Did you know there was a municipal cemetery in the parish of St Issells in the 1800s? There was one, opened in 1862. But confusingly it forms a large part of the graveyard attached to St Issells parish church. If you know the spot, most of the area over the stream to the south-west of the church was effectively a municipal cemetery owned and managed by the St Issells Burial Board. Formed in 1861 under the auspices of the 1853 Burial Act one of the Board’s objectives was to provide the final local resting place for many from Saundersfoot and the surrounding area be they “church or chapel”.
At the time Saundersfoot was a growing hotspot of non-conformism. For staunch chapel goers, burial in St Issells parish churchyard before 1862 would have been anathema. The Burial Board cemetery changed matters: it was non-denominational and saved mourners having to travel more than a mile out of the village to the graveyards at Bethesda, Sardis or Cold Inn.
Thankfully the Burial Board burial register for 1862-1922 has survived. It is a treasure trove of useful information for family and local historians. At first glance the data contained in the register appears to be the same as in the parish burial register. This is wrong as the following table shows:
|Date of burial||Same|
|Place of death||Sometimes differs|
|Age at death||Same|
|Description||E.g. occupation, status such as widow or pauper|
|Officiating minister||Name only|
|Plot number||Should correlate with a plan that’s also part of the Burial Board collection – but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t!|
|Additional information||For some burials only; e.g. cause of death especially where from a pit accident, or in 1866 cholera outbreak **|
In reality the board register is a superset of the parish burial register. But there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes the data does differ and in important ways. For example the parish register shows that William Davies died in 1898 at his home, Winifred Place (next to Saundersfoot station). The board register shows he died at Carmarthen Asylum. This entry is an obvious boon locating the death in a different registration district. So, even if you have already found your ancestors’ burials in the parish register, do make a note to check the board register as there could be additional helpful information.
The register’s real strength is as a record of non-conformist burials for the Saundersfoot area. Analysis of the 1008 burials shows that 2/3rd of them were “church” burials, the rest being “chapel”. They include burials for Baptists, Independents as well as Primitive, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. Obviously it does not list burials at Bethesda, Sardis or Kingsmoor chapels. But with so few records surviving for the local chapels, the board register is a gem.
Pembrokeshire Record Office, St Issells Burial Board Register, 1862-1922 (ref HSPC/18/3).
I have a transcription of the register so if you require a look-up or two, do let me know. My transcription does not including plot numbers.
If you are a member of the Society of Genealogists, a database containing this register is available in the Members’ Area of the society’s web site.
** Nikki Bosworth of the Record Office published an interesting article on the register in the Dyfed Family History Society’s journal (April 2010) focusing especially on these additional comments.