Pauper death and burial in Eastville, Bristol

On 12 July a fascinating public walk and lecture about the history behind the unmarked pauper graves of Rosemary Green, situated on the outskirts of what was once Eastville Union Workhouse, Fishponds Road, Bristol.

After the 1834 Poor Law Act a paupers funeral was considered to be an extravagance that the parish should no longer pay for.  Before the 1834 Act, pauper funerals were paid for by the parish, with local persons attending to the traditional funeral rituals and necessities. In other words a person with no or little money who had died was treated with respect in death and buried as a human being as would be expected, albeit simple, within the cultural rituals of the time.

But after the Act was enforced the Poor Law Unions, in order to save money, and ‘demonstrate disgrace in death of those who had surrendered to poverty‘.  Death and burial practices were changed to become a disgraceful new attitude that resulted in approximately 4,000 men, women and children simply being wrapped in a shroud and dumped in unmarked graves in a small piece of land that sloped into a small river.   The pauper graveyard is located at Rosemary Green just opposite Greenbank Cemetery where there is also an older pauper grave yard.

Extensive research into Eastville workhouse has been undertaken by Bristol Radical History Group and published in 100 Fishponds Road.  (Book available from BRHG). Click here.

Many people have now contacted the BRHG as they suspect that their ancestors may have be buried at Rosemary Green. (Records of names still exist).  If you think that you may have an ancestor who might have died in a workhouse you can contact Heritage Found, free of change, to try to find out more.

At Rosemary Green there is now a touching monument to all those souls once buried beneath.

Made of slate it reads:

Rosemary Green Burial Ground

1851-1895

On this site over 4,000 men women and children

who died in Eastville Workhouse,

known as 100 Fishponds Road,

were buried in unmarked graves.

A further 118 were given to the medical school.

This memorial stands in recognition of all

who lived and died in the workhouse.

Not Forgotten

Please click here to discover more and see fascinating photographs of Eastville Workhouse.

The British Census a beginner’s guide 1851

1851 Census

Following the first census that is of use to us as family history researchers came the second census of 1851, taken on the night of 30 March.   This was to set the pattern for a census to be held every 10 years, which still happens to the present day.

The census of 1851 was taken in slightly more detail than the 1841 census.  It shows us a persons true age (or what they thought was their correct age!), as well as the relationships between the people living in any one household, institution or vessel.  Disabilities were also recorded, which were listed as either blind, deaf, or imbecile.  Also, the documents reveal to us where a person was born.  This is an incredibly important piece of information for the researcher because it aids us to find baptism, marriage and perhaps other records such as property records that exist before 1851.  Therefore, helping us to trace a family line further into the past.

So, in brief the 1851 census will tell us:

  • Place of birth
  • Martial status
  • Relationship to the head of the household
  • Disability
  • Exact age to the nearest year
  • Occupation  (the number of people employed)

Reaction to the 1851 census. Punch, April, 1851 p.152