The history of the poorhouse graveyard located just off the Ballycastle Road begins circa 1850.
Contained within the workhouse minute books, available via proni, the call for a separate burial place for the workhouse inmates ensued. (See the transcription of notes below)
The Commissioners had been told that, in the opinion of the General Board of Health, cemeteries should be located at least a quarter of a mile from any town, village, hospital or workhouse, in order to prevent the accumulation of malaria.
The Commissioners were of the opinion that the Guardians should give the subject their immediate attention, and would not experience much difficulty, in locating and purchasing an appropriate site for this purpose.
The Board of Guardians voted on the matter and the majority vote went to continuing to use the onsite burial ground.
The Commissioners strongly objected to this outcome and requested that the Guardians hasten to procure a new site and desist in the burial of inmates onsite.
It seems the Guardians are under the impression, that they may be able to retain a portion of a new burial site, being obtained by the inhabitants of Coleraine, at an appropriate distance from the town and workhouse.
Unfortunately, they have difficulty in coming to an arrangement with the inhabitants and instead advertise in the Coleraine Chronicle for land, for their use. The following advert was placed on the 20th and 27th April 1850.
There was no response to the advertisement. The Commissioners are now involved in procuring land for the purpose of a cemetery. They insist that the agent for the Marquis of Waterford be contacted regarding lands held, and what the terms would be to obtain some for their use.
A reply stating that the Marquis of Waterford had no wish to sell any of his land was received. The Board replied requesting what terms could procure the possible lease of lands? A reply stated that the Marquis of Waterford did not wish to have any of his land used for a cemetery under any circumstances.
The plaque situated at the memorial gardens states;
‘This garden was constructed on the site of the former poorhouse graveyard in 1973.
The area was in use as a graveyard for nearly 100 years from 1858 until 1947.’
Did it take them until 1858 to obtain land? Did they continue to bury the inmates onsite until then?
Burial Ground info found at www.proni.gov.uk
Coleraine Workhouse Minute Books
[26 January 1850]
'Ordered that the collectors be directed to lodge weekly the entire amounts collected by them and not fortnightly as directed on the 12th inst. Letter of the 23rd inst. from the Poor Law Commissioners in reference to interments which take place in the workhouse grounds of this Union close to the infirmary yard, and requesting the attention of the Board of Guardians to the opinion expressed by the General Board of Health that the localities selected for the purpose of cemeteries should be at least a quarter of a mile from any town, village, hospital or workhouse and in a sufficiently exposed place to prevent the accumulation of malaria and that as the Commissioners cannot suppose that the Guardians would experience much difficulty in procuring an eligible site for a cemetery a request that the Guardians will give the subject their immediate attention, and that the Commissioners will readily co-operate with the Guardians in procuring a piece of land for the purpose.
[9 February 1850]
'The Board proceeded to consider the question of the removal of the cemetery to a distance from the workhouse which Hugh Lecky Esq proposed and Henry Anderson Esq seconded that a cemetery at a distance from the workhouse be provided if the cost does not exceed £25.
'It was then proposed as an amendment by Daniel Givin Esq and seconded by James Lancy Esq that the present cemetery be used as hitherto.
'The votes having been taken there appeared a majority for the amendment and so the original motion that the cemetery be removed to a distance from the workhouse was lost.
[23 February 1850]
'Letter of the 22nd inst. in reference to proposal made on the 9th inst. to provide a cemetery for burial of deceased inmates at a distance from the workhouse which was lost on a division and Guardians resolved to adhere to the peasant practice of burying the bodies of deceased inmates on the workhouse site.
'The Commissioners state that on sanitary grounds they strongly object to the continued interrments of the bodies ... on the workhouse site and they request that the practice may be discontinued, and that the Guardians will again take into consideration the expediency of providing a cemetery for the purpose.
'Ordered that the Commissioners be informed that the consideration of the subject has been postponed in order that an arrangement may be entered into for a piece of a new burying ground which the Guardians learn the inhabitants of the town of Coleraine are about to provide at a suitable distance from the town and workhouse'.
[30 March 1850]
'Resolved that the following Guardians be appointed a committee for the purpose of treating with the inhabitants of Coleraine in reference to providing a joint cemetery for the town and workhouse:
John Cromie Esq Daniel Givin Esq
Hugh Lecky Esq Alexander Macky Esq
James A Lyle Esq Mr Hugh Bellis
'The above committee to meet on ... the third proximo at 12 o'clock and to report to the Guardian on the 6th proximo. Three to be a quorum.
[6 April 1850]
The report of the committee considering the removal of the cemetery from the vicinity of the workhouse.
