Thursday, June 13, 2019

My name on my tombstone 3

Christian graves in churchyards were traditionally aligned on an east-west axis, as was the church itself. Parishioners' graves faced east - the head was at the west end of the grave and the foot at the east. The exceptions were gravestones of the priests/ministers which faced the other way. 

The reason for this was that it was believed that on the day of resurrection the parishioners would rise up and face the direction of Jesus’s second coming in Jerusalem, traditionally due east. At that point their priests/ministers would also rise up and be ready facing their flocks of parishioners. (Acknowledgement: David Fairhurst,

Typical churchyard (from Quora)

St Michael’s churchyard Bowness-on-Solway. Bell memorial stone extreme left.

Municipal cemeteries initially followed a similar pattern but later, after World War II, factors such as expense, shortage of labour and a gradual decline in importance of Christian traditions brought a change in arrangements of graveyards. 

Space became critical and remains a problem with large municipal cemeteries such as Stellawood in Umbilo, Durban. Here, graves are recycled – usually those without headstones (and there are many such) are the first to undergo recycling. It is possible to buy or lease the family plot and continue to use it for related burials. However, today cremation is increasingly the choice made.

In the case of the Point graveyard, Durban, where some of the earliest Natal settlers were buried, the graves were moved to West Street Cemetery in 1896. The memorial inscriptions read like a roll-call of Natal colonial residents. A list of those buried at the Point Cemetery and details of the exhumation of the remains of colonists and their re-interment at West Street Cemetery in 1896 can be seen at

The Point Settlers' Memorial, West Street Cemetery

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