Ash Burial Board
It would be of interest to know how many Burial Boards there were, prior to 1886, which is the year that the vestry of this Parish decided it was necessary to provide a burial ground, other than the Churchyard of Saint Peters.
For the Parish of Ash, exclusive of the Ecclesiastical District of Wyke under the Acts of:
On the 29th October 1886, at a meeting of the Vestry, in Ash Church, a resolution was carried unanimously, appointing a Burial Board, consisting of the following seven members.
The Reverend Albert Octavius Walsh Rector of Ash
The first meeting of the Board took place in "the School Room, Ash, on Friday the 19th day of November 1886, at 4:30 o'clock in the afternoon". All members were present. The Reverend Walsh was elected Chairman, and the first Clerk appointed was Henry Potter, a member of a local firm of solicitors. Whether or not Mr Potter wrote his own Minutes or had them copied from his notes, is not clear, but for the first few years, the Minute Book contains the records of the meetings written in a beautiful "copper plate" style, which is very neat and attractive.
Suitable land for a burial ground was purchased in 1887, from the Wardens and Scholars Clerks of St Mary's College, Winchester at a cost of £152/10/-. There followed a great deal of planning and development, for the land had to be cleared and prepared, fenced, marked into sections, footpaths made, and hedges, trees and shrubs planted. All this, together with the building of a cemetery chapel, raised the expenditure to £970, which was obtained by way of a loan from a leading Insurance Company.
After this, the approval of the Home Secretary and of the local Sanitary Authority was obtained. A complete scale of fees etc had also to be drawn up and approved. It is obvious that a great amount of work was entailed, and the Board was certainly most fortunate in its Clerk. We who have followed on, years afterwards, owe a lot to the public spiritedness of the original members, and Clerk of the first Ash Burial Board.
On December 3rd 1888, at the request of the Clerk, a second member of his firm of solicitors, Mr Ernest Grundwell was appointed as joint Clerk and Registrar, the combined salary being £15 yearly. This partnership continued until 8th September 1905, when they tendered their resignation, 19 years after the Board was formed. During this period of office, the Clerks requested that their salary of £15 should be reduced to £10. This seems almost unique, compared with the present day trend of raising wages. There was however a proviso, "with the understanding that should extra work arise outside the ordinary routine work of the Board, or this work much increase, the Board could either make an extra allowance, or again revise the salary." This suggestion was accepted.
The sexton of St Peters Church, Mr G. Manfield was the first gravedigger and cemetery caretaker to be appointed, at a salary of £10 yearly, increased in 1903 to £15. He also collected the cemetery fees and later paid them to the Clerk. The pay for these duties had by May 1914 increased to 3/6d per day. The first Treasurer of the Board was the Manager of the London and Counties Bank, Farnham, and the first Auditors of the Boards accounts were Mr D. Wright and Mr J. Stedman.
It is also recorded that on the 16th August 1888, at a meeting in the
School Room, Ash:
After advertising in the local newspaper, fifteen tenders were received for the erection of a cemetery chapel, and for various other work in the cemetery. The contract was awarded to Messrs. Tompsett and Kingham of Farnham, and the work involved was completed early in 1889, at a cost of £540.
Although there appears to be no reference in the Minutes, it is understood that there was a section reserved in the cemetery for "suicides, turks and infidels". However all the area has long since been consecrated for Christian Burial. When an inmate of the Workhouse died, other inmates acted as bearers at the funeral. This was an established practice it is understood, and was always appreciated as it was looked upon as an extra excursion abroad! Apparently, one man met his death while working in the cemetery by standing on the wrong end of a tree branch he was engaged in sawing off!
The cemetery was opened in July 1888, and the first funeral is supposed to have been that of an unknown man, found dead in the road outside the cemetery.
To date more than 3,300 funerals have been recorded. The Ash cemetery consists of several acres and is situated in a very pleasant position. It is acknowledged to be one of the most attractive and well-kept grounds in the district. This is due to a large extent, to the careful and kindly supervision exercised by the Board's Chairman, Mr C.D. Manfield, who has just completed thirty years service as a member, the past twenty-five being as Chairman. As a mark of esteem and appreciation the other members recently gave a dinner in the Chairman's honour, and presented him with a memento of the occasion. It is not perhaps generally known, but an efficient Chairman, who, taking his Public duties seriously performs a valuable public service, without thought of reward, save that of knowing that all is well attended to, and in good order.
Two full time gravedigger/caretakers are employed, and the teamwork between all concerned in the management of the burial ground, is really excellent.
Although this article is about the Ash Burial Board, I feel it would not be out of place to add a little in praise of Burial Boards in general.
Burial Boards are a heritage from the days previous to the coming of Parish Councils in 1894, when the Vestry system was abolished. The Boards consist of "not less than three, nor more than nine persons, being ratepayers of the Parish, of whom one third, or as nearly as may be one third (to be determined amongst themselves) shall go out of office yearly, at such time as shall from time to time be fixed by the Vestry, but shall be eligible for immediate re-appointment."
The Boards are composed of elected local ratepayers, who in some cases may be representatives of a local authority, and this system is an ideal one for the management of a cemetery, mainly because all the members of the Board are local residents, and the Clerk has direct contact with the Board. The administration as a result is economical and efficient.
Burial Boards are unique amongst Local Authorities, in that they can decide their own expenditure, and also, the accounts are not subject to audit by the District Auditor. "The Vestry (or Parish Council) shall yearly appoint two persons, not being members of the Board, to be Auditors of the accounts." The Ash Burial Board accounts are audited yearly by a local firm of accountants.
Burial Boards and cemeteries are solemn subjects but there can be a lighter
side, as evidenced by the following:
The first gravedigger took this advice to heart, and his next grave was a model of careful and tidy work. Just as it was completed, a stranger walked up, and saying he was arranging the funeral of his father, asked where the grave would be. The gravedigger pointed to the one he had just dug. The visitor was full of admiration for the work and said "you have made an excellent neat and tidy grave, do you drink?". "Yes Sir", quickly replied the gravedigger. "Well", said the visitor, "take my tip and give up the habit, its drink that killed my father"