The Wisbech Society

and Preservation Trust Limited

Cemetery History

Discover the unique heritage of three acres of Victorian cemetery in the heart of Wisbech. Wisbech General Cemetery is open to the public for pedestrian access during daylight hours. Visitors are free to walk around and take in the cemetery's uniquely atmospheric setting.

A brief history of Wisbech General Cemetery

Wisbech General Cemetery is nationally significant as one of very few non-denominational burial places established in English towns and cities during Victorian times. It is the resting place for several people of local significance, adding greatly to the town’s heritage and providing a rich resource for historians and researchers. It was established in 1836, a time when it was fashionable for large public cemeteries to be laid out along the lines of formal landscaped gardens. The churchyard of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, the town’s primary burial ground, was overcrowded to the point of becoming a health hazard. Meanwhile, many of the area’s contemporary new chapels were established without burial grounds.

Although at its most popular during the mid-1800s, burials continued until the late 1960s. By the time of its closure in 1972, more than 6,570 interments are thought to have taken place at the cemetery.

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Right hand image

Wisbech General Cemetery’s chapel of rest was erected in 1848, after a loan of £500 had been raised for its construction. Built in the neoclassical Doric style, it provided friends and families a place for funerals, according to individual beliefs or denominations.

Members of many prominent Wisbech families and residents were buried in the General Cemetery. They included members of the Dawbarn, Ollard, Southwell and Gardiner families, and the celebrated Victorian photographer Samuel Smith. Many more people were interred in multiple graves, a large number unmarked by headstone or monument.

Ten World War I soldiers who died in England as a result of injuries sustained in service, are buried in the cemetery, plus a World war II airman.

You can find details of these on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

A further eleven Wisbech soldiers, killed overseas during the conflict, are commemorated on family memorials.

Towards the end of the 19th century the General Cemetery saw fewer burials as other grounds, especially the new Borough Cemetery in Wisbech’s Mount Pleasant area, opened. Only six burials took place between 1960 and 1969, and Wisbech Borough Council closed the site, which fell into disrepair and rapidly became overgrown.

The cemetery records have been transcribed by the Fenland Family History Society (with kind permission of Wisbech and Fenland Museum) and registers and memorial inscriptions may be obtained from them: CLICK HERE

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Right hand image

In the 1960s the Wisbech General Cemetery Company was dissolved and all regular burials ceased. The cemetery became overgrown and the Chapel deteriorated. In 1985 the date stone (1848) to the chapel was removed by vandals and for “safety reasons” the council removed the remains of the roof to deter vagrants. In 1991 the Fenland District Council Development and Leisure committee agreed the principle to demolish the Chapel.

This was strongly opposed by Wisbech Society and in 1992 a new group was formed named The Friends of Wisbech General Cemetery and this most diligent band of volunteers worked (and continue to work) tirelessly, to clear, maintain, improve the cemetery and develop the flora and fauna for the benefit of the people of Wisbech and visitors including the descendents of the people buried there.

And that brings us to today…

The Cemetery is a calm and beautiful place which must be respected in memory of those buried therein so the following rules have been formulated to retain the ethos of the Victorian Graveyard and the health and safety of visitors:

  1. The graves and monuments remain the responsibility of Wisbech Society and not descendants of the deceased,
  2. Care should be taken approaching monuments: those marked unsafe by Fenland District Council must not be approached,
  3. No existing memorial or headstone must be cleaned, moved, straightened or marked,
  4. No new memorials or markers may be added without written consent and approval,
  5. No tributes, floral or otherwise, or decorations must be placed in the cemetery. The only exception is for British Legion poppies at Remembrance time,
  6. No clearance of undergrowth or plants may be done without written agreement,
  7. Graves can be tended by family members and friends. Only the grave itself may be tidied: the immediate surroundings must be left untended so as not to disturb wildlife.

Donations for the general upkeep of the cemetery are always welcome. Contributions towards the restoration of a particular monument can be considered.

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Project timeline

April 2013

Lambert’s Walk land purchased

June 2014

Heads of agreement with FDC for lease of Chapel and Cemetery

January 2015

Submission to HLF

April 2015

HLF feasibility grant awarded

April 2016

HLF Round 1 grant awarded

November 2016

HLF Round 2 submission submitted

March 2017

HLF Round 2 grant awarded

August 2017

Permission to start from HLF

January 2018

Building start

March 2018

Website launched

July 2018

Building complete

September 2018

Chapel ready to use

April 2020

Project completion

Burial Records

If you would like us to undertake a search on your behalf, are unable to find who you are looking for or would like a grave location please contact us using the contact form on this website.

Many graves are unmarked by headstones or monuments but, from our records, we are able to provide information to locate the exact location. It should be accepted that this is a continuing work in progress and many areas of the cemetery have not yet been cleared to make access easy.

Our volunteers will be pleased to find and show you the exact location of your ancestor or person in whom you are interested.

To help us cover some of the ongoing costs involved in the upkeep of the Cemetery and Chapel, we request a minimum donation of £15, payable at the time, for which a receipt will be issued.

The cemetery records have been transcribed by kind permission of Wisbech Museum and undertaken by a small team of dedicated volunteers.

We would welcome short histories of those buried in the cemetery for our records and displays.

Burial records search

*All fields are optional

Click here for advice

To order alphabetically or numerically, simply click the field you would like ordered. To order in reverse, simple click again. Please note that names in the original burial register can be misspelt, Christian names changed, and ages or dates advised by relatives inaccurate. If a search fails retry using only the first one to two letters of the surname. It is also possible that a letter has been misinterpreted so it is worth trying alternatives.

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