Thornbury hosts Arnos Vale cemetary presentation

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By jmitchell27 | Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 14:57

Last night Thornbury History & Archaeology Society hosted Dave Napier for a talk on the connections between Arnos Vale cemetary and the city of Bristol.

Mr Napier usually shares his knowledge of the cemetary on guided tours, but reflections on the connections the cemetary shares within and without prompted him to move into the more unfamiliar territory of public speaking (if only for a one off talk). At this time of year these reflections seem to be especially appropriate as Arnos Vale contains no less than 530 war graves, with work still being done to investigate forgotten internees so they may be remembered too. Whats more, the recent loss of Richard Smith MBE should be remembered for the part he played in the founding and chairing of the commitee responsible for Arnos Vale's restoration earlier this year.

Before the 1800s there were no cemetaries in this country, and Mr Napier explained that traditionally a number of stone markers were used to remember the dead - this tradition continues in Arnos Vale through the use of obelisks and memorials carved into large stones. However, cholera epidemics that occured in 1831 and 1849 combined with a rapidly increasing population to create a need for an organised cemetary in Bristol. Thornbury even had it's own part to play in this story when a reformer called John Addington Symonds found out that a survivor of cholera had come back to the town, only for her mother to die of the illness shortly afterwards - helping to prove that human contact could spread the disease.

I must say that I was very impressed with Mr Napier's presentation, which struck me as easily being of the same standard of much academic history (despite his insistence that he was really just an interested layman). If you are interested in learning more about Arnos Vale then you can attend one of Mr Napier's guided tours between March and October next year - these tours will be conducted every Saturday at 10am.

Thornbury History & Archaeology Society's next talk will be on the more local subject of Thornbury High Street, and I would urge you all to attend.



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