A mid-C19 Burial Board cemetery designed by Joseph Olver of Falmouth, in part basing his scheme on earlier plans by T W Porter of London.
At a meeting of the Vestry of Falmouth called in November 1853 to adopt the provisions of the Burial Acts, it was reported that 'the present churchyard of this Town and Parish is from its crowded state and other causes wholly insufficient and dangerous to public health', and that the 'decent interment of the dead is altogether impossible' (Burial Board Minutes, 2 November 1853). By 1853 two commercial cemeteries, the Falmouth New Burial Ground and the Falmouth General Cemetery appear to have been opened on adjacent sites to the south-west of the town overlooking the Swan Pool. No records for these burial grounds appear to have survived, but on 3 November 1853 the newly constituted Burial Board wrote to the Secretary of the Falmouth General Cemetery and to the Committee of the New Burial Ground to enquire whether they were respectively willing to sell their interests in the site (Minutes, 3 November 1853). The purchases were agreed in February 1854, with £275 being paid to the Committee of the New Burial Ground, and £332 4s 8d to the Trustees of the Falmouth General Cemetery (Minutes, 14 February 1854). Additional land to the south of the existing burial grounds was purchased from Lord Wodehouse. Advertisements were placed in The Builder, Western Times, and other journals for designs for the entrance, a lodge, two chapels and the general layout of the site; a premium of £10 was offered (Minutes, 23 February 1854). The Board instructed designers that the site was to be divided equally between the Church of England and Nonconformists, and that this division was to be expressed in the design. The additional land acquired from Lord Wodehouse was not initially to be used for burials. The only designs submitted were those by T W Porter of London (Minutes, 11 April 1854). These found favour with the Board, and Porter attended a meeting in Falmouth to clarify various points. Following legal disputes however, a newly constituted Burial Board asked the Falmouth surveyor and former Secretary of the General Cemetery, Joseph Olver, to provide plans for the site (Minutes, 5 May 1854). In December 1854 the Board wrote to Porter explaining that, 'although the Board were highly pleased with the Designs submitted ... they did not feel themselves at liberty to adopt them, inasmuch as the estimated cost of the chapels exceeded the sum stipulated in the instructions to architects' (Minutes, 7 December 1854). In the meantime the diocesan bishop, Dr Henry Philpotts of Exeter, had declined to consecrate the Anglican portion of the cemetery unless it was enclosed by walls and the chapel physically separated from the Nonconformist building (Minutes, 10 May 1854). Joseph Olver's plans for the chapels, which were partly based on those at Penzance Cemetery (Minutes, 2 January 1855) were approved in January 1855; they were constructed by John Roberts of Falmouth. The walks in the cemetery were laid out by Mr Vinson, who appears to have been a local contractor. The Anglican portion of the cemetery was not finally consecrated until 1857 (Sentence of Consecration, CRO).
The cemetery was extended in the late-C19 and early-C20. In 1891 the ground purchased in 1854 from Lord Wodehouse to the south of the original cemetery was appropriated for burials, while by 1933 ground to the west of Madeira Walk, the western boundary of the mid-C19 cemetery, had been laid out for burials.
Today (2001) Falmouth General Cemetery remains the property of Falmouth Town Council.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Falmouth General Cemetery is situated c 0.5km south-south-west of the centre of Falmouth and c 0.25km north of Swanpool Beach. The c 4.5ha site comprises the mid-C19 cemetery and late-C19 extension which are approximately elliptical on plan and bounded to the east by Pennance Road, to the north-west and west by Madeira Walk, and to the south by mid-C20 domestic properties. The early-C20 extension to the west is bounded to the east by Madeira Walk, to the north by Swanpool Hill, and to the west by Swanpool Road. To the south it adjoins an area of undeveloped land. The C19 cemetery is enclosed within stone walls and traditional Cornish hedges, while the early-C20 extension is enclosed to the east by a stone wall, and to the north, west, and south by hedges and banks. The cemetery is situated on sloping ground which rises to a summit towards the south-east corner of the C19 cemetery. To the west the ground falls steeply to the Swan Pool. There are views west towards the Swan Pool and to high ground beyond; these are today (2001) largely obscured by mature trees, conifers, and scrub growing on the western boundary of the C19 cemetery adjacent to Madeira Walk. There are further views east across Falmouth Bay towards Pendennis Castle from the entrance to the cemetery.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
Falmouth Cemetery is entered from Pennance Road at a point opposite its junction with St Anthony Way. A pair of carriage entrances are set in stone quadrant walls to each side of a two-storey granite and tile-hung lodge dated 1882 (date stone). Each entrance is flanked by a pair of tall, thin granite piers surmounted by pyramid caps. Neither entrance preserves its mid-C19 gates. To north and south the entrance is adjoined by a low stone boundary wall with granite coping, which was formerly surmounted by metal railings supported by tall granite piers. From each carriage entrance a tarmac drive sweeps west to reach the chapels: the Nonconformist chapel to the north and the Anglican chapel to the south. A further carriage entrance c 130m south of the principal entrance leads from Pennance Road to the late-C19 cemetery extension. The entrance is closed by wrought-iron carriage gates which are flanked by a pedestrian gate.
