A mid-C19 cemetery laid out to the designs of the Cheltenham architect W H Knight.
In the early-C19 Cheltenham developed as a fashionable spa town with a rapidly expanding population of both residents and visitors. As in many towns, the existing provision of burial space proved insufficient, particularly given the large numbers of elderly and unwell who made their home in the spa town. This gave rise in the early-C19 to a scurrilous rhyme:
The Churchyard's so small, and the Irish so many,
They ought to be pickled and sent to Kilkenny.
A new burial ground was constructed in the town in 1829-30, but this too soon proved to be insufficient (Hart 1965).
In May 1857 the Improvement Commissioners for Cheltenham sought permission to adopt the provisions of the Burial Acts and provide a cemetery for the town. By early 1859 the Commissioners had constituted a Burial Board, and sought a site of between 12 and 20 acres (c 5-8ha) within two miles of the town for development as a cemetery. While a site at Leckhampton was initially preferred, in February 1861 a site at Bouncer's Lane belonging partly to the Rev John Edwards and partly to the Poor Lands was acquired (Burial Board Minutes, 19 October 1860, 1 February 1861). In August 1861 the Board initiated a competition for the design of the new cemetery, with a premium of 40 guineas for the best design and 20 guineas for the second best (ibid, 1 August 1861).
The competition was won by the Cheltenham architect W H Knight with a design for a linked pair of gothic chapels connected by a porte-cochère placed beneath a dramatic spire (ibid, 31 July 1862). The buildings were placed in a park-like setting with extensive
ornamental planting, much of which was supplied by local nurserymen including Charles Brydges of Cheltenham (ibid, 29 September 1864). The cemetery was laid out by George Yiend of Winchcombe in 1863 (ibid, 31 March 1863) and the buildings, costing some £4300, were constructed in 1862-4; the cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Gloucester on 19 November 1864 (ibid, 29 September 1864). Subsequently the design of individual monuments was referred to Knight `for approval as how far they comport with the general architectural features of the Cemetery' (ibid, 27 May 1865); this practice ceased within two years, the Surveyor to the Board taking over Knight's duty. The mid-C19 cemetery was extended to the east in 1883; at the same time a small area of land at the north-west corner of the site which had not been available in 1861 was acquired. A further extension was made in 1926, and again in the late-C20. In 1938 a crematorium, the thirty-ninth in Britain, was constructed to the east of the south chapel. An extensive Garden of Remembrance was also developed from the 1930s onwards on land to the south-east of the C19 cemetery. The C20 extensions and the Garden of Remembrance are not included in the registered site. Today (2001) the site remains municipal property; an extensive programme of restoration was undertaken on the cemetery buildings in 1995.
Bouncer's Lane Cemetery, Cheltenham is one of a group of cemeteries designed by W H Knight. These include Hereford Cemetery, Herefordshire (1858), Great Malvern Cemetery, Worcestershire (1861), and Shipston-on-Stour Cemetery, Warwickshire (1863). The design of the chapels and other structures at these sites share features in common with those at Bouncer's Lane Cemetery.
ALOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Bouncer's Lane Cemetery is situated c 2km east-north-east of the centre of Cheltenham, to the east of the B4075, Bouncer's Lane. The c 17.5ha site is set back from Bouncer's Lane behind C20 commercial premises from which it is separated by hedges and fences. To the north hedges and fences separate the site from mid and late-C20 domestic properties, while to the east and south-east it is bounded by open agricultural land. The southern boundary adjoins a recreation ground, while to the south-west further hedges and fences separate it from C20 domestic properties. The site occupies level ground immediately below the west-facing Cotswold escarpment which rises steeply c 500m east of the cemetery, providing a backdrop to the chapels and planting.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
Bouncer's Lane Cemetery is approached from Bouncer's Lane to the west at a point c 20m north-east of its junction with Priors Road. The entrance (listed grade II) comprises stone quadrant walls of crenellated outline, the spaces between the uprights being filled by ornamental cast-iron railings with fleur-de-lis finials. The walls flank a pair of monumental circular stone piers surmounted by drum caps and cruciform bronze finials. The piers support a pair of ornamental cast-iron carriage gates with finials similar to those on the adjacent railings. To the north of the entrance a similar single pedestrian gate set in the quadrant wall provides access to the lodge (listed grade II) which stands c 10m north-east of the entrance behind a wide grass verge in which are set geometrical flower beds for seasonal planting and clipped standard hollies. The two-storey gabled lodge is constructed in stone under a fish-scale-tiled roof in a picturesque Tudor Gothic style. To the east of the lodge an area of garden planted with mature conifers is separated from the drive by a late-C20 board fence. The entrance, gates, and lodge were designed by W H Knight in 1862 and constructed in 1864.
From the entrance a broad, straight tarmac drive extends c 160m south-east between wide grass verges planted with the remnants of an avenue of mature conifers. To the north a C20 conifer hedge screens a service area to the east of a mid-C20 single-storey cemetery office c 10m south-east of the lodge. The avenue leads to an inner entrance (listed grade II) comprising a pair of stone piers surmounted by drum and cone cappings under cruciform stone finials, which support a pair of cast-iron carriage gates similar in design to those at the outer entrance. To the north the carriage entrance is adjoined by a single pedestrian gate which is flanked to the north by a length of ornamental iron railing with fleur-de-lis finials; similar railings extend to the south of the inner entrance. The inner entrance and adjoining railings were designed by W H Knight in 1862.
The linked pair of stone, Gothic-style chapels (listed grade II) is situated towards the centre of the site, c 270m north-east of the inner entrance. The dramatic, symmetrical composition comprises a central porte-cochère, now (2001) enclosed within late-C20 timber and glass doors, placed beneath a tower with louvered belfry openings surmounted by a tall broach spire. From the porte-cochère passages extend north and south to give access to the chapels. The passages are lit by Gothic-style windows with paired lights surmounted by quatrefoil tracery; each passage has a centrally placed canted bay window. Each chapel is lit by gothic windows with further clerestory lights placed in gables along the north and south facades. A gabled porch is placed on the outer side of each chapel. To the south-east of the south chapel is a single-storey Gothic-style stone crematorium building, while to the east of the porte-cochère is a late-C20 single-storey, flat-roofed office building.
The chapels were designed by W H Knight in 1862, and were constructed by Messrs Billing and Sons in 1864. The chapels were restored and modernised in 1995, and today (2001), the south chapel, formerly the Nonconformist chapel, serves as the crematorium chapel. W H Knight's chapel building has been described as 'the finest Victorian cemetery chapel in England' (listed building description).
The cemetery is laid out with two concentric curvilinear drives describing an elliptical shape on plan, with a formal drive extending from the outer drive to the chapel building towards the centre of the site. A pair of parallel drives extend from north to south to the east and west of the chapels forming a further link with the outer drive. In addition a curvilinear drive runs parallel to the southern boundary of the site. The drives enclose large, irregularly shaped burial areas which are laid to grass and planted with a wide range of predominantly evergreen mature specimen trees and shrubs.
From the inner entrance gates the principal drive sweeps north-north-east through an avenue of mature cedars to reach a war memorial in the form of the Cross of Sacrifice (1923) which is dramatically placed at a junction c 80m north-east of the inner entrance. From this junction one drive sweeps east and north-east to form the southern section of the outer elliptical circuit, while the principal drive continues c 80m north to reach a further junction. Here a straight formal drive partly lined by mature cedars extends c 160m east to reach the porte-cochère on the central axis of the chapel building. Some 50m west of the chapels further drives lead off north-east and south-east from the formal approach to form the inner elliptical circuit. This sweeps round the north and south sides of the chapels and continues c 50m east of the chapels to rejoin the outer circuit drive. Further formal, straight drives extend north and south of the chapels parallel to the east and west facades, enclosing large rectangular-shaped burial areas.
