On Wednesday 8th July 1876, the Lord Bishop of St. Asaph consecrated the ecclesiastical portion of the new cemetery at Wrexham, the service in connection with the ceremony commencing at twelve o’clock noon.
The handsome building, which has just been completed, consists of two chapels-one on the left of the main entrance for the Church, and that on the right for the Nonconformists. The chapels, which are 30ft. long by 19ft. wide, are divided by a central tower 80ft. high, the general building being in the early decorative style. The contract for the chapels and the lodge has been carried out by Mr. S. A. Clarke, of Denbigh, at a cost of £2,390, the architect of the building being Mr. William Turner, of Wrexham, whose admirable design has been most satisfactorily accomplished.
The railings and handsome entrance gates were supplied by Mr. Thomas Hughes, of Chester and Wrexham, at a cost of about £500, the neatly-arranged grounds having been laid out by Mr. Yeaman Strachan in the most artistic and effective manner, notwithstanding the various difficulties with which he has had to contend. The chapels are each lighted by seven windows, the internal fittings being of pitch-pine, varnished, with an open roof and varnished timbers. The cemetery grounds are divided into three portions, allotted respectively to the Church of England, Non- conformists, and Roman Catholics, and the whole of the arrangements in connection with the now completed building have been most satisfactorily carried out under the superintendence of Mr. Charles Roberts, the clerk of the works.
A large gathering of the general public assembled to witness the ceremony, and among those present, in addition to surpliced clergy, we noticed the Rev. D. Edwards, Berse, Rev. John Williams, Minera, the Mayor and Mayoress (Dr. and Mrs. Eyton-Jones), Alderman J. C. Owen, Alderman Thomas Jones, Alderman J. Beale, Councilors R. Lloyd (ex-Mayor), E. Smith, Mr. John James (town-clerk), Mr. Lt. Williams, Mr. D. Higgins, Mr. Smith (borough surveyor), Mr. W. Turner (architect), Mr. C. Roberts (clerk of the works), Mr. H. W. Meredith (Pentrebychan), Mr. Lewis, jun., Mr. Overton, Mr. J. Oswell Bury, Mr. Williams (Rhosddu), Mr. Yeaman Strachan, Mr. S. T. Baugh, Mr. Hardwicke, The service Evensong was conducted by the Rev. James Dixon, senior curate, the lesson being taken from the 15th chapter of the 1st Corinthians, commencing at the 20th verse. The choir of the parish church were stationed in the Centre of the chapel near the entrance door, and the surplice clergy were the Rev. Canon Cunliffe (late vicar), the Rev. M. Shelton, Rev. LI. Lloyd, Rev. James Dixon, and Rev. Griffith Jones. After the singing of hymn 320, His Lordship said it might not be inappropriate at that stage of the proceedings, to offer a few remarks with regard to the solemnity attaching to the act of Christian burial, in as much as in every age there had always been a strong desire that every care should be taken to watch over and to protect the sleeping dust of the departed; and although the subject at the present day had excited considerable difference of opinion, he trusted that they, as members of the Church of England, would adhere to the conviction that it always was right, and always would be right, to regard the solemnity of that very important occasion, viz., the burial of the dead.
It was no part of their desire-it was no part of their plan to widen the breach that, unfortunately, already existed between professing Christians in regard to this question, and he believed there was the strongest desire on the part of the members of the Church of England to do away with anything that might cause a bitter feeling, and they were anxious that no such opportunity might be given, when the dead were committed to their last resting-place, and that nothing contrary to the spirit of those who had composed their burial service should be allowed within precincts like those in which they were at present assembled.
He should be delighted and thankful if, instead of two compartments, there were but one, and if they bore in mind that their Dissenting brethren were one with themselves in all the essentials of the Christian faith, it was indeed much to be desired that every remnant of their minor differences should entirely disappear on the solemn occasion of committing the dead to their final fasting place. This time might come, and, in the meantime, it had been committed to the members of the Church of England at all times to avoid everything which might give offence, everything which might widen the breach, everything which might have a tendency to scatter and not to unite. He trusted that some means might be devised to do away forever with all bitterness connected with the burial of the dead.
