The Gatehouse from the west

FRIENDS OF BEDFORD CEMETERY

Foster Hill Road

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CEMETERY

Bedford's first municipal cemetery was opened in June 1855. The chosen site of 18 acres of farmland (later enlarged to 37 acres), situated on rising ground known as Foster's Hill north of the town centre, was bought for the town by James Wyatt (1816-78) in his capacity as Borough treasurer. As Editor of the Bedford Times, which he founded in 1845, he spent several years campaigning for a cemetery for Bedford. Sadly, one of the first to be buried in the new cemetery was his eldest son Otho, who died in July 1855 aged 10. The Wyatt Tomb enclosure contains a variety of memorials to family members buried between 1855 and 1988.

Near the junction of Foster Hill Road with Park Road North is the gatehouse (see above), which was designed in the Gothic revival style by a Bedford architect, Thomas Jobson Jackson. It incorporates an entrance arch for hearses, flanked by a cemetery office and accommodation for the registrar. The first registrar, Thomas Dann (1822-98), served for 43 years until his death.

Winding paths lead to the cemetery chapel, also designed by T. J. Jackson. Originally this was a double structure, with separate chapels for Anglicans and Nonconformists. In 1955, when the crematorium was built at the back, a single chapel was provided on the west side, with the other one being turned into the Chapel of Remembrance.

The cemetery was known as Bedford Cemetery until the new cemetery at Norse Road was opened in 1987, when the name was changed to Foster Hill Road Cemetery to avoid confusion. A new crematorium and chapel were opened at Norse Road in 1995.

With no more room for burials, apart from a small number of unused spaces within family plots, the old cemetery has become part of Bedford's heritage of historical monuments and quiet recreational areas. Here may also be found old and unusual varieties of trees and a wealth of flora and fauna. By joining the Friends, you can help ensure its preservation for the future.