The management of historic cemeteries by friends groups
: Local narratives and the sense of place

  • Gaelle Jolly

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMPhil


Friends groups have been instrumental in the rescue and management of historic cemeteries, but despite increased interest in cemeteries from conservation professionals and a policy context that encourages community involvement in their maintenance, there has been no research into the practical impact of volunteer-led management. This study addresses this issue through a comparative case study of three Oxford cemeteries, contextualised by a UK-wide survey of friends groups’ websites. It examines how volunteers construct meaning for the cemeteries through the selection and construction of narratives by exploring three themes: the cemetery as a green space, as a burial space and as a historic and community space. The first theme examines how volunteers relate to the presence of nature within urban cemeteries through a ‘secret garden’ narrative. The second theme shows how they address the liminal quality of cemeteries through individual links with graves, humour and poetry. The third theme focuses on the selection of local historical narratives by volunteer groups. Finally, a character assessment of the cemeteries reveals the impact of these narratives on cemetery structure and presentation, re-asserting the value of the conservation management plan process to ensure holistic conservation.
Date of Award21 Feb 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMichael Forsyth (Supervisor) & Tony Walter (Supervisor)


  • cemeteries
  • heritage
  • conservation

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