Southampton Old Cemetery is situated on the south side of Southampton Common and covers 27 acres.
We took a walk through the cemetery over the past weekend and even though this is only a few miles from home, it was the first time that we had driven anywhere to take a walk since the COVID-19 lockdown began. Sadly, although the weather has been lovely for weeks, we did have several rain showers during our walk and had to take cover under the trees.
This is a lovely place to take a walk and to take photographs, as well as to learn a bit of local history. I hope you enjoy learning about the Old Cemetery and are able to visit one day.
The Old Cemetery was established in 1843 and landscaped by W.H. Rogers, a local nurseryman. and was opened in 1846. Parts of the cemetery are Grade II listed on Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
The cemetery covers 27 acres and has a number of graves associated with the historic events, which include the sinking of the Titanic, the Battle of Waterloo, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Indian Mutiny and the Boer War.
There are over 116,000 burials, but currently no new burials are permitted, unless in existing plots.
Most of the cemetery is overgrown, which, other than the many historic graves is one of it’s biggest attractions. At any tme of the year, Southampton Old Cemetery is a wonderful place for photo opportunities as well as for spotting wildlife.
Below are just a few views of some of the overgrown parts of the cemetery.
The Sinking of The Titanic
When The Titanic sank on 15th April 1912, many of the crew on board were from Southampton, the result of there being a General Strike at the time and high unemployment. Many people took the opportunity of this famous ship beginning it’s maiden voyage in Southampton as an opportunity to earn some money.
Sadly, with there being insufficient lifeboats on board, out of the estimated 1,517 people who lost their lives when the great liner sank (832 passengers and 685 crew members), 724 crew members who came from Southampton perished, only 175 of them survived.
Although none of the victims are actually buried in the cemetery, there are a number of graves and memorials erected by the families of those who were lost, as well as several to those who helped to provide for the families left behind when their bread winners foundered.
Below are just a few of the many graves and memorials that are related to The Titanic.
The Old Cemetery also has a number of war graves which are scattered throughout the cemetery. Thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who help to take care of any location that has a war grave, pathways through the “jungle” to these graves are kept clear.
I haven’t included many of these, there are a lot, but just some that might be of interest, such as this one below.
HMHS Asturias was originally an ocean liner, RMS Asturias whch was requisitioned by the Admiralty at the start of the First World War as a hospital ship.
Seeing service in various theatres of the war, including Gallipoli, on 20th March 1917 it had offloaded a thousand wounded troops at Avonmouth and was bound for Southampton, but off Start Point in Devon, a German U-Boat torpedoed the ship.
The engine room flooded and they were unable to stop the engines. The lifeboats were launched while the ship was still moving and some people in one of the lifeboats drowned.
The Master was able to beach the ship and the rest of the lifeboats were launched, however between 31 and 35 people lost their lives. The gravestone shows is just one of several that we found related to this tragedy of war.
One section of the Old Cemetery has a number of graves of Belgian solders from the First World War, as well as a memorial to those Belgian troops who lost their lives in the service of their country.
During the Great War, many wounded, both Commonwealth and even German, were shipped to hospitals in the south of England, including the famous Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, just east of Southampton. Some recovered, but many of those who didn’t can be found in the Military Cemetery at Netley or in the Old Cemetery.
Amongst the graves are many of notable people of their time, but whose names are little known in our current time.
One of the graves in this category that we came across at the weekend was that of Squadron Leader Edwin Moon DSO (Distinguished Service Order), a pioneer of aviation.
Edwin Moon was born in Southampton in 1886 and his family owned a company that built motor launches.
Most likely inspired by the Wright Brothers flight in 1903, Edwin took over part of the company workshop, where he designed and built his own aircraft, Moonbeam I. The aircraft managed a few short hops on it’s test flights, following which Edwin built an improved version, Moonbeam II, which made it’s first successful flight between April and June 1910.
When war broke out, Edwin Moon enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service as a sub-lieutenant. He saw active service in East Africa and ended up a prisoner of the Germans following a crash of the reconnaisance plane that he was piloting.
On 29th April 1920, Edwin was at the controls of a flying boat which crashed into the sea. Edwin and three other crew members died in the crash. The grave marker is believed to be part of a propellor from the plane in which he died.
The Old Cemetery has a number of graves and memorials dedicated to various types of tragedies from the past, not all of which are for famous people.
Some of these might be shipwrecks or other events, but this gravestone is a sad reminder of how dangerous it can be to walk under trees during a storm.