Recently I walked from the summit complex around the Great Orme for the first time and I hadn’t anticipated any memorial or mortuary experiences. However, while I didn’t visit St Tudno’s church and the Great Orme cemetery on this walk, I had an amazing vista over it from above.
It struck me that seeing any cemetery from such a perspective is rare and used to be, within my lifetime’s experience, even rarer. Most cemeteries are on hillsides or hilltops but rarely are in situations where one has such a prospect over them free from vegetation or habitation. Indeed, in my experience, it is only with the advent of Google Earth and the occasional view of cemeteries whilst taking off or landing by plane, that I’ve grown more accustomed to panoramas over entire cemeteries. The Great Orme offers a rare view over the dead of multiple centuries.
Details of the historic church and its expanded cemetery, opened in 1903, can be found here. Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter a heritage board with information about the more recent history of death, but there was one overlooking the cemetery with the legend of St Tudno and the church.
The vista on a sunny summer’s day was beautiful, with the sea, the coast, the summit and the heathland. Behind, is the original St Tudno’s church, and in front, the larger Edwardian cemetery and its funerary chapel.
From this perspective, one better appreciates the setting, the scale, the paths and boundaries of the cemetery and churchyard, as well as the regular rows of the grave-plots and the variability in the funerary monuments. One’s attention is drawn to the high monuments, including ‘Celtic’ crosses, but also to the lower monuments and those spaces bare of monuments. The interconnections, and contrasting alignments, between the historic churchyard and cemetery are also plain to see: the churchyard’s graves and those in the cemetery nearest to it are aligned on variants of SW-NE and WNW-ESE, while much of the cemetery’s follow the contour crudely NW-SE, with others aligned in contrasting fashions including SSW-NNE!
From this one prospect, one is looking over centuries of Llandudno’s dead and from a single perspective one can chart the evolving strategies of commemorating the dead and the landscapes they inhabit. This ‘view from above and afar’ is an under-investigated and under-theorised aspect of recent and contemporary deathscapes, which frequently discuss the significance and experience of cemeteries from either maps and plans, or ground-level, perspectives.