Hastings Cemetery occupies approximately 87 acres of land on the northern edge of the town. It was opened in 1856 and continues to be the most likely final destination for the residents of Hastings. I’d never considered walking around it before, until I saw the Hastings Cemetery Project by Anne Scott about the notable people buried there. The stories she presented were fascinating and moving. They painted a vivid picture of characters who lived in Hastings who I’d never heard of. Accompanying the stories were photographs of their graves. These graves weren’t the typical crosses and tombstones I used to associate with graveyards, but detailed works of art.
The grave above is for Robert Morgan. I can’t find out much about him, other than a notice in the London Gazette calling for creditors to claim against his estate. Who was he? You’d think he might be a sailor, but the anchor could as easily be a symbol of steadfast hope, rather than a reference to his career.
The grave below identifies the career of Gilbert Elliot, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Rifle Brigade, youngest son of the Earl of Minto. The inscription reads that “He lost his health in arduous military service in South Africa and the Crimea, and died”. He was 39. It would be easy to spend months researching these people.
Hastings Cemetery is well kept, but with such a large site it is difficult to keep nature entirely at bay. Elizabeth Hall’s grave is a striking example of this.
Â Harriet Mead’s memorial is another. It’s strange how age enhances grave markers, given that they mark the end of a life. Time changes perspective I suppose. Perhaps it’s because it’s more uncomfortable to see the grave markers of those who died recently.
Whilst not everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon I’m sure, I would recommend a walk around the cemetery to anyone interested in the history of the town. The Friends of Hastings Cemetery maintain a very informative website. It contains small biographies of notable persons buried there, and information about grave stone symbolism.