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What is a Closed Cemetery

The 21st December 2020, marked 43 years since Heene Cemetery was closed, by the Queen. What is a closed cemetery? Why was Heene closed? And what happens to a cemetery after it’s closed as Heene Cemetery was in 1977?

In a series of 4 blogs, based on documents that we’ve uncovered in St Botolph’s Church archives, we are going to piece together the story of how Heene Cemetery came to be closed. This blog will be followed by details of what has happened over the years since then.

In answer to the first question. A closed Cemetery occurs, when a burial ground becomes full, and there is no further space for interments. This is in accordance with an Order in Council under the Burial Act of 1853.

The responsibility for maintenance of a cemetery may, at the request of the Church, be transferred to the relevant local authority.

The transfer is compulsory. Not dependent on the condition of the churchyard in question, and not dependent on the local authority’s ability to meet the additional maintenance costs.

Sometimes, visitors have made comments to Heene Cemetery volunteers regarding the maintenance. “Why is Heene Cemetery closed?” and “It looks so uncared for”. Whilst others find the broken and slanting headstones give character. Take a look at our blog Why does Heene Cemetery look like it does? to understand what volunteers of Friends of Heene Cemetery are doing.

Note our contact details and get in touch with us to find out more about becoming a Volunteer or Supporter.

Here is the first in our series of 4 blogs about Heene Cemetery

We begin with a transcript copy of an article, from January 1902, that explains the number of burial plots remaining in the cemetery at that time.

Worthing Gazette, Wednesday 8th January 1902

Some interesting figures are published in the Heene Parish Magazine, having a bearing on the proposal of the Corporation, to bring that parish within the jurisdiction of the local Burial Authority, when the enlarged boundary is created.

These statistics show that the number of burials in the Heene ground from the 15th of October 1873, (the date of the first internment), until the past December was three hundred and sixty-nine; that there is space yet remaining for seven hundred; and that the numbers for the past two years have been twenty four and twenty five respectively.

It is pointed out in a footnote that “if the depth of graves were so as to admit the burial of more than one body, of course the above number of spaces (seven hundred) yet remaining would be increased by the number of such double graves”. “There is much virtue in an if!)

No mention is made of the subject in the article from which these statistics are extracted, but those of us who follow history of the neighbourhood with any amount of attention, know with what care Heene Cemetery is conserved to ‘Heenites’, for a practically prohibitive fee of twenty pounds, has long been demanded there for the burial of a non-parishioner.”

Interestingly, on the same page of this Worthing Gazette issued 8th Jan 1902, is a four-column article about “Enlarging our Boundaries”. This entry relates to the creation of a “Worthing & Municipal Borough”. It was to include the outlying villages of Heene, Tarring, Broadwater, Charmandean, to name but a few!

Sue Standing – Chairperson for Friends of Heene Cemetery

Correspondence between the Dioceses, Council and Rector

Letter from the Archdeacon of Chichester 21/10/1976

In this letter the Archdeacon of Chichester explains the procedure, to commence the closure of Heene Cemetery, and explains the council will then become responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery.

Letter from Worthing Borough Council 11/11/1976

The Borough Housing and Health Officer of Worthing Borough Council, explains to Reverend Jack Money, that an application for closure of Heene Cemetery, needs to be made to the Department of the Environment.

Letter from the Rector of Heene 26/11/1976

Reverend Jack Money writes to give information to the Department of the Environment, to favour the closure of Heene Cemetery

We found these two pages in separate folders

A letter from Tom Saxby explaining the current capacity of the cemetery at 3/3/1977

Tom Saxby, the Cemetery Clerk, explains to Reverend Jack Money that only an estimated number of burial plots remain.

This page was possibly part of the letter dated 3rd March 1977

Does this page belong with the letter from Tom Saxby shown above? It gives an insight to the procedure of burials at that point in time.

21st December 2020 marked 43 years since Heene Cemetery was closed, by the Queen. But what is a closed cemetery? Why was Heene closed? And what happens to a cemetery after it’s closed, as Heene Cemetery was in 1977?

The correspondence, from the Department of Environment

The Last Interment in the Church Burial Register

Hector Leak was the last burial of human remains in Heene Cemetery. His story reveals some interesting facts about him.

The Last Entry for Burial of Ashes in the Church Burial Register

Jesse Adela Burgess died, at the age of 84, in a nursing home in Bognor Regis. Her ashes were interred in Heene Cemetery on the 4th March 1977.

Mrs Thompson appeals to have her Mother and Father buried in Heene Cemetery in 1989

This copy of a letter, dated 11th September 1989, from the Rector, to a family member is in St Botolph’s archives, shows the request, of a recent family member who has died. It informs Mrs. Thompson that, since the closure on of Heene Cemetery on the 1st March 1978, her parents may not be interred there. All burials must now go to Durrington Cemetery or cremations to Worthing Crematorium.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Look out for the next blog from St. Botolph’s Church archives. “Petition to Remove Heene Cemetery Headstones”

Sue Standing – Chairperson for Friends of Heene Cemetery