Headington history: Miscellaneous

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Headington Cemetery, Dunstan Road

Cemetery chapelPevsner: “Very pretty chapel 1884 by Wilkinson & Moore.
Delightful free Gothic with small-scale decoration on bellcote and doorway”

Two acres of land for Headington Cemetery (situated beside the old footpath to Marston) were bought from Miss Mary Latimer in 1884. The above stone-built mortuary chapel with bell-cote was designed by Wilkinson & Moore and built in 1885.

When this footpath to Marston was made up as a road, it was given the name of Cemetery Road, but in 1959 it was renamed Dunstan Road (after St Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury who crowned King Ethelred, who allegedly had his palace nearby).

The need for a cemetery in Headington became extremely urgent in the 1880s because of the growth of New Headington village. St Andrew’s churchyard was already full (see table below) and had been threatened with closure several times. A number of extensions were granted by the Home Secretary before an ultimatum was given in 1882. The parish magazine for November that year reports:

The Burial Ground
There seems to be a likelihood now that the difficult matter of finding a new Burial Ground for the parish will shortly be settled. Her Majesty’s Inspector came on October 23rd and inspected the site proposed on Miss Latimer’s land in the direction of Marston, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the nature of the soil and its position. The sanction of the Home Secretary is now only requisite, and then it is hoped that successful negociations [sic] will be entered on for the purchase of the land. We may therefore hope now that we shall soon have a new burying ground. This is very necessary, as Government refuses to extend the time during which burials may take place in our present Churchyard after December 31st next.

Evidently the negotiations for purchase were successful, because Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 11 October 1884 (p. 8d) reports:

The Burial Board of Headington has had to provide a new cemetery, owing to the want of room in the parish churchyard, and a site has been selected on the rising ground in Marston-lane. This has been fenced in, and a picturesque little chapel is almost completed. The work has been carried out from the designs and under the superintendence of Messrs. Wilkinson and Moore, architects, by Messrs. George Jones and son, Builders, of Park End Wharf.

Headington Parish Magazine of April 1886 reports:

A Meeting of the Board was held on Friday, September 4th, for the purpose of electing a suitable person to keep the Cemetery in order, dig the graves, keep the registers, &c. Nine candidates had sent in their applications, and after careful consideration, Mr. Edwin T. Smith of this parish was elected to the office. Mr. Smith will be required to consider his house the office of the board, and to commence his duties on September 29th next. On and after that date, all persons who have to make arrangements concerning interments are requested to apply to Mr. Smith, High Street, Old Headington, who will give them all requisite information, and furnish them, if desired, with a copy of the rules of the Burial Board. The first interment in the new Cemetery took place on Saturday, September 12th.

Edwin Smith, appointed caretaker in April 1886, did not stay in the post long. Kelly’s Directory for 1887 reads:

A cemetery of about two acres was formed in 1885 at a cost of upwards of £1,600: the greater part of the ground has been consecrated, but not the mortuary chapel, which is available for all denominations: the cemetery is under the control of a burial board of seven members, of whom Geo. Herbert Morrell esq. is the chairman; E. W. Hazel, Oxford, clerk to the burial board and Cecil Andrews, Headington, caretaker.

Headington Burial Ground (then 6.1 acres) was taken over by Oxford City Council in 1929 when the city boundary was extended to include Headington, and it became known as Headington Cemetery.

When Headington Cemetery first opened in 1885, no one could have foreseen the explosive development of Headington that would take place in the twentieth century. Headington Cemetery was extended in 1932, and the pressure on space was greatly relieved when Oxford Crematorium opened in Bayswater Road, Headington in 1939.

Headington Cemetery has been closed to new coffin burials since 2003 (except in existing graves). There are over 9,000 people buried there.

Gravestone of James Rogers

The first burial

Right: The gravestone of James Rogers, who died on 10 September 1885 at the age of 70; it is inscribed with the words “The first interred in this cemetery Sep. 12 1885”.

Five years earlier, at the time of the 1881 census, Rogers (a blacksmith born in Midsomer Norton in Somerset) was living in New High Street with his wife Eliza (born in Steventon and then aged 42) and their six sons, all described as scholars: James (14), Thomas (11), Frederic (9), Arthur (6), William (4), and Walter (2).

In 1891, his widow Eliza Rogers (52) was living in Perrin Street with just two of her six sons, namely Thomas and William, and was employed as a nurse. By 1901 she lived on her own in Bateman Street and described herself as a midwife. She died in 1913 at the age of 74, and was buried with her husband.




Below: The Headington Cemetery bier, purchased in 1887 from Messrs Lyne and Sons of Stratford on Avon for £18, and subsequently altered and adapted in 1890 by Edwin Stone, a member of the Headington Burial Board. Donated by Bernard Stone, it can be seen at Waterperry


Why the new cemetery was so necessary

Two hundred years of burials in St Andrew’s churchyard:
1 January 1685 to 31 December 1884

50-year period

Number of burials

Average per year
















From Saxon times until 1849, the people of Headington (apart from a few non-conformists) would have been buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church. After 1849, the people of Quarry were buried in their own churchyard; but the development of New Headington village from 1852 meant that the demand on the small churchyard continued to increase yearly. There are no burial records for the first 400 years of St Andrew’s Church’s existence, but the above table shows the numbers buried there in the last 200 years of its use. Some of these people would have been buried in the crypt inside the church, but this practice was made illegal in 1852.

Records of burials in Headington Cemetery

The original records of all burials that have taken place in this cemetery from 1885 to 1946 have been deposited at the Oxfordshire History Centre in Cowley. Headington Cemetery has no office on site, but copies of its records from 1885 to the present day are kept in the general cemetery office:
contact the Cemeteries Service

Alternatively, the Oxfordshire Family History Society sells a CD of Headington parish registers which includes the burials in this cemetery from 1885 to 1946.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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