Written by Ray Hayes
Although we love Jesmond Old Cemetery, being brutally honest, it cannot really match the grand splendour of some of the Victorian cemeteries we’ve visited in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh but it does, nevertheless, have its own fair share of Listed buildings, walls and monuments that we can be justly proud of. This section of our website aims to give you the ‘official’ architectural and historic rationales behind these particular elements of Jesmond Old Cemetery being granted ‘Listed status’ and also catalogues how the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery have been involved in the restoration of some of them.
We’ll start with the ARCHWAY, CHAPELS AND WALLS.
The impressive Entrance Archway from Jesmond Road consists of a pair of Chapel Lodges with adjacent walls and gates to Jesmond Old Cemetery. J.C. Loudon, the Victorian writer, garden designer and botanist, who published the influential ‘On the Laying Out, Planting and Managing of Cemeteries’, wrote in 1843 that the archway and chapels were ‘the most appropriate cemetery lodge’ that he knew, because ‘it can never be mistaken for an entrance to a public park or to a country residence’. Additionally, John Dobson’s daughter, Margaret Jane, wrote in her memoir dedicated to her father that ‘the church and the Dissenters’ chapel grouped together form a most sombre and imposing entrance to our Campo Santo (cemetery)’.
The Historic Environment Record (HER), on Newcastle City Council’s ‘sitelines’ database, describes the ‘Archway, Chapels and Walls’ as follows:
Entrance archway, chapels and gates. 1836 by John Dobson for Newcastle General Cemetery Company; restored 1978 by Tyne and Wear County Council. Sandstone ashlar with plinth; Welsh slate roofs. Symmetrical; classical style. Banded rustication. High round arch with archivolt and impost flanked by 2-storey towers and one-storey, one-bay chapels. Cornice and blocking course above arch; second stage of towers has corner pilasters and iron grilles under cornice and blocking course. Chapels attached have pediments on paired pilasters and central recessed panels. Flat-coped walls enclose area in front and break forward, ending in square piers with flat coping. Wrought iron vehicle and pedestrian gates have spearhead standards and dog-bars and acanthus ornament to principals. LISTED GRADE 2*.
By way of adding a bit of detail to the architectural language, ‘ashlar’ is finely dressed, large square-cut stones, where very thin joints can be achieved, ‘rustication’ is a type of decorative masonry that provides a purposefully rough or patterned surface, often leaving a plane surface around the edges. An ‘archivolt’ is an ornamental moulding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch whilst an ‘impost’ is a projecting block resting on top of a column or embedded in a wall, serving as the base of an arch. A ‘pediment’ is a triangular gable forming the end of a roof slope, doorway or window, a ‘pilaster’ is a rectangular column, usually projecting from a wall and ‘coping’ is the capping or covering of a wall. Finally, the ‘acanthus’ ornament appears extensively in Greek and Roman architecture.
Moving on to the SOUTH LODGE AND GATEWAY, which lie on the opposite side to the main entrance of Jesmond Old Cemetery, HER describes them as follows:
Lodge, gateway, walls and gates. 1836 by John Dobson for Newcastle General Cemetery Company. Sandstone ashlar; roof of small graduated slates. Classical style. One storey, one bay. Central blocked tripartite window under pedimented gable on four pilasters. Gateway has 2-stage towers with raised stone surrounds to square-headed pedestrian entrances under cornice and chamfered coping. Pediment shaped upper sections have antefixae and acroterion. High, flat coped walls enclose area in front and break forward to square piers with sloped coping. Cast iron vehicle and pedestrian gates have spear-finialled standards and dog-bars and acanthus ornament to principals. LISTED GRADE 2*.
‘Antefixae’ is the plural of ‘antefix’, which is a vertical block which terminates and conceals the covering tiles of a tiled roof and also serves to protect the join from the elements. An ‘acroterion’ is a decorative pedestal for an ornament or statue placed atop a pediment; the word has also been extended to refer to the statue or ornament that stands on the pedestal.
