Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Tuesday 17th September 2019

Arnos Vale Cemetery

Bristol, Arnos Vale Cemetery

ARNO'S VALE CEMETERY

Established by Act of Parliament in 1837 and opened in 1839, it fast became Bristol's most fashionable burial place. With an estimated half million burials, space ran out c.1987 and closure was threatened. The crematorium closed in 1998, and the private owners faced huge maintenance bills but minimal income. After long legal battles, Bristol City Council gained ownership in 2003 and a charitable trust was established to maintain and repairs structures which meantime suffered vandalism, theft and decay.

Sliding cast-iron gates are flanked by correct Greek DoricGlossary Term [1] lodges (by Charles Underwood, 1837-8). Within is a circular drive, backed by Arcadian wooded slopes, against which are two derelict mortuary chapels by Underwood - Greek IonicGlossary Term [2] for the Nonconformists, RomanGlossary Term [3] ItalianateGlossary Term [4] for the Anglicans. The latter has a projecting entrance, shallow CorinthianGlossary Term [5] capitals and an arched and pedimented belfryGlossary Term [6] stage.

Some of the best tombs are noted below; undoubtedly the highpoint is the orientalising tomb of Raja Rammohun Roy of 1834-8 Rammohun Roy was a Bengali Hindu, a pioneering cultural, religious and political reformer regarded as the father of the Indian RenaissanceGlossary Term [7]. He formed strong associations in Bristol, died here in 1833 and was buried at the house where he had stayed. In 1843 he was reinterred at Arnos Vale Cemetery. His elaborate tomb was designed in 1842 by William Prinsep, an artist to the East India Company and built by mason John Brown, 1843-4. A striking example of Indian-inspired Victorian architecture, the leafed dome, broad canopy and columns derive from authentic Hindu and Jain forms.

Amongst other tombs are Thomas Gadd Matthews, 1859. Lavish marble sarcophagusGlossary Term [8] on table, by Tyley; Mary Breillat, 1839. The first burial at Arnos Vale. Tall obeliskGlossary Term [9] on plinthGlossary Term [10]; Heber Denty, 1890. Rare oak tomb for a timber merchant; Charles Melsom, 1866. By Tyley; 8m obeliskGlossary Term [11] on scrolled plinthGlossary Term [12];Thomas Lucas, 1856. By Tyley. Chest tomb in bold GothicGlossary Term [13] style; Tilly c.1860. Two stage octagonal GothicGlossary Term [14] pillarGlossary Term [15].

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009