To them (the Church) it was a most solemn occasion. It reminded them all of their last resting place; for, whatever befell them here, they must look forward, sooner or later, to the day when they must go away. How thoroughly jubilant was that service for them-the stirring words, I am the Resurrection and the Life 1″ which were intended for all those who did depart in the Lord,” and for them it was a most important truth that the body as well as the soul was the purchase of the Redeemer’s blood! They had been redeemed with His most precious blood, not only as to their spirits, but also as to their bodies; therefore the utmost weight and importance attached to everything connected with the sleeping dust of those who slept in Christ,” for they had been redeemed, and having been redeemed in the blood of Christ, He would receive them, and would watch over and take care of them, whether they were buried in the depths of the ocean, or in that present place of sepulture. A union took place between Christ, the Head of the Church, and every living member of that Church, which never could be severed, and therefore they might, in full hope, look forward to the day when the sound of the archangel and the trump of God” would awake the sleep of those who, here, had died in Him. Then let each one of them ask that all-important question, Am I of the number of those who can partake in the next resurrection “Could they look forward, at the sound of the archangel, to joy and not to sorrow? In conclusion, he trusted it would be the earnest prayer of everyone present that, come what might, when their final sleep at last overtook them, they might safely sleep in Christ.
A procession was then formed, and proceeded over the ecclesiastical portion of the cemetery grounds in the following order Members of the Corporation. Churchwardens. Choir. Bishop and Clergy, With Mr. Sisson, the Registrar, and Mr. Lovatt acting as the Bishop’s apparition. Members of the General Public. Whilst passing over the ground, the 49th Psalm was read by the clergy and choir and on the return to the chapel, the registrar read the petition for consecration, the Bishop subsequently reading the appointed prayers; after which the Rev. James Dixon read the deed of consecration, to which his Lordship appended his signature. The benediction was then pronounced by the Bishop, and the proceedings terminated. His Lordship was subsequently entertained to luncheon at the Court by the Rev. J. Dixon, the company also including the Rev. Canon Cunliffe and the local clergy, the Mayor and Mayoress, the Town Clerk, the churchwardens, Mrs. and Miss Howell, Mr. John Howell, Miss Kyrke, and other of Mr. Dixon’s own intimate friends.
DINNER AT THE OLD SWAN.
In the evening, the employees engaged at the new Cemetery were handsomely entertained to a first-class substantial dinner at the Old Swan Inn, Abbot-street, the numerous guests being indebted for their hospitable entertainment to the instrumentality of Mr. Robert Lloyd, the worthy Ex. Mayor who has, from the commencement, taken such a prominent part, and manifested each unwavering interest, is a work which has now so successfully attained completion. The members of the Church Choir were also similarly entertained at the same establishment, and we may here add that Mr. Lovatt, the respected host, in catering for his guests with his accustomed success, served up as usual a splendid re- past, embracing every delicacy in season, the waiting arrangements, being of the most complete character. The Ex-Mayor presided, and was supported right and left by the Mayor (Dr. Eyton-Jones) Alderman J. C. Owen, Councilor Shone, MY John James, Town Clerk, Mr. George Bradley, Mr. Garratt Jones, Mr. Y. Strachan, Mr. D. Higgins, &c. The vice-chairmen were Mr. Smith, Borough Surveyor, and Mr. W. Turner architect; Mr. Roberts, Clerk of the Cemetery Works, be also present.
About sixty sat down in the principal room, the choir being seated down stairs. The cloth having been removed The Chairman proposed the usual loyal toasts, observing that although the Prince of Wales was, unfortunately, not coming to the Eisteddfod, the event would in all probability yet be graced by the presence of royalty, in the persons of the Prince and Princess Christian. (Applause. The company singing the National Anthem and God Bless the Prince of Wales.)
