Towards the end of 2020 Belper and Duffield Rotary heard that parts of the historic Belper Cemetery were in dire need of some attention. Whilst those parts of the cemetery that are in present day use are maintained to a good standard by Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC) it was clear that some of the older parts, some over 150 years old, were completely overrun with brambles and other invasive weeds that were covering many of the older graves and making them inaccessible to anyone wishing to look at them.
After a brief discussion it was agreed that Rtn Dave Ashley should look into the situation further and liaise with AVBC with a view to initiating a project to try and bring at least some areas of the cemetery back to a reasonable standard.
After protracted negotiations with the local authority, a project to do some clearance work in the oldest part of the cemetery, immediately behind the chapels got under way at the beginning of July 2021. In places the brambles were so thick and so high that only the top few inches of headstones were visible - nothing could be seen of the graves beneath the brambles at ground level.
One of our members, John Stamp, took on responsibility for publicity for the project and by using Facebook we soon had about ten non Rotary volunteers helping us out. Working parties were in action every Wednesday and Saturday morning and over the next two months or so, they filled upwards of 140 builders’ bags with bramble sand other weeds. The result of this work was that we uncovered about 100 graves that had previously been inaccessible and hidden from view.
Some of our volunteers, as well as helping with the clearance effort, also undertook to record the inscriptions (where they are readable) from the uncovered graves and to carry out research into those individuals with a view to ascertaining if there are any descendants still resident in the Belper area. The two photos below show the grave of someone called Hannah Spencer born 1859, died 1890 illustrate in a pictorial way the difference that the clear-up has made. Further research is being done in relation to Hannah.
The project will carry on along similar lines to the above until the end of October. The project has produced a lot of positive publicity and many, many positive comments have been recorded on Facebook.
The leader of Amber Valley Borough Council, Cllr. Kevin Buttery and local historian, Adrian Farmer are both visiting the cemetery to meet with the volunteers in early October.
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