A Dead Good Job: Gravedigging in Municipal Cemeteries

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Event description
An in-depth talk about the role of gravediggers, by Dr Helen Frisby and Dr Stuart Prior.

About this event

Part of the April-May 2021 mini-series of lectures providing an introduction to the Church Monuments Society.


Cemeteries are surprisingly versatile spaces: they memorialise the dead, provide consolation and recreation for the living, are home to a wide variety of wildlife - and are also places of work. Based on interviews with serving gravediggers and archival work, Dr Frisby and Dr Prior will explore what it’s really like to work in a cemetery and show how frontline cemetery staff influence every aspect of the burial of the dead, from purchase of a grave to digging out, backfilling and site maintenance, reopeners and exhumations.

Making reference to historic practices dating back to the 1870s but concentrating on the late 20th century to the present, the speakers will illustrate the sometimes challenging intersection of cemeteries as places of work with their other functions as commemorative and leisure spaces. Notable case studies will include South Bristol Cemetery, Canford, Greenbank and Arnos Vale.

Dr Stuart Prior is a Reader in Archaeological Practice at the University of Bristol. A former gravedigger, he’s previously appeared on Time Team.

Dr Helen Frisby is a historian and folklorist. Her PhD was on Victorian funerals, and she’s previously appeared on The History Channel and BBC radio.

Event Information

This online talk is FREE to all and will take place on Zoom. Places must be booked via Eventbrite. This is the fourth in a series of online talks April-May 2021 that aims to provide an introduction to the Church Monuments Society.

Guidelines and handy Zoom hints

Before the event:

• Please ensure you have already downloaded and installed Zoom to the device you wish to use. Read their guide if you are unsure about how to do this ( )

• Make sure you have registered via Eventbrite using your correct email address (or you will not receive the joining instructions).

• We will email the access link to you via Eventbrite shortly before the event begins.

• Please ensure that Eventbrite is on your safe-senders list and check your Spam/Junk inbox for our communications if you cannot see them.

During the webinar:

• Please remain muted throughout.

• The talk will last approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by questions.

• You are welcome to use the Chat box to contact panellists.

• Send formal questions for the speaker using the Q&A function so that they are easily identifiable. These can then be put to the speaker by one of our event coordinators.

• The session may be recorded by the Church Monuments Society. Screenshots and/or recording by participants is not permitted for copyright reasons.

• The host can remove attendees from the webinar.

• If you experience technical difficulties, contact panellists using the chat function. We will do our best to help.

• Enjoy the talk!

Image Credits: Main photo by the blowup on Unsplash and excavation image by Dr Stuart Prior.

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