The Mayor then gave” The Bishop and Clergy, and Ministers of all Denominations,” observing that they were all very proud to feel that in the Lord Bishop of St. Asaph they had in this diocese a gentleman ready at all times to listen to any appeal that might emanate from any parishioner within this diocese. The Church was generally to be regarded as being state supported, but when they remembered that 75 million had been voluntarily subscribed by the members, and that two millions a year was also contributed towards the maintenance and support of her fabrics and the development of her churches, he thought they might claim to have something of the voluntary principle even with- in the pale of the Church of England. (Hear, hear.) After paying a similar compliment to the Nonconformist bodies, his Worship concluded by again asking them to honor the toast he had proposed. (Cheers.)
Mr. John James, Town Clerk, in a highly complementary speech then proposed The Army, Navy, and Auxiliary Forces,” remarking that the Army was constantly increasing in efficiency, and when he remembered the time when it won its renown in the Peninsular and at the Battle of Waterloo, he thought that they, as Englishmen, ought to be proud of their Army. (Hear, hear.)
Referring to the Navy our former “wooden walls” were now converted into ironclads,” and he hoped we should never have a chance of judging which was the best? “As to the auxiliary forces, they had the volunteers, militia, and a worthy specimen of the gallant “hussars” in their host, Mr. Lovatt. (Hear,hear.)
He begged to couple with the toast the name of the Mayor, Dr. Eyton – Jones, as surgeon of the Militia, whose mission, however, unlike that of most officers, was to heal and not to kill. He trusted the forces he had named would continue to be rather ornamental than useful. (Applause.) Song “The Death of Nelson.” The Mayor in responding, said he had been connected with the auxiliary forces for 17 or 18 years, and he believed that the same dauntless spirit which had enabled the Army to achieve the victories of Poicters and Agincourt, in days gone by and, in more recent times, the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, still animated the heart of the British soldier in the present day. Referring to the Navy, although our ships were ironclad they were strictly manned by “hearts of oak.” (Applause.) Mr Lovatt having responded, in felicitous terms on behalf of the Denbighshire Hussars.
Mr. George Bradley said he had the honor of proposing the most important toast of the evening, with, The Mayor and Corporation of Wrexham.” (Applause.) The Municipal Institutions of the country were probably one of the greatest centers of British liberty; for, in the Municipalities, Englishmen were trained to be statesmen, and trained, also, for the higher hon- ours in oar Imperial Parliament. They had seen an instance of this last week, when the Mayor of Birmingham was transferred to be the member of Parliament for that borough (Hear, hear) and he had no doubt they might yet see some of the members in their own municipal boroughs rising to that dignity. (Applause.) He was sure that in their present Mayor they had an instance of what ability and eloquence could achieve, and he was equally “sure that when the Art Treasures” Exhibition and the National Eisteddfod were opened, his Worship would do credit to himself and to the borough he represented. (Hear, hear.) In their ex-Mayor they had a most worthy specimen of the Corporation, and, in connection with the subject that had called them together that evening, he was much pleased to see Mr. Lloyd in the chair. (Hear, hear.).
He believed that to their ex. Mayor, more than to any other gentleman, they owed their present new cemetery, (applause) and he (the speaker) had watched with very great interest the history and progress of the cemetery movement. The originally-proposed site, which was now the new barracks, had been violently opposed, and a movement had been set on foot to prevent their having a cemetery at all, However, Dr. Holland one of her Majesty’s Inspector’s had come down and held an inquiry, and their Mayor had then made one of the best speeches and one which had no doubt the most influence with the Inspector on the occasion. (Hear, hear.) Since then, the ex-Mayor had worked like a thorough business man and had kept the matter constantly before the public, the result being the construction of the new cemetery which they had seen consecrated that day (Cheers.)
There were other members of the Corporation to toast and he thought it might be said of all of them that they invariably discharged their manifold duties, straight-forwardly, fearlessly, and for the benefit of the public at large. He had much pleasure in giving them The Mayor and Corporation.” (Applause.) The Mayor, in responding, thought they were decidedly in advance of some of their neighboring Welsh towns, possessing, as they did, capital sewers, and an excellent water supply and, as regarded the disposal of their sewage, they were in a position inferior to none in the country. (Hear, hear.)
