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The Rosary Cemetery (Thorpe Hamlet)

'The privilege of purchasing Squares or Graves is open to persons of every Religious Denomination, and all have equally the privilege of using Funeral Rites and Ceremonies, and of having the assistance of such Ministers or Teachers as they may please.'

The Rosary Cemetery lies off Rosary Road and is one of Norwich's hidden treasures. It occupies a 13 acre site on the hillside  - with the oldest section close to Rosary Road and the new section close to Telegraph Lane East. Today the area is a wonderfully overgrown labyrinth of trees, passageways and toppling gravestones.

Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

Gravestone with Ivy and Sycamores

Rosary Cemetery, Norwich

Graves and Brambles

It was founded in 1819 by a Presbyterian minister named Thomas Drummond who used his own savings to buy the plot - which was previously a market garden. Up until then, the dead of Norwich had been buried in the medieval churches and, by that stage, many of the graveyards were piled high. (If you walk down Tombland Alley past St. George's churchyard - you'll notice that the soil is level with the top of the wall. Other examples are St. John Maddermarket or St. John the Baptist, Timberhill.) John Evelyn, the diarist, who visited Norwich in October 1671 remarked:

'one thing I observed of remark in this City, that most of the church-yards (though some of them large enough) were filled up with earth or rather the congestion of dead bodies one upon another; for want of earth etc., to the very top of the walls, and many above the walls, so as the Churches seemed to be in pits.'

Furthermore, non-conformists objected to being buried according to the rites of a church to which they did not belong and so Drummond's Rosary offered them a new freedom.

Tragically, the first interment at the Rosary was Drummond's wife Ann who died in childbirth aged 41. She had originally been buried at the Octagon Chapel Cemetery in Colegate, but she was re-interred in the new cemetery in 1821.

The cemetery has a number of literary links. The novelist Ralph Hale Mottram is buried here in the family plot. Mottram, who was Lord Mayor of Norwich, was also the last chairman of the trustees of the cemetery before it was entrusted to Norwich Corporation in 1956. Mottram was a non-conformist and worshipped at the Octagon Chapel on Colegate. He is mainly remembered for his trilogy of novels about the first world war The Spanish Farm and for his books on local history such as: If Stones Could Speak.

R.H. Mottram's Grave

Grave of R.H. Mottram

Ada Nemesis Cooper, the adopted daughter of the eye surgeon Emanuel Cooper (who has a grand mausoleum on the cemetery) married the novelist John Galsworthy and their family life together inspired The Forsyte Saga. R.H. Mottram was also a friend of Galsworthy and wrote his biography.

Cooper Mausoleum

Emanuel Cooper Mausoleum

Another attraction of the Rosary was that it offered security against body snatchers - who in the early 1800s frequently dug up corpses and sold them to anatomy schools in London. However, there were obviously still concerns as the following parody of Thomas Hood's Mary's Ghost highlights:

You thought I was buried deep
  Quite decent to the eye;
With roses growing o'er my grave,
  In Dr-mm-d's Rosary.

But William dear, my rest was short,
  It was not very chary;
Them boney-men, they did march in,
  And bore away your Mary.

  I wish you'd speak to Mr D,
  Who owns the patent ground;
And tell him that his patent graves,
   Are neither safe or sound.

I vow that this new land of tombs;
  Made so genteel and pretty;
    Is not a bit safer than
  Old Tombland in the City.

  Alas! It is a joint-stock-thing,
  The shares are down so low:
E're long they'll break up all the banks,
    Of Dr-mmOnd, son &Co.

A number of Norwich School painters are buried in the Rosary including James Stark (1794-1859), John Thirtle (1777-1839) and John Berney Ladbrooke (1803-1879) - son of Robert Ladbrooke.

More Rosary Cemetery Photographs





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