Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2016)
Portslade Burial Board was constituted in 1871 with the purpose of finding an alternative burial ground to the small churchyard surrounding St Nicolas Church, which was closed for further burials. Meanwhile, the priests at St Leonard’s Church, Aldrington and St Helen’s Church, Hangleton had been kind enough to allow the burial of people from Portslade in their more commodious burial grounds until the matter was resolved.
Originally, it had been hoped that the Bishop of Chichester would consecrate land adjacent to St Andrew’s Church, Portslade, but nothing could happen there without the permission of Revd William Hall who had donated the site on which the church was built. But for reasons unknown Revd Hall refused to grant permission and so the Burial Board were obliged to look elsewhere.
The following were offers made to the Burial Board:
Peters family 4 acres for £900
Henry Hudson 3 acres for £1,150
John Hooper Smith 4 acres for £1,000
In the end the Burial Board decided to accept Mr Smith’s offer at his amended price because his first asking price had been £1,000 guineas.
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This view of one of the chapels in Portslade Cemetery was taken in March 2003
In November 1871 the architect Edward Evan Scott of 46A Regency Square, Brighton, was asked to prepare plans for two chapels for the burial ground.
In The Keep there exists a coloured plan (torn) of the non-conformist chapel. It is a very neat drawing indicating special features such as concrete foundations, Bath stone for the window ledges, random flint work for the walls and red kiln strings. Inside the building there was to be chamfered boarding, stained and twice varnished.
The flint-built chapels have odd angular insets of red brick. The chapel on the west side was for the use of Church of England services while the chapel on the east side was for the non-conformists.
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top left:- St Andrews Church, right:- Brackenbury Chapel at St Nicolas Church, lower left:- Brackenbry School
E.E. Scott had close connections with Portslade through his wealthy patron Miss Hannah Brackenbury and so his work would have been well known to members of the Burial Board. He designed St Andrew’s Church, Portslade (1864) the Brackenbury Chapel at St Nicolas, Church, Portslade (1869) and the Brackenbury Schools, Portslade (1872). His work considered to be of national importance is St. Bartholmew’s Church, Brighton (opened in 1874), which so impressed John Betjeman.
By May 1872 nine tenders had been received for the contract to build the chapels in Portslade Cemetery. W. Watson of Steyning provided the lowest tender at £725. George Miles of Portslade lost out because his tender was for £791-10s But at least three years later he won the contract to do the paintwork on the chapels.
On 9 November 1872 the cemetery was consecrated and on 4 October 1896 the Bishop of Chichester consecrated a further piece of land.
On 8 June 1904 Portslade Council purchased another piece of land to extend the cemetery. John Eardley Hall sold them six acres for £3,760; it adjoined Victoria Road and there was a frontage to Trafalgar Road.
One of the first burials must have been Samuel Scrace who died at Hangleton on 11 October 1874; his grave is near the yew trees in the southern part of the cemetery.
Another early one was Richard Keating, captain of the Royal Artillery, late 12th Brigade, who died on 1 October 1877 aged 64.
This building is now numbered at 37 Trafalgar Road. Portslade Council approved plans for the house in 1894. It is a pleasant-looking building with a flint frontage. It is interesting to note that the flints have the same curious raised mortar lines as are to be found at Sellaby House, the stable block at Easthill Park and the wall at Foredown Hospital. In 2003 this house was still acting as a tied cottage with a cemetery employee living there.
Even before Cemetery Lodge was built, the man in charge of Portslade Cemetery enjoyed the privilege of living in a house, rate and tax-free.
In 1884 an advertisement was placed for a ground-keeper to take charge of cemetery and gardens. He also