In relation to the South Lodge, on the 12th October 2008, the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery announced that plans for major renovation of the South Lodge are well underway, with “the Grade 2 listed building has been derelict for a number of years but it is now to be restored to its former John Dobson designed glory; this will involve the demolition of the unsightly external lobby area and the full restoration of the fabric of the building, including the reinstatement of the original chimney design. Once the external work has been completed, the interior will include a room for the sole use of the Friends group, which will also include a toilet, water and heating. Hopefully, work will start in early Spring, with the building being completed and ready for use by the Friends group in the Summer of 2009. Further details will be provided as the scheme progresses.“
On the 28th February 2009, Jesmond Old Cemetery was singled out in an English Heritage press release entitled, ‘Bright Future for North East Heritage’, which included Jesmond Old Cemetery in their list of vulnerable historic treasures that they expect to see removed from its Heritage at Risk register. The press release stated that “Heritage at Risk is an annual survey of the threatened heritage in our cities, towns and countryside and includes listed buildings, historic parks, archaeological remains, battlefields and protected wrecks. This year’s register will be published in the summer but already English Heritage is confident that a number of sites across the region will be removed as a result of a lot of hard work from a range of partners who are ensuring that the region’s historic environment has a future. Jesmond Old Cemetery represents one of their works in progress, specifically the South Lodge, which has been on the Heritage at Risk register since 2002. Having been blocked up in the 1930’s, the interior was full of rubble and stone and the roof, being infested with dry rot, collapsed late last year. A grant of £35,000 to Newcastle City Council will help see the building repaired and brought back into use, part of which will be for the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery.”
On the 27th July 2009, the Friends reported that, “contractors, Hastie Burton Ltd are now ‘on site’ and have commenced this fantastic project, which is important both in terms of its unique contribution to the architectural interest of Jesmond Old Cemetery and also as a permanent base for the ‘Friends’ group. Those of you with a keen eye for observation will note the presence of a chimney stack, which has not been previously visible for some time. The original building did have this structure but it ‘disappeared’ some time ago, probably in the 1950’s; however, as part of the conditions for receiving funding, the chimneys had to be replaced in line with John Dobson’s design. Interestingly, they are not just there for aesthetic purposes – as part of the refurbishment, there will be a fireplace and stove to help heat the building. Lovely!!! Finally, on the 20th February 2010, the announcement was made that, “the South Lodge is now completed – well, almost!! The South Lodge has now been completely renovated to, more or less, its original state, as designed by John Dobson. All amenities have been restored, so the Friends can now enjoy all the home comforts of hot water, chilled water (and beer) and a toilet!! The building looks fantastic and is a credit to those involved in the project i.e. Dave Heslop, English Heritage, the City Council and Hastie Burton. Many thanks to you all.”
In relation to the Sandyford Road perimeter wall, on the 7th October 2008, the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery announced that “the perimeter wall along the Sandyford Road edge of the Cemetery is to be repaired. The City Council’s Bereavement Services Department have recently been granted funding to carry out the essential repairs. They are working with the Technical Services section of the Environment and Regeneration Directorate to program these works. A photogramatic survey has been carried out to determine the scope of the works involved and a tender document is currently being drawn up.” In March 2009, things had moved on, with E3 Ecology Ltd undertaking a bat survey on behalf of the City Council. Prior to conservation works commencing on the Sandyford Road perimeter wall and the South Lodge, the City Council commissioned a bat survey of the areas affected in order to ascertain the likely presence of bats and to identify what measures could be taken to minimise the risk of harm to individual bats. The detailed survey concluded that small numbers of pipistrelle bats were likely to use the cracks and crevices in the walls for roosting and hibernating and, as such, identified a number of proposals to ensure that the cemetery retains the potential to be used by bats in a similar manner. The Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery announced that “obviously, in terms of the overall management of Jesmond Old Cemetery, we are extremely pleased to see such a high priority placed on ensuring that the bio-diversity of this important wildlife corridor is maintained or even enhanced during such important conservation work.” Eventually, on the 27th April 2009, the Friends announced that, “at last, work has commenced on the restoration and conservation of the Sandyford Road perimeter wall. As reported earlier, the works were held up until after a report on the presence of bats had been carried out; following the implementation of the necessary arrangements to minimise any impact on the bat population, local firm Classic Masonry have now begun the very important task of repointing and, where necessary, replacing the brickwork. Already, the work carried out is quite noticeable and it certainly adds to the overall aesthetic improvements of Jesmond Old Cemetery and the surrounding area.”
Concentrating on the monuments now, within the Consecrated/West Section of Jesmond Old Cemetery, we have eight Listed Grade 2 monuments which the HER, variously, describe as follows:
THE TOMB OF JOHN DOBSON.
Headstone, enclosing rail, and cross laid flat. Circa 1905 headstone and rail; circa 1865 cross. Marble, sandstone ashlar and wrought iron railings. Marble headstone inscribed to commemorate John Dobson died 8th January 1865, and other members of his family to his daughter Margaret, died 1905: scroll with carved lilies. Chamfered sandstone curb with twisted iron posts and diagonally-set square rails encloses graves; plain sandstone cross inscribed ‘J D’ lies flat in centre. Listed for historical interest.
On the 22nd October 2009, the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery announced that they “are pleased to reveal that John Dobson’s memorial has been restored, specifically in relation to the metal surround and the sandstone kerbing. Dobson’s family have been keen to contribute to our work and agreed to finance the bulk of the repair work, with the Friends contributing to the final total required. The work was carried out by local firm, Ostell & Co.”
