On a summer visit to a county council managed burial ground that serves as the second extension to the historic churchyard of the parish church, I reflected once more on the range of fashions by which cremation is integrated into ‘traditional’ burial environments. For while I have emphasised how the range and character of fashions in which the rise of cremation in churchyards, cemeteries and crematoria gardens of remembrance, particularly over the last 50 years, has facilitated a range of different architectures and burial plots, I have perhaps been remiss in noting those instances where the most ‘traditional’ of grave forms is opted for to honour the cremated dead. I refer to short grave-plots but with headstones of comparable scale to those raised over inhumation graves, sometimes combined with low oblique-angled and flat memorial tablets.
On a summer cycle, I visited such a burial ground at Hope (Flintshire). This well-regulated and well-managed burial ground had no garden of remembrance for the cremated dead, but grave-plots of smaller size but many with traditional headstones raised over them.
These gravestones offer a similarly regulated space which can be mowed to the inhumation plots. Both inhumation and cremation graves were afforded with the same narrow bases for flowers, ornaments and offerings. They posses similar ranges of form, materials, inscriptions and spaces for insignia and symbols.
Yet these are not mimicking traditional inhumation memorials. Despite all these similarities, the cremated dead still seem to afford a contrasting sense of space, and a more intimate collective presence. Hence, I’d argue that even when the most traditional of grave forms and memorial forms is opted for, the cremated dead have a different material and spatial dynamic to the inhumation graves. Moreover, they are clustered in a discrete narrow space between the path and the cemetery boundary, setting them spatially apart. My point? Try as they might, even the most traditional of cremation graves forms, individually but especially collectively, provide contrasting material and spatial affordances to those of their inhumed neighbours. Cremation thus operates today on a wide spectrum of materials and spaces of remembrances within our churchyards, cemeteries and gardens of remembrance, as well as across the broader landscape.