The two drives extending south of the chapels sweep south-west and west to form a drive running parallel to the southern boundary which leads c 270m west to reach the inner entrance to the cemetery. The north side of this drive is planted with a single row of mature conifers, while to the south it adjoins the early and mid-C20 formal Garden of Remembrance. Some 280m east of the inner gateway, at the eastern end of the southern drive, a late-C20 car park is partly enclosed by yew hedges; a C19 brick, single-storey store stands at the north-east corner of the car park.
The cemetery retains a good representative collection of C19 and early-C20 funerary monuments reflecting the popularity of Cheltenham as a spa town. The monuments are particularly concentrated to the west, north, and south of the chapels, with significant individual memorials such as the gothic marble spire commemorating the Rev Andrew Brown (d 1879) c 80m west of the chapels, being placed adjacent to the principal drives. Some 80m north-east of the chapels, a polychrome stone canopied tomb in Gothic style (listed grade II) commemorates Thomas Champion of Malden Court (d 1872); the design of this elaborate monument has been attributed to W H Knight (listed building description). To the north of the Champion tomb, a cruciform granite monument with bronze armorial plaques and ornaments is set within late-C19 wrought-iron kerb railings. To the north-west a granite and limestone chest tomb with bronze inscription plates and armorial decoration commemorates Grace Davidson (d 1868), wife of Robert Davidson, Physician General to the Madras Army. Some 80m north-west of the north chapel, a monument commemorates Charles Sturt (1795-1869), who undertook the exploration of southern Australia in 1828-45. Immediately north-west of the northern chapel, a mid or late-C19 single-storey octagonal timber shelter (listed grade II) stands adjacent to the junction of the north-west drive and the inner elliptical circuit drive.
At the north-west corner of the C19 cemetery is a nursery and service yard. Enclosed by hedges, the yard contains a range of C20 brick bothies and store sheds. The nursery was developed on land acquired in 1883.
Hart G, A History of Cheltenham (1965), 203
Brooks C, Mortal Remains (1989), 131
Brooks C, English Historic Cemeteries, (English Heritage theme study 1994), 65
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1884-5, published 1885
3rd edition published 1924
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1883-4, published 1887
Minutes of the Cheltenham Burial Board, 1857-76 (CBR D2/1/1), (Gloucestershire Record Office)
Vouchers submitted to the Finance Committee relating to the Cemetery, mid-C19 (CBR B2/5/3), (Gloucestershire Record Office)
Finance Committee Minutes, mid-C19 (CBR B2/5/1), (Gloucestershire Record Office)
Public works building plans register, mid-C19 onwards (CBR C5/5/1/1/1), (Gloucestershire Record Office)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Bouncer's Lane Cemetery is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Bouncer's Lane Cemetery is a High Victorian garden cemetery (1863) laid out by a Burial Board to serve an expanding spa town.
* The cemetery and its associated structures was designed by the Cheltenham architect W H Knight, who was also responsible for designing cemeteries at Hereford, Great Malvern and Shipston on Stour.
* The symmetrical layout of the cemetery is planted to a high standard, with many plants being originally supplied by a local nurseryman, Charles Brydges.
* The linked chapels and spire, and the Inner and Outer Lodges (Knight, 1863) are designed to a particularly high standard.
* The layout of the cemetery, including its associated structures and much original planting survives intact.
* The cemetery contains a good collection of C19 funerary monuments which reflect the development of Cheltenham as a fashionable spa town.
* The cemetery retains its late-C19 nursery area.
* The cemetery contains a crematorium built in 1938 and an extensive memorial garden developed from the 1930s.
Description written: October 2001
Amended: November 2001, March 2003
Register Inspector: JML
Edited: December 2009
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 10 January 2017.