The early-C20 cemetery extension is approached from Madeira Walk to the east. A semicircular bastion overlooking the cemetery extension and Swan Pool is situated c 80m south-west of the junction of Madeira Walk and Swanpool Hill, opposite a simple gateway which terminates the western walk of the mid-C19 cemetery. From this bastion a ramp descends south-south-west to reach the level of the upper walk in the cemetery extension. The entrance to the ramp is marked by tall stone piers under pyramid caps; similar piers are balanced by a further pair to the north.
A pair of identical chapels is situated to the north-west and south-west of the lodge and principal entrance from Pennance Road, the northern chapel serving the Nonconformist community and the southern the Anglican community. Each chapel is of grey-painted stuccoed construction with stone dressings under a pitched slate roof. The east facade of each building comprises an arched doorway flanked by a pair of arch-headed windows with diamond leading. The facades are ornamented by false buttresses adjoining the doors, string courses, and a small arched opening for a ventilator. Each chapel has a gable bellcote. The chapels were designed by Joseph Olver of Falmouth in 1854, perhaps partly drawing on earlier designs supplied by T W Porter of London (Minutes, 7 December 1854).
The mid-C19 cemetery is laid out with straight tree-lined tarmac walks leading from north to south and east to west to form a series of approximately rectangular-shaped plots for burials. On more level ground parallel to the eastern boundary of the site two rows of plots extend from north to south, while on the west-facing slope below, the plots are arranged to extend from east to west. The walk running parallel to the eastern boundary is planted with mixed mature specimen trees and ornamental shrubs, while further specimen trees including limes and pines and ornamental shrubs are planted around each chapel. From each chapel a walk extends west for c 80m to reach a further walk which extends parallel to the western or Madeira Walk boundary. The northern walk is planted with the remnants of a mid-C19 avenue of ilex oaks, and is broken c 25m south-west of the Nonconformist chapel by a rondpoint, the centre of which is occupied by stone-kerbed mounded beds planted with hydrangeas surrounding a tall obelisk monument. The southern walk is similarly broken by a rondpoint which is surrounded by specimen Deodar cedars and mature beech; the level central lawn supports a group of monuments including a finely carved Celtic cross commemorating Ambrose Cardew (d 1895). A further walk extends from the lodge on Pennance Road to the western boundary walk; this walk marks the division of the southern, consecrated portion of the cemetery, and the unconsecrated area to the north. The western walk extends above a steep west-facing slope and would formerly have enjoyed views west across the Swan Pool. A series of C19 cast-iron and timber bench seats is placed along this walk. The slope below the boundary walk was appropriated for burials and laid out in terraces in the early-C20 (OS 1909). The mid-C19 cemetery preserves a large number of mid and late-C19 monuments including good examples of mid-C19 slate headstones of traditional form. Some 15m north-west of the Anglican chapel an unusual horizontal cast-iron ledger commemorates Christian Berg (d 1895).
The late-C19 cemetery extension lies to the south of the mid-C19 cemetery and is laid out to a grid pattern with straight walks running parallel to Pennance Road forming extensions to the mid-C19 north/south walks in the original cemetery. The walks ascend a north-facing slope which is sparsely planted with mixed specimen trees. The eastern boundary is planted with further specimen trees and shrubs, while similar planting extends along the upper edge of a steep west-facing slope which drops from the cemetery extension to the Madeira Walk. This slope was terraced in the mid-C20 to provide further burial space. The western end of the northern east/west walk is terminated by a war memorial in the form of the Cross of Sacrifice. The memorial stands on a raised stone base affording views across the Swan Pool. The cemetery extension was formed c 1891 when two meadow enclosures purchased by the Burial Board in 1853 and a further enclosure to the west purchased from the Earl of Kimberley in 1891 were laid out to a plan by John D Mitchell of Falmouth (Minutes, 3 November 1853).
The early-C20 cemetery extension to the west of the Madeira Walk is laid out in a series of terraces extending from north to south on the steep west-facing slope above the Swan Pool. The terraces are linked by two flights of steps planted with specimen conifers to mark the changes in level. At the lower, west side of the extension is an area of lawn which serves as the setting for an extensive group of Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones and a memorial flagpole. Mature Monterey cypresses are planted adjacent to the western boundary of the extension. The western cemetery extension was initially formed in the 1920s, and was subsequently extended southwards in the mid-C20 to reach its present extent.
Brooks C, Mortal Remains (1989), 134
Brooks C, English Historic Cemeteries, (English Heritage theme study 1994), 65
Mitchell JD, Plan of proposed extension to Falmouth Cemetery, November 1891 (DC/CRK/26B/5), (Cornwall Record Office)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1877-8, published 1888
2nd edition published 1909
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1887
Falmouth Burial Board Minutes, 1853-64 (DC/CRK/40), (Cornwall Record Office)
Sentence of Consecration, 1857 (DC/CRK/26B/27), (Cornwall Record Office)
Documents relating to Falmouth Cemetery, 1868 and 1891 (DC/CRK/26B/1-6), (Cornwall Record Office)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Falmouth General Cemetery is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Falmouth General Cemetery is a High Victorian garden cemetery (1853-8) laid out for a Burial Board.
* The cemetery was designed by a local surveyor, Joseph Olver, basing his designs in part on an earlier scheme by T W Porter of London.
* The layout of the cemetery, together with its associated structures and planting survives intact.
* The design of the cemetery skilfully exploits its picturesque topography.
* The cemetery contains a good collection of C19 funerary monuments, many reflecting its maritime location.
Description written: October 2001
Amended: November 2001
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 July 2017.