Referring to the new cemetery, which they had at last obtained not withstanding all the opposition they had met with, they must all admit that the carrying out of the scheme to its satisfactory conclusion had been preeminently due to the steady perseverance of their ex-Mayor (applause) and he believed every member of the corporation was ready to accord to him that honor, which was so thoroughly his due. (Hear, hear.).
After referring to the great necessity existing for a new Town Hall to replace the present structure, which was 300 years behind the age, and altogether unsuitable to the requirements of the town, his Worship concluded by saying that it was the pride and pleasure of the Town Council to discharge their duties when in office, so as to promote the best interests of the borough of Wrexham. (Applause.)
The ex-Mayor, in returning thanks, briefly referred to the history of the cemetery movement, adding that although he had done his best to bring about the desired result, he had been most ably assisted in his object by the willing co- operation and support of the other members of the Corporation. (Hear, hear.) He must say he was much pleased with the completed work- the chapels, the laying out of the grounds, and everything else, and he thought the town generally were equally satisfied. (Hear, hear.)
Ald. J. C. Owen, in giving The County and Borough Magistrates, said they were a body of most estimable gentlemen, and referred to the great interest taken in the forthcoming Art Treasures’ Exhibition by the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, Major Cornwallis West. (Hear, hear.) He was also very glad to see that Major West was so closely connected with their approaching Eisteddfod. (Applause.) Referring to the subject of the toast, he trusted the county and borough magistrates might long be spared to administer justice with that impartiality they had hitherto invariably manifested. (Applause.)
Mr. T. C. Jones said he was glad to see that on the present occasion the industry, perseverance, and honesty of purpose of a tradesman of their town had been brought so prominently before them in connection with the now completed cemetery. (Hear, hear.) Their ex-Mayor had acted wisely, judiciously, and successfully, and had been ably supported by his professional coadjutors in carrying out his laudable efforts to supply a crying want for the town. (Applause.) As regarded the borough magistrates, of whom he had the honor to be one, he endeavored to discharge his duties cheerfully, honestly, and fearlessly, and he trusted their conduct and actions would ever be such as to render them a terror to the evil doers and a protection to the innocent.” (Applause.)
Alderman Owen said they had in their company the designers of the building and the grounds. They had seen that day the crowning stone put upon the new building, and no one could fail to appreciate it as an ornament and a gem. Mr. Turner had been the guiding mind, and he was entitled to their first praise. (Applause.) On reviewing the plans submitted, he (Mr. Owen) considered none of them had any pretensions to beauty of architecture except Mr. Turner’s. He had carried out the plans to the perfect satisfaction of the Council and done his duty well. (Applause.) Mr. Turner returned thanks. He had had the creation of a cemetery under his consideration for over ten years, and he was glad to be associated with its accomplishment that day. He thanked the town clerk, the borough surveyor, and the ex-mayor for the cordial assistance they had rendered him. (Applause.)
The bishop had expressed himself highly pleased with the building. The Town Clerk proposed the Health of the Contractors generally Mr. Clarke, Mr. T. Hughes, Messrs. Davies and Son, Mr. Strachan, and Mr. Roberts. Mr. Strachan, who was cordially received, said he was happy to find that the design of the grounds had pleased the Council. He had also received cordial congratulations from the public generally. When the plans were fully carried out, as they shortly would be, he believed they would be much appreciated. (Applause). Mr. Roberts also responded. Mr. T. C. Jones, in eulogistic terms, proposed the 11 Health of the Town Clerk,” remarking that he had long proved a useful public official, and given every satisfaction. The toast was drunk with musical honors. The Town Clerk responded. Mr. Shone proposed the Press,” Mr. Bradley and Mr. Garratt-Jones responding. Mr. Turner proposed the Health of the Borough Surveyor,” and Mr. Smith responded. The other toasts were The Workmen,” “The Chairman,” The Host and Hostess.” The company broke up at eleven, a most pleasant evening having been spent.
Sources: Wrexham Museum Archives; Wrexham Cemetery; Researched by John Davies – April 2018. Photographs by Graham Lloyd.