The Victorians’ energetic fundraising and building skills quickly transformed this green space into a consecrated, working cemetery.
Building work started on the cemetery site in 1847, and thanks to the ‘energy and persevering zeal’ of the Cambridge Parish Burial Ground Committee, it was consecrated by the Bishop of Ely the following year.
During 1847-8, the cemetery site was drained, ‘handsome and substantial’ brick boundary walls were built, and paths laid and gravelled, following Andrew Murray’s plan. The areas allocated to each of the 13 parishes were marked by stones in the walls and by standing marker stones on the paths, some of which remain today (the ones that are missing have been replaced by concrete markers). A small lodge was built to accommodate a ‘porter’, and as a place for readings during burial services, and a central area was set aside for the construction of a larger chapel when sufficient funds had been raised.
On 7th November 1848, the Bishop of Ely consecrated the land in an impressive and crowded ceremony, heartily congratulating the CPBG Committee on the ‘advanced progress of a work which had had many difficulties to contend against, and many obstacles to overcome’. National school children sang the 39th Psalm and, as the Cambridge Chronicle reported: ‘The effect of the blended voices of the children beneath the blue sky, and in the presence of the Venerable prelate and the clergy and people, assembled in the future resting place of the dead, was exceedingly beautiful.’