Volunteers from the Society hard at work
The cemetery is situated beneath the Western Heights with its entrance at the top of Cowgate Hill and has an area of just over two acres. Opened by St Mary's Parish Church with the first interment in 1837 it was the successor to the old churchyard. The cemetery was closed to general use in the 1870's with the opening of the Copt Hill cemeteries but continued to be used where plots had already been purchased or there were vacancies in family plots. The final burial took place in 2006, and was that of William Ebenezer Petchey aged 105, a member of the family who were for a long period sextons at Cowgate.
In the 1960's Dover District Council, the responsible authority, decided to plant the area with a variety of trees and shrubs and thence followed a period of benign neglect. In 1989 responsibility was passed to White Cliffs Countryside Project who managed the cemetery both as a closed cemetery and a nature reserve.
The latter is recorded on his iron headstone as having buried over four thousand people (more than half the total entered in the Burial Register) between 1857 and 1881.
In 2001 the Dover Society became involved with the maintenance the cemetery and has gradually taken over the whole area under the direction of White Cliffs Countryside Project.
The work of maintenance involved clearing excess trees and undergrowth, a task that took place over several years, but has left the cemetery with tree cover typical of a park. Our aim is to manage the area as a hay meadow cutting the grass in the Autumn and raking into tidy piles and in this way to best combine the cemetery's roles as a nature reserve, accessible to family historians and a pleasant walk for all.
Maintaining a wildlife and plant habitat is not always appreciated.
Jeremy Cope on 01304 211348
Cowgate Cemetery – Maintenance Dates for 2016.
Working party sessions are from 9 am to 12 noon with dates for 2016 as follows:-
The usual start time of 0900 hours and finish time of 1200 hours will prevail throughout the year unless you are notified otherwise.
Month Thursdays Saturdays
March 3rd 12th
April 7th 16th
May 5th 21st
June 2nd 18th
July 7th 16th
Our ability to attend on all the maintenance dates in the past two years has been much affected by the weather, nevertheless over that time we have managed to continue to improve the overall appearance and condition of the cemetery, which is entirely thanks to the joint efforts and generous commitment of the present volunteers. New volunteers are always most welcome.
Contact Jeremy Cope 01304 211348 Email email@example.com
Taking details of the graves is rewarding but hard work
Apart from maintenance one of the Society's first tasks was the recording of the vault and tombstone inscriptions. The tombstones cover a wide range of internments in that the cemetery includes the bodies of members of the local garrison, those involved in disasters at sea and travellers to and from the continent as well as Dovorians of all classes. Many of the stones are missing or have deteriorated and it was considered important to record those still legible before information was permanently lost. Lesley Gordon led the team that included Hugh Gordon, Ian Murton and Joe Harman.
The group built on the work of Elizabeth De Bourbel who transcribed over 400 inscriptions in the 1980's, adding details from nearly another 400 stones. This resulted in the Society lodging a large tome with Dover Museum which contains maps of the eight plots and the vaults showing the location and grave number of each recorded gravestone, followed by a section of inscriptions and a final index of names each with its own burial reference number. Another book, comprising just the maps, has been prepared for Dover District Council and provides a more ready method of locating individual graves within each plot. The District Council holds burial records of 7264 interments and a large number are commemorated by gravestones which record multiple burials in family plots. Family historians can research the results through the Kent Family History Society (www.kfhs.org.uk ).
The microfiche and the CD ROM can be purchased from Kent Family History Society.
Kent Family History Society website www.kfhs.org.uk
or by post from
Mrs Jean Skilling, 15 Port Close, Lordswood, Chatham, Kent ME5 8DU
Dover Reference Library also holds a microfiche and a hard copy is held in Dover Museum Library (01304 201066).