TUCKED away above Falmouth’s busiest road are two cemeteries which have suffered at the hands of vandals over the years, but are now being restored and protected by groups of dedicated volunteers.
The Congregationalist Cemetery, also known as the Independent Burial Ground or the Dissenters Burying Ground, lies at Ponsharden on land next to Vospers garage and below Sainsbury’s supermarket. It was opened in 1808 to cater for the “dissenting Christian congregations” of Falmouth and Penryn and over 120 years about 587 burials took place there.
Hidden from public view as it is, the cemetery, which also has a neighbouring Jewish cemetery looked after by Falmouth town council, had been targeted by vandals who broke headstones, dug up graves and smashed open a family vault. It also fell victim to neglect. In 2012 a group of volunteers got together with the aim of restoring the burial ground, which is a protected scheduled monument of national importance.
The Friends of the Dissenters have spent the past two years clearing weeds and vegetation and have stabilised the damaged monuments and re-seeded the bare ground to encourage the return of native flora and fauna. They were granted custodianship of the cemetery and have a wish-list and things they hope to achieve, which includes stabilising and preserving what remains of the mortuary chapel and installing benches.
They also want to repair and restore the cemetery’s boundaries, which is being achieved thanks to funding from Sainsbury’s which has paid for new temporary security fencing to be installed, and the former entrance is also being looked at.
Falmouth councillor Brod Ross, chairman of the Friends of Ponsharden Cemeteries, said: “For some time the wall onto the A39 and surrounding boundary has been subsiding and disappearing, leaving an unsightly and dangerous wall. The Friends with Falmouth Town Council and English Heritage have been working together for some months to solve the problem. A new fence is being put up around the cemeteries to make them secure.
“The old entrance to the cemeteries is marked by the archway in the wall near the bus stop at the Sainsbury’s roundabout and although it has been fenced off for a while, new, improved fencing has now been put in place to secure the area and enhance the site.
“This will make the cemeteries safe from vandalism and help to halt the degradation to the area,” said Mr Ross.
“I am pleased we have all been able to work together and find a solution to a difficult site. This work is part of the wider plans to improve the cemeteries for the future enjoyment of the site.”
The Congregationalist Cemetery was well used during the 1800s, but by the 1890s the number of burials started to slow and there are only seven inscriptions dating from the early 20th century.
Those buried there include Packet ship officers, surgeons, ministers, lawyers, wealthy merchants as well as ordinary folk from the two towns. The last known interment was that of Mary Elizabeth Newcombe who was buried in a family plot in April 1935.