Earlham Cemetery: In search of those lost in the 1912 Norwich floods

A quick blog this one, reporting through images my trip to Earlham Cemetery this morning. I also include some information on the cemetery and its records.

If you know it already, you’ll perhaps appreciate the scale of what is otherwise known as “City Cemetery” in Norwich. The cemetery on Earlham Road is the same as the one on Bowthorpe Road, and Dereham Road, and both sides of Farrow Road. There are a few places to park – entrances for cars off Farrow Road and Earlham Road – and some space along Dereham Road too (but look out for double yellows!). Earlham Crematorium is in the middle of the cemetery, and can be accessed from Earlham Road, opposite Somerfield.

Opened after the Rosary Cemetery (a nonconformist cemetery dating from 1819), City Cemetery was a response to the dire situation of overcrowded churchyards within the city walls. City churchyards were finally closed when the cemetery opened in 1856. A helpful note in St Gregory’s Church register, for example, reads “All the churchyards in the city are closed by the order of Queen in Council taking effect from 1st March 1856”. Thereafter, some registers, St Gregory’s being one, continue to record burials of people from the parish but in the cemetery. These people should therefore appear in a church register as well as in the cemetery burial register and grave book. Other registers later recorded only the scattering of ashes, or special interments by permission of the secretary of state – for example, famously, the reburial of Thomas Browne’s skull on 04 July 1922 at St Peter Mancroft. Look up the entry, and you’ll find his skull’s residence as “since 1846/7 or 8, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Museum” and its age “317 years”. 

Anyway, I digress. In December, I’m giving a lecture about the 1912 floods in connection with the NR3 exhibition at the Norfolk Record Office. Before doing this sort of thing I like to visit some of the places I’m going to talk about, and in this case, I wanted to find the final resting place of three of those who died during the events of that August.

I was not really expecting to find headstones, firstly because many of those buried in common graves never had one, and secondly because not all of those that once stood still remain. It has become quite difficult, in the older sections of the cemetery at least, to locate specific plots as the trees have matured and the once regimented paths and stones have softened and gracefully adjusted and submitted to mother nature over time. Many of the iron grave markers which once dotted the sections have also been lost or removed, so take a plan with you.

If you have an interest in the cemetery before the 1970s, visit the Norfolk Record Office or Norfolk Heritage Centre (in the Millennium Library). In both places you can view grave books (all those buried in each plot – usually up to four individuals, who may or may not be related), burial registers (chronological records of burials) and indexes (to help you access the first two). While you’re there, you can also view and print a cemetery plan and detailed section plans. Off the top of my head this final useful film is MF 812, but it would be worth checking when you get there – the NRO has print outs of all of these in a large folder, too. Alternatively, and for more modern burials, contact Norwich City Council.

The three people I was looking for didn’t have stones, at least that my husband and I found, but I did take some images of section 28, in which they rest, and a couple from close by in order to illustrate my lecture. I won’t be using them all, so I post a couple of them here, in the hope that they give a flavour of the corner of the cemetery bounded by Dereham and Bowthorpe Road for anyone else who has connections to this special place. Further images are on my facebook page or flickr photostream.


If you’d like to know more about those I was looking for, then check back after the lecture, as I hope to write about them then.




0 Responses

  1. Another interesting post. You may be interested in the Friends Of Earlham Cemetery group. We have regular walks in Earlham Cemetery (14th of each month). See our website for more details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reclaim Jane (February 2022)

What happens if you cast aside the carefully referenced report and try and fill the gaps left by the records? Reclaim Jane is an attempt to find the woman behind the snippets of archival evidence.

Read More »