Tomb repairs begin at Guernsey's Brothers' Cemetery

Philip De Jersey
Image caption Mr De Jersey said the work was needed now to prevent the tombs on the site "falling apart"

Volunteers have begun a two-year programme of repairs to tombs at the Brothers' Cemetery in St Peter Port.

The site, at La Rue Des Freres, has been closed to the public since the 1960s because broken capstones and decaying brickwork have made it unsafe.

Parish constables applied to the Ecclesiastical Court to clear the tombstones last year but have agreed to let objectors conduct repairs instead.

The 130 tombs in the cemetery contain the remains of three former bailiffs.

There are also two Seigneurs of Sark and a woman - Margaret Neve - who died in 1903, just a month short of her 111th birthday.

The team includes Phil De Jersey, the States Archaeologist, whose ancestor Pierre De Jersey was buried there in 1808.

"We're at the beginning of what will be a long process," he said. "It's going to take at least a couple of years, I would think."

"There are some [tombs] which really are in a state of collapse," he said.

'Not morbid'

The ground is still consecrated but the last burial took place in 1951.

Image caption Three Guernsey Bailiffs and two Sark Seigneurs are buried in the cemetery

In addition to the family tombs, the cemetery once housed dozens of headstones but Mr De Jersey said these were removed in the 1930s or 1940s.

At one time, it was considered a prestigious place to be buried but in later years it was so over used that it became an unpleasant place to spend any time.

"There were some newspaper reports in the 1890s of people finding their way in here and not being able to eat their breakfast for the next week because of what they'd seen," Mr De Jersey said.

However, he said he enjoyed the work he was carrying out.

"I don't find it morbid," he said. "You can admire the way these tombs were put together and used from an engineering point of view."

The work is being carried out entirely by volunteers - rather than under Mr De Jersey's auspices as a States employee - meaning the cost so far has amounted to only "tens of pounds".

Good compromise

However, Mr De Jersey said it was essential to get the work done and he was happy to have been able to find a way forward with the parish constables.

"Although we've approached this from completely opposite views - they wanted to clear stuff away and we wanted to keep it - we've actually managed to work out a good compromise," he said.

"I think if we don't do this work now, in another 10 or 15 years it really would reach the state where another generation of Town constables might correctly say it's gone beyond the point of no return.

"For both of us the ultimate aim is having it safe so that people can come in here and enjoy it."

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