Churchyard and cemetery

Tradition and modernity in rural North Yorkshire

By Julie Rugg

Churchyard and cemetery


  • Hardcover
  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0353-6
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.99 (incl. VAT)
  • Published Date: November 2015
  • BIC Category: History, Archaeology, European history, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Sociology: death & dying, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Death & Dying, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Society & social sciences / Sociology: death & dying, Humanities / British & Irish history


This book explores, for the first time, the turbulent social history of churchyards and cemeteries over the last 150 years. Using sites from across rural North Yorkshire, the text examines the workings of the Burial Acts and discloses the ways in which religious politics framed burial management. It presents an alternative history of burial which questions notions of tradition and modernity, and challenges long-standing assumptions about changing attitudes towards mortality in England.

This study diverges from the long-standing tendency to regard the churchyard as inherently 'traditional' and the cemetery as essentially 'modern'. Since 1850, both types of site have been subject to the influence of new expectations that burial space would guarantee family burial and the opportunity for formal commemoration. Although the population in central North Yorkshire declined, demand for burial space rose, meaning that many dozens of churchyards were extended, and forty new cemeteries were laid out.

This text is accessible to undergraduates and postgraduates, and will be an essential resource for historians, archaeologists and local government officials.


The book is 'well-conceived, meticulously undertaken, rich and highly nuanced'

'anyone bent on writing seriously about almost any aspect of burial ground provision in England and Wales from the 1850s onwards will ignore this book at their peril.'
Stephen White, Ecclesiastical Law Journal:, 10 February 2015

'Rugg has an established research reputation in death studies regarding the history of ownership and management of burial space. Cemeteries, it would seem, are her passion. Churchyard and Cemetery: Tradition and Modernity in Rural North Yorkshire reinforces and expands her status as one of the foremost thinkers in this area. Rugg's clear appetite for examining burial space defines the book. She engages the reader with a topic that might initially appear dry but is actually ripe with 'the strength of the passions evoked by the issue of burial' (p. xi) on the local and national stage.'
Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Department of Sociology, University of York, Mortality


1. Burial in 1850: national and local contexts
2. 'Dr Hoffman was good enough to consult me': churchyard closures
3. 'A very modern act': the Churchyard Consecration Act and churchyard extension
4. 'It was entirely a question for the parishioners': burial board management
5. 'No differences are so deep as those which arise over the grave': the religious politics of burial
6. 'Casting into the great crucible of the present ferment all manner of time-honoured traditions': new legislative contexts for twentieth-century burial
7. 'It was a task which he would be greatly pleased to hand over to some other person or persons': centralisation and cemeteries, 1894-1974
8. 'Being desirous of avoiding a burial board': the churchyard as cemetery
9. 'Unobservable or inconspicuous to the casual visitor'?: the changing churchyard landscape
10. 'Thoroughly untidy': changing burial culture, 1850-2007


Julie Rugg is a Senior Research Fellow and heads the Cemetery Research Group at the University of York

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