The Spalding Improvement Commissioners (the predecessors of the Spalding Urban District Council) were established by the Spalding Improvement Act of 1853. This act, which received Royal Assent on 4th August 1853, provided the Commissioners with “sufficient powers” for paving, lighting, watching, draining, cleansing, supplying with water and gas, and providing cemeteries etc, etc. The fifteen elected commissioners assumed office on 1st September of that same year.
The urgent need for a public cemetery in Spalding had been revealed in a report submitted by the General Board of Health following a public enquiry held in 1851. At that date burials were taking place in the Churchyard and in the attached burial grounds of the General Baptist Chapel in Chapel Lane, the Particular Baptist Chapel in Love Lane, the Friends Meeting House in Double Street, and in vaults under the Independent Chapel in Pinchbeck Street.
The senior curate at the Parish Church, the Rev. J Topham, MA who gave evidence at the enquiry stated “The burial ground has been much worse lately, and at the death of the late sexton, the identity of the graves of different persons had become entirely lost. It was a common occurrence when the sexton was digging a fresh grave, to disturb and break up two or three graves. The ground was so overcrowded that the sexton could not dig down three foot without disturbing human remains.
The burial ground attached to the General Baptist Chapel was described as “overcrowded to a most unpleasant extent.” So much indeed that the bodies could hardly be said to be buried at all.
The Commissioners lost no time in acquiring the land for the purpose of a cemetery. They fixed “on the pasture land adjoining Pinchbeck Road, and so much of the adjoining pasture land that would make up six acres.” The property belonged to Miss Catherine Massey (1813 -1868), a member of a well-known local Quaker family, and who herself was a Recorded Minister of the Society of Friends.
On October 14th, the Commissioners offered £200 an acre “with a road as required to the residue of the property of Miss Massey.” The owner’s representatives declined the offer; and the matter was then referred to arbitration under the Land Clauses Consolidation Act. The arbitrators awarded Miss Massey £1600, and her tenant Mr Thomas Wells received £35 3s 9d. On November 21st Miss Massey informed the Commissioners that they could take possession at any time.
In planning the cemetery it was decided that a good, properly gravelled road be put down the centre, thus clearly dividing between the consecrated portion, and that reserved for Dissenters. The dykes around the boundary were to be cleaned, and a good park paling fence to be erected. There were to be two chapels, both exactly alike together with a lodge for the porter. The contract was secured by Mr Samuel Dolman, builder of Commercial Road, Spalding, at £1837 11s, and was signed on 7th April 1854.
It was at about this time that the old Town Hall was demolished, and the material sold to the contractor at 1s 6d a load for delivery on the cemetery site where it was used in the erection of the chapel etc.
In September a gardener was advertised for at 16s per week, and the lodge rent free when built. On October 3rd, it was reported that “the chapels are not completed, the porter’s lodge is not started, and the road not prepared – all else is in a state of abeyance.” However, on the 15th November, the Bishop of Lincoln consecrated half the cemetery, and it was then declared open for interments. Two days later it was discovered that the hearse could not get through the lynch gate – it needed to be 1 foot 3 inches higher.
The first burial was that of Alfred, the son of Will and Maria Plumpton, who died 16th November 1854, aged 3.
In October, the following year, the paths were gravelled, and in 1856 yews were planted along the outside of the wall, and £10 spent for three dozen mixed shrubs to go round the chapels and the remainder on more yews.
The roofs of both chapels needed twice repairing before being reroofed with blue slate in February 1860.
It was reported that on one occasion the bell rope at the cemetery was cut to prevent the bell being rung at the funeral of a well-known tradesman.
In 1875 consideration was given to stop improper conduct at the cemetery. As a result smoking was forbidden.
In 1876 the Commissioners purchased an additional 3 acres 1 rood 23 perches of land at a cost of £390, in order to provide for further expansion.
In 1924 three more acres were added.
Courtesy of Spalding Gentlemen’s Society Author Norman Leveritt