in terms of objectives met,
difficulties encountered, etc and for an assessment as to the
validity/reliability of findings. The full end-of-award report
on the research, given the grade "outstanding" is available
on the ESRC web site, but I enclose a summary.
Other work in the area, funded by this University
has concerned the impact upon neighbourhoods of two cemeteries.
This work was presented as a paper at the recent Death, Dying
and Disposal Conference [Goldsmiths, September, 2000] entitled:
Cemetery as Local Amenity. An invited seminar, also funded by
UNL was held in 1998, which involved a small number of cemetery
"experts" [eg denominational professionals, managers,
cemetery workers, funeral directors, friends groups and memorial
masons] in a round table discussion about the future sustainability
We should, therefore, be very pleased to offer
evidence to the sub-committee and to elaborate on the following
issues cited in the press release:
the historical and cultural significance
of cemeteries for local communitiesespecially those groups/communities
which have experienced dislocation across time and place, from
the past or origins;
the condition of existing cemeteriesand
the reactions of those who visit graves there;
aspects of management of cemeteries,
particularly as these come into conjunction/conflict with users/visitors
and the provision of services;
trends in views on the disposal of
remainsin and outside cemeteries and with reference views
amongst those now in younger generations.
Our data is very rich and it is likely that
we would be in a position to offer evidence on other issues which
might be of importance to the enquiry.
Leonie Kellaher and Doris Francis
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