Funerals, Cemeteries and Burial Grounds | A Day of Talks

Talk Heritage
  • Venue


  • Time

    10:30 AM

  • Price

    £15.00 plus booking fee

  • Book Tickets

Southwark Cathedral are delighted to host a day of talks exploring burial grounds, cemeteries and funerals.

Cemeteries and burials grounds are curious spaces with lots of stories to tell whether that's looking at who was buried there, how they were buried and how those spaces came about. These talks are a gentle step into the history and heritage of burial spaces as well as 18th century funerals which was a period of innovation and spectacle.

Our speakers include the following:

10:30am - Brian Parsons: A look at London’s Cemeteries

There are over 150 cemeteries in the London area. Opening from the 1830s, most are owned by local authorities, but a handful are within the remit of private companies and also religious organisations. They are all different in terms of size, landscape and the memorials they contain. This illustrated presentation will give an insight into their heritage and diversity.

Brian Parsons is the co-author (with Hugh Meller) of the sixth edition of London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer. He is also the author of Committed to the Cleansing Flame: The Development of Cremation in Nineteenth Century England and The Undertaker at Work: 1900-1950.

11:30 - Celia Heritage: Above and Below Ground. Burial in the Parish Church and Churchyard

Celia will look at the origins of the parish church and churchyard, and how burial both in the churchyard and within the church itself became the norm. Using archaeological photographs, she will also take you below ground, illustrating some of the different types of burials that lie below our ancestors’ church and churchyard memorials before looking at why so many gravestones (even in rural and apparently undisturbed churchyards) disappear.

Historian & genealogist Celia Heritage is the author of Cemeteries and Graveyards. A Guide for Local and Family Historians (Pen & Sword Books 2022) and Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records (Pen & Sword Books 2011 & 2013). She has a special interest in churches and particularly the origin and evolution of churchyards and gravestones.

12:30pm - Lunch

1:30pm - Dan O'Brien Funerals on the streets of eighteenth century London

Funerals were a common presence on the streets on eighteenth century London as mourners mingled daily routines of urban life and processions passed through busy thoroughfares. This presentation examines the ordinary and extraordinary elements of funerals in a period of funerary innovation and spectacle.

Dr Dan O’Brien is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath. His research focuses on the early undertaking trade and funerary products in eighteenth century England.

2:30pm - Jean Sprackland: These Silent Mansions - A Life in Graveyards

Graveyards are oases: places of escape, peace and reflection. Liminal sites of commemoration, where the past is close enough to touch. Yet they also reflect their living community - how in our restless, accelerated modern world, we are losing our sense of connection to the dead.

Jean Sprackland - the prize-winning poet and author of Strands - travels back through her life, revisiting her once local graveyards. In seeking out the stories of those who lived and died there, remembered and forgotten, she unearths what has been lost.

3:30pm - Break

3:40pm - Lucy Coleman Talbot on The Not-so-hidden History of Crossbones Graveyard

Perhaps you’ve wandered past the Crossbones Graveyard shrine on Redcross Way? This presentation takes a journey through time from the burial ground’s mythic origins through to its closure by the Board of Health in 1854, and beyond. It will be demonstrated that Crossbones Graveyard has continually defied commercial development through the hard work of local people. Reimagined as a place of ritual, remembrance, and resistance, Crossbones Graveyard has become a unique place of community and history.

Dr Lucy Coleman Talbot is the Community Engagement Officer at Brookwood Cemetery, the UK’s largest cemetery. She wrote her PhD on Crossbones Graveyard, where she continues to volunteer and advocate for its protection. Ensuring that the stories of those marginalised and underrepresented are told is core to Lucy’s work at burial grounds.

This event will take place in the Cathedral Library on the first floor of the Millennium Building, accessible via the Millennium Courtyard. It will not be streamed or recorded.

Doors open at 10.15am and your ticket allows entry to the Library throughout the day. Speakers' books will be available to purchase.

Lunch is not included.

If you have any questions about this event, please contact the Visitor Engagement Officer Emily Thorne on