Report by Bernice Lashbrook
Our hearts were sinking at the same time as our fingers were crossed as we got up on Sunday morning 16 June for our first guided tour. The Weather Forecast was for rain so we were prepared, on safety grounds, to cancel. Sure enough by the start of the tour at 11.00 a.m. down came the rain. But how could we cancel when 30 people had arrived undaunted and raring to go, even though it was Father's Day!
Chairman, Miles Peterson, took us on a complete tour of the cemetery highlighting at each point of interest fascinating facts which had been discovered about many of those interred. Since the Friends' volunteers began the clearance work some two years ago to date they have discovered 50 new graves and cleared and tidied 150 recorded graves.
It is incredible that a relatively small cemetery could reveal so much about the citizens buried there and how so many of them had played an important role, not only in shaping Bridgwater, but also having an influence on a national basis.
Astonishingly in the Paupers' area alone, now only a flat expanse of grass, it is estimated that at least 10,000 souls rest. The stories of the interred whether they were great, good or not so good paint a vivid picture of Victorian life. Miles did a superb job and made the tour all the more enjoyable with his vast knowledge and ability to deliver not a 'dry' succession of facts and figures, but an engaging look back into the past which kept the attention and interest of all present.
What was also pleasing was that instead of beating a retreat to get away from the rain which chose to stop at the same time as the tour, visitors continued to walk around the cemetery. Rita and Alan were kept busy helping some who were interested in locating relatives' graves. We were also asked what days clearance work was carried out with many expressions of interest to come along to help.
Despite our nervousness about the weather it was heart-warming to see such a wonderful response. So much so that along the line a bit, when even more improvements have been made and more stories have been discovered, we would like to organise further tours.