Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Rochester Cathedral Graveyard & Burial Grounds

The site can be found on Boley Hill. The site can be easily reached to from both Rochester and Strood station. There are also a number of buses that pass through that way.
The site in which you see now was consecrated on December 1423. However, an original Saxon church was built in 604 so it is possible that there could be an even older burial site under the one that stands now.
The Dorrit Family – A well respected family of the area at that time.
The site may sometimes be referred to as The cathedral burial grounds or simply the castle burial grounds. Rochester cathedral churchyard is another name that it may be referred to as.
When it was first used it was roughly half an acre. Once the next bit of land was bought, that took it up to roughly double its size at one acre. The site next to the cathedral is a slim triangle shape. The part in front is long and rectangular and the castle ground is a big bit of lawn.
To start off with, the graveyard next to the cathedral is very small so a walkabout was not really needed. Another point I would like to make before carrying on is that, the graveyard site found at the moat around the castle is not really considered to be part of the same cemetery, but for the sake of the blog, I will include it as it is within the proximity. For most people, they could easily miss the main graveyard as it lies in the shadow of the grand Rochester cathedral. The cathedral itself was consecrated in December 1423, however, a much older Saxon church was there in 604. It is highly possible that there could be even older burials there, although they have not been found yet. There could also be a chance that these may have been pagan burials, hence why they won't be recorded. The church yard was extended when the Vestry of St Nicholas bought a piece of land from The Right Hon George, Earl of Jersey for £300. It is not known whether the negotiations were sucessful or not.
It is said that the part out the front of the cathedral used to be 5ft higher and the stones were actually upright. This is a shame that it is not this way anymore as I think that it would have looked far more appealing. The stones are now laid flat, most of them with no writting on them anymore due to severe weathering. In the middle of it all is a large ancient tree that is reputed to be about 150 years old. There is another tree in the smaller site which looks the same but I am not sure if it is the same one. The wall around the small site used to be about 16ft but now it is only about 2-3 ft.
Despite its size, it really has maintained that almost ancient quality. The fact that it is in 2 (possibly 3 parts) can seem a bit daunting due to the uncertainty of its origins. The graves on the bit in front and the moat are very sparse and very few. It is such a shame that you cannot learn more history from them. Despite their wear and tear, the site is very well looked after. There is a gravestone dedicated to the Dorriit family, who were a well to do family in their time. They are also supposedly the inspiration for Charles Dickens Little Dorrit.
The best part about visiting this place has to be the view. You have the cathedral right next to it and straight in front of it you have the magnificent Rochester castle. The pathways are stone cobbled (the pathway in front of the site is actually a very old roadway). I only wish there was more that I could write about it. It's beauty is outstanding if not slightly understated.
I myself did not catch anything, apart from some interesting photos in the crypt in the cathedral. However, there is an old ghost story surrounding Charles Dickens. It is said that he wished to be buried in the burial ground as he loved Rochester very much. When he died however, it was not allowed and instead, he was buried in the poets corner in Westminster. Every boxing day (or another day depending on who is telling the tale) he is said to walk the moat grounds at midnight. I may at some point try and do an investigation around that time and see what results I can come up with.
I certainly had a difficult time trying to accertain whether the graveyards were all in one or separate. This only added to the adventure however, delving into my other passion: history. I wish that this place was bigger somehow, I feel a place as grand as Rochester almost deserves the big cemeteries you see in london and Britains other capitals. I cannot complain about its beauty and simplicity however, the fact that it has so few only adds to the historic mystery and gives it that status it so rightly deserves. There is plenty more to see here so it is definatly worth taking the time to come and see it.
“Respect those who are not physically here, you can’t see them but they can see you, and disrespect is something they don’t want to see”
RATING: 4/5 - Quite small but its beauty surpasses it.
LINKS: The graveyard doesn't have a direct website but the cathedral and castle do so you may find out some more information on there.

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