Green Street Cemetery

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Green Street Cemetery


LeCronierMemorial.jpg

Le Cronier memorial in Green Street cemetery'


This article by historian Robin Cox was first published in the journal of the Channel Island Family History Society in 1979


Channel Island Family History Society member Alfred Pipon inspects a gravestone in the cemetery on a visit in 1978, the year the society was founded - picture Jersey Evening Post

The aim of this article is to show that what at first presents itself as a bewildering collection of stones and monuments is a well-ordered arrangement of family burial plots, the study of which can be of assistance to any would-be researchers into their own or other family histories.

Town churchyard

Before the French Revolution all the dead of the parish were interred in the town churchyard, which was bigger than may be seen today, a considerable area of it having been given up for house building, church extensions and street improvements.

With the arrival of large numbers of French Roman Catholic refugees fleeing from the setting up of the First Republic, the ecclesiastical authorities had to seek alternative facilities for the disposal of the French dead. The cemetry on which All Saints Church now stands was opened as a strangers' cemetery in 1793.

All strangers could then be buried in the new ground, which allowed the town churchyard a little more time to serve the parishioners' needs. But by 1822 complaints were voiced about the crowded nature of the churchyard and the smells which pervaded the neighbourhood on warm days.

In 1825 the Royal Court ordered the parish to find a new ground for burials and fixed a date for the complete closure of the town churchyard.

The parish purchased Clos de la Colomberie, a seven and a half vergee meadow, from the daughters of the late Thomas Lempriere in March 1826. The planned cemetery allowed about a vergee and a half in the south-east corner to be disposed of as building plots. Two-thirds of the remaining ground was laid out as sepulchres, numbered 1-998, and marked out with blocks of Mont Mado granite. Each sepulchre measured 10x7 feet, allowing four coffins to be laid side by side. The grave digger was prepared to dig down to ten feet, and was paid proportionally, which permitted 24 adults' coffins to be buried in each family sepulchre.

30-inch graves

The corpses are buried with their feet to the east and the four 30-inch graves are known as 1st North, 2nd North, 2nd South and 1st South. Of the remaining third of the ground, one half, in the south-west corner, was given over to the burial of those natives of the parish who did not pay rates, which generally explains why there are so few memorials in this area; most of the markers were originally of an inexpensive painted wood.

The cemetery has been poorly maintained in recent years

The other half, in the south-east corner, was used for the burial of moneyed strangers whose relations were prepared to pay the burial fees demanded by the parish. Both these areas are composed of rows of single graves only.

The new cemetery was dedicated by the Dean on Monday 25 March 1827 and the first burials took place on the same day.[1]

The family sepulchre system was soon found to be a very wasteful method of burial, for within 20 years an area in the centre of the cemetery, originally set aside for the construction of a chapel, which was never built because of continuing inter-denominational arguing, and another area set aside to be an access to the chapel from Roseville Street, had to be taken over and used for family sepulchres and non-rated parishioners' burials respectively.

As the need for more land became greater, and amid comments by the newspapers that if the parish had not sold off the 55 perches of ground in 1827 this desperate quest for land would not have occurred so early, the ornamental land to the north of the main gate was laid out in eleven sepulchres, lettered A-N and some rated parishioners had to be buried in the non-rated area, known to the early undertakers as the 'poor ground'.

By 1854 the need for a new burial ground resulted in the opening in the autumn of that year of the other cemetery at Mont Martin. By then some 100,000 dead had been buried in Green Street Cemetery [2] and although the burial rate was reduced dramatically, not only because of the opening of the new cemetery at Mont a l'Abbe, but also because the dissenting religions were opening their own burial grounds, such as the St Helier General Cemetery above Almorah. Burials continued in Green Street Cemetery, the most recent being on Wednesday 15 March 1978.

With most of the turkey oaks having been cut down, the cemetery presents an austere picture generally devoid of any unusual monuments, save for the enormous mausoleum at the south end of the main path. This tomb commemorates the killing of Centenier George Le Cronier in 1846 while on duty, and contains many members of subsequent generations of the Le Cronier family.

Several ornamental trees have been planted recently and the cemetery may regain, in years to come, the late Victorian shaded beauty and peace which is conveyed by early photographs.

Further reading

Notes and references

  1. The St Helier parish website indicates that burial records for Green Street are available from 27 July 1879. By that time the cemetery was hardly being used, the majority of St Helier burials having been diverted to new cemeteries. Burials did continue in existing family sepulchres at Green Street until at least 1978.
  2. This figure seems extraordinary because during the period from 1827 to 1854 there are only 11,440 burials recorded in St Helier and 24,410 in the whole of the island. Perhaps the figure should be 10,000 at Green Street cemetery>
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