The St Nicholas Rest Garden was opened in 1841 – a substantial extension to the existing burial ground around the church and to the north of Church Street. Laid out by Mr Amon Henry Wilds, this image shows his vision for the new ground which was pitched to the parish.
Those who purchased vaults, or who invested in the creation of underground burial chambers would have expected to benefit from them at their own death, and to pass this privilege to future generations, however; public health legislation enacted to curtail cholera and other epidemic diseases forbad burial in St Nicholas and many other churchyards from around 1854, leaving the great vaults and chambers sparsely tenanted, operating for barely more than a decade.
Such was demand however that the site saw a lot of trade during that short time. The first buried was Mary Wheeler – wife of one of the workers employed by Wilds to transform the space. Probably the last was Henry Smithers, local Brewer and former Mayor who died in 1884 – long past the closure – but was permitted to be interred in his vault.
The only record of names which we have for this site was taken by the council at the time of the 1940’s clearance. This register shows just the names which could be read on monuments which remained in place at that time. It is certain that many names have not been recorded and – most likely – will not be recovered.
These records comprise 715 individuals recorded on 515 monuments and show a total of 157 different first names. Of these, 94 are female, 64 male and 4 might be either.
For likers of lists, male and female first names and their level of occurrence in the Rest Garden are reproduced below.