North Road Burial Ground in Southend-on-Sea had – like many graveyards – languished somewhat unloved for several years. It has now, however, been the lucky recipient of 12 months of love and attention from the Shared Spaces project.
Shared Spaces was set up by Blade Education, a Southend-based not-for-profit organisation, and involved local volunteers and nearby Westborough Primary School in investigating and preserving the heritage of the cemetery. The project wanted to reconnect local people with the past of their town through the stories of the people buried at the cemetery, and also to show that graveyards can be used as a beneficial educational resource, linking today’s generations with those of the past.
Over 8,000 people are buried on the site, and the project has not only sought to create a database of all their names, but to research some of their life stories. This information is being made available in a free online database, and will also be deposited with the ERO. Heritage trail boards have also been installed at the cemetery, to serve as a reminder about the real lives lived by the people buried there.
One such story was that of Thomas Kerridge, a hansom cab driver who drove people between the Blue Boar Hotel and Southend Victoria railway station. One day in 1925, Thomas was badly injured when he was kicked in the chest by the horse which pulled his cab. He survived the kick, but the wound became infected, and in an age before antibiotics Thomas died a few days later, aged 46. His wife Sarah was left with little income and seven children aged between 13 years and 6 weeks old. It is believed that Thomas was buried at North Road because his family lived close by.
The school children have been an integral part of the project, and not only have they learned about the history of their town, they have had lessons in the graveyard including gardening, photographer, and nature hunts. They have also had the opportunity to learn about their own family histories, with ancestors from all over the world.