THE TOMB OF THE KEENLEYSIDE FAMILY.
Canopied tomb. Circa 1842. signed ‘R. DAVIES S NEWCASTLE’. Memorial to Keenleyside children, died 1841, 1841 and 1842, aged 1, 12 and 10, and to other members of the Keenleyside family including Thomas W. died 1867. Sandstone ashlar. Stepped base to effigy of baby on couch under canopy of 4 slender octagonal piers, Tudor arches, and central pendant. Historical note: 1841 and 1842 were years of cholera epidemics.
THE TOMB OF ARCHIBALD REED.
Gothic tower tomb. Circa 1843. Signed ‘DOBSON ARCHT’. Memorial to Archibald Reed Sheriff, Alderman and six times Mayor of Newcastle, died 1842. Sandstone ashlar 2-stage tower with pinnacled diagonal buttresses; octagonal spire. Head-stopped drip moulds. Slab at west to vault entrance.
A ‘pinnacle’ is an upright architectural member, generally ending in a small spire and used especially in Gothic construction to give weight, especially to a buttress.
On the 13th February 2009, the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery announced that “we were contacted by two members of the public who have a particular interest in the Archibald Reed monument. Having visited the Cemetery, they were impressed by the improvements being made but were somewhat concerned by the state of the listed Reed monument. As a group, we too are concerned; however, there are a number of factors that impact upon our ability to do something immediately, namely that although it is a listed monument, there are bats nesting in it and, as they are a protected species, we have to be very careful how we go about restoring it. Having said that, the City Council are supportive of our aim to restore this important monument and preliminary discussions are taking place to plan how we can best care for it.”
By the 5th November 2010, things had moved on, with the Friends announcing that they had worked in partnership with the Sir James Knott Trust in order to help fund a preliminary assessment of the Reed monument, “with regard to our ongoing quest to restore the Archibald Reed monument, the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery successfully applied to the Sir James Knott Trust fund for £3,200; this amount is a considerable contribution to the overall cost of carrying out a Condition Survey on the monument. The remainder of the final bill for this important piece of work will be provided by descendants of the Reed and the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery. Once the Condition Survey has been completed, we will be in a better position to estimate the cost of restoring the monument.”
On 2nd March 2011, the Friends stated that, “representatives from the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery met with Mr Robin Dower, from Spence and Dower (Chartered Architects and Historic Building Consultants) and Mr Jim Croft (St Astier Contractors) in order to discuss the first important steps in restoring the Reed Monument. The major challenge at this stage is the safe and appropriate removal of the rather large growth of ivy that now covers most of the monument – the difficulty being that the ivy has infiltrated much of the stonework, which increases the chances of disturbing the structure and causing further damage, which is something that we definitely don’t want to happen.”
THE TOMB OF DR. WILLIAM REA.
Grave Monument erected in 1906 to Dr. William Rea, who died in 1903. It was designed by Robert O’Brien North and incorporates a profile of Dr. Rea by Francis Derwent Wood. Portland stone on a sandstone base bearing a bronze medallion. North was articled to Messrs. Goldie, Child & Goldie and served as their chief assistant before setting up practice on his own. A bronze medallion set in the upper part of the monument is the work of sculptor Frank Derwent Wood; Wood is considered an eminent national sculptor and has many acclaimed works of art to his name, including the Listed Grade 2 Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Hyde Park Corner. Examples of Wood’s work are uncommon outside London.
THE TOMB OF THOMAS MILES RICHARDSON Snr.
Headstone. Circa 1848. Memorial to Thomas Miles Richardson painter, engraver and leading figure in promoting the fine arts in Newcastle, died 1848, and to other members of his family. By Pearson. Sandstone slab with shaped top and moulded edge. Listed for historical interest.
THE TOMB OF JOSEPH WILSON.
Broken obelisk tomb. Circa 1841. Memorial to Joseph Wilson, composer of popular Tyneside songs, died 1841. Sandstone ashlar; base inscribed with verse in dialect.
Moving on to the Unconsecrated/East Section of Jesmond Old Cemetery, we can find the two remaining Listed Grade 2 monuments, which the HER describe as follows:
THE TOMB OF FAIRLESS HARRISON.
Headstone. Circa 1906, to members of the Harrison family. Granite and bronze. Art Nouveau style. Tall square column on plinth. Tree-like corner shafts spread into swelling foliage brackets supporting cornice.
THE TOMB OF THOMAS OLIVER.
Column tomb. Circa 1857. Memorial to Thomas Oliver, architect, of 3 Picton Place, Newcastle, died 9 December 1857, and his wife died 1886. Sandstone ashlar. Panelled pedestal with egg-and-dart moulded cornice supports octagonal column with urn finial.