Task: Why and how do we remember?

The Victorians did not ‘hide’ death as much as we do now. They had a strong sense of mourning which was an important part of everyday life: the wearing of black clothes (for two years if a husband died); strict rules around wearing fashion and jewellery; horses dyed black for funerals; and people hiring professional mourners (mutes) as written about in Oliver Twist. (Resource 1) This ‘celebration’ of death is reflected in the memorials and gravestones of Mill Road Cemetery.

Resources to download :

Resource 1 Oliver Twist Chapter 5
Resource 2 Inscription on Graves
Worksheet 1 Graves Data Collection
Worksheet 2a Grave outline
Worksheet 2b Grave Outline

Classroom work pre-visit

Activity: Discuss why we have cemeteries. Why are gravestones important? How else can we remember people? Look at the list of inscriptions from some of the Mill Road Cemetery graves (Resource 2). Discuss what these messages mean and why they are appropriate to put on gravestones.

At the cemetery

Activity: Ask the students to find three headstones with inscriptions they like and copy them down, including the person’s name and age. (Worksheet 1) Why did they choose these inscriptions?
Activity: Choose one of the graves from the Listed Graves Trail. Ask the children to record the dates of birth and death and draw the headstone. These graves were chosen to be listed by the City Council, Friends of Mill Road Cemetery and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Have a look at the rest of the graves and ask the children to choose one they would have listed or that they like the look of, then draw it and record why they think it is special.

Equipment needed:
Worksheet 1
Mats or plastic bags to sit on

Classroom work after the visit

Activity: Ask the children to write an inscription and decorate a gravestone for a character from a book, an imaginary person, a celebrity or indeed for themselves. What would they write and what symbol would they carve for people to remember them by? (Worksheets 2a and 2b)