Welcome to the St Nicholas Garden of Rest. This site was an active burial space between 1841 and 1853. Although open for business for a short time, it took a lot of trade. Brighton saw around 2000 deaths per year at that time, and the majority would have been placed at St Nicholas. For more about the general history of the site, look here.
This tour has been devised to especially benefit visitors to the Rest Garden making best us of mobile devices. Following the highlighted links will transport the visitor to other parts of this website where specific information concerning those remembered can be found.
Starting at the entrance to the Rest Garden – the Grade II listed arched gateway and gate was designed by AH Wilds as a part of the overall layout of the site in 1840 – to your immediate right is the box tomb remembering Sir Richard Phillips. Note the particularly grand and self congratulatory, self penned epitaph.
Heading up the steps, two headstones are set against the wall at the top of the path. The second of these remembers the Outlaw sisters who are interred in one of the vaults below. Beyond them, the monument in the centre of the path is for Henry Smithers, former Mayor and local brewer.
Head down the steps at the far side of the vaults and continue along the path. To the right of the path set against the wall – next to a marble ‘coffee table’ tomb to Lizzie Donovan – sits the monument to James Justinian Morier , whose Persian Satire The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan was so full of local detail that Persian critics did not believe it could have been written by an Englishman.
Turning way from Morier head south across the grass toward the bench on the southern boundary. This is dedicated to renowned local theatre critic Jack Tinker. Behind this laid flat on the ground is the headstone to Sir Martin Archer Shee – former President of the Royal Academy.
From here, join the nearest path and head east – back toward the road. As you draw level with the vaults you will see to the left of the path two large inscripted stones laid flat on the grass. These pieces are the remnants of the tomb in memory of Laurentia Dorothea Robertson and her husband Francis.
Moving away from this monument and heading across the grass toward the road; in the centre of the grassed area, the kerbs and capstones remain from a box tomb which has been lowered. This is the actual resting place of Laurentia and Francis Robertson (noted above) and the reason for the separation of tomb and inscription is not known.
Each side of the angular capstone includes a peculiar crest: look carefully below the shield to see the representation of a bound man. Trace the links from our humble yard to Macbeth and the last King of Scotland
Cut across the lawn to the front of the raised vaults. The third vault holds the last remains of Royal Surgeon Sir Matthew Tierney. His inscription can just be made out on the crumbling panel to the right of the door.
On the other side of the path, the intricate carved box tomb remembers Baroness Erskine and her aunt Rachel Bond. Note particularly the Green Man carving on the west facing panel.
Further along the row of vaults, the stonework above 11 and 12 appears fresh and new – as though is has been restored. No work has been done save the removal of ivy which had covered this area and protected it from the elements until recently. The ivy was removed as it was likely to damage the stonework. It will doubtless grow back.
Vault 13 – with the wooden door – was never occupied. Perhaps a superstition about this number. It is used as a tool store by the volunteer gardeners and is sometimes open for viewing or for events.
Looking around you will see that very few of the remaining monuments have been covered in this short tour. There is much work to be done, in understanding them and prying out their stories.