'The committee having taken into consideration the propriety of providing a joint cemetery for the use of the town and workhouse are of opinion from the difficulty of getting the inhabitants of Coleraine to come to any arrangement that a separate cemetery for the workhouse should be provided, and advertisement made for an acre of land at a suitable distance from the workhouse'.
Following a resolution an advertisement was placed in the Coleraine Chronicle for half an acre of land.
'Wanted by the Guardians of the Coleraine Union a portion of land not exceeding half an acre for the purpose of a cemetery; the distance from the workhouse should not be much greater than half a mile ...'
[4 May 1850]
No tenders were received in response to the advertisement for land for a workhouse cemetery.
[18 May 1850]
The Poor Law Commissioners enquire about land suitable for a burial place sufficiently near the workhouse and propose to treat for the same. They 'observe that the objections to interrments so close to the workhouse, or any part of the land now held with it, are so strong that they would feel warranted in prohibiting the practice by a sealed order. The Clerk was ordered to send details of some land held under the Marquis of Waterford and also to write to Mr Beresford his agent for terms for land for a cemetery.
[10 August 1850]
'Letter of the 8th inst. from J B Beresford Esq agent to the Marquis of Waterford stating that the Marquis of Waterford does not wish to sell any portion of his property to be set apart for a cemetery'.
The Clerk was instructed to write to see if a lease would be granted for a cemetery and on what terms.
(17 August 1850]
'Letter of the 16th inst. from J B Beresford ... states that the Marquis of Waterford does not wish to appropriate any part of his property for a cemetery, on any terms whatever.
We next see 2 more adverts in the Coleraine Chronicle dated 27th August 1859 and the 12th November 1859.
The Cemetery Committee of the Coleraine Union will, on SATURDAY, the 31 proximo, be prepared to receive and consider Tenders for making a MAIN DRAIN at the New Cemetery, according to a Plan and Specification in the hands of Mr James H Lithgow, Brook Street, who will give any information relating thereto.
Tenders to be lodged with me at the Board Room before Eleven o’clock, AM, on the day above named.
JOHN V FLEMING
Clerk of Coleraine Union
24th August, 1859 5426
THE CEMETERY COMMITTEE of the Coleraine Union will, on SATURDAY, the 19th Inst, be prepared to receive and consider Tenders for making a WALK Round, and a Cross Walk, in the New Cemetery. The Round Walk to be at a distance of six feet, inside from the wall, and to be six feet in breadth, paved with large Stones to a depth of six inches, on top of which a coating of broken Stones to a depth of three inches is to be spread, and over which as much Gravel, free from earth and sand as will completely blind the Stones. The Cross Walk to be made in a similar manner. The earth in both cases to be removed by the Contractor to the depth of one foot, and spread over the lollow part of the ground. Sealed Tenders stating price per lineal perch of 21 feet, the entire breadth of the Walk, will be received by me up to, and not later than, 11 o’clock on the day above named.
JOHN V FLEMING
Clerk of the Union
Board Room, 5th Nov, 1859 5572
A look at proni’s historical maps give us an aerial view of the site. Marked is the Workhouse and the site of the poorhouse graveyard.
OSNI Historical Edition - (1846-1862)
PRONI maps then jump to 1900-1907
The Griffiths Valuation of the area, (available at www.askaboutireland.ie) was taken in 1859. Again, I have marked both the Workhouse and the poorhouse graveyard.
Details of the land tenant and landlord can also be found for the particular plot, noted here as the number three. From this we can see that William Lettison was leasing the land from Robert Given.
Here we can see the whole area of Bellasses where the burial ground is situated.
We can now follow this area of land by looking at the valuation revision books.
VAL/12/B/30/9A (1859 - 1865)
Here we can see that the tenants of plots 2 and 3 have been crossed out and the burial ground is now noted as plot 19 after the Railway, dated 1863. The land is In Fee and is leased by the Guardians of the Poor of Union of Coleraine.
The books show the Burial Ground right through until they end in 1929.
VAL12B309B (1866 - 1874)
VAL12B309C (1874 - 1884)
VAL12B309E (1885 - 1892)
VAL12B309G (1893 - 1899)
VAL12B3014E (1899 - 1910)
VAL12B3014F (1911 - 1929)
This picture found at www.britainfromabove.org.uk was taken in 1948. A year after the poorhouse graveyard was no longer in use. The picture shows Bengers factory, now known to us as the Cheese Factory. Looking at the area on the top left we can see Harpurs Hill, an area of fields, and just at the very top, a triangle of trees. This was the burial ground. We can see it was located a good distance from highly populated areas at the time.
This is where the story of the poorhouse graveyard ends.
A further look at newspaper reports unfurled another issue within the town of Coleraine itself regarding cemeteries.
Coleraine Chronicle dated Saturday 8th March 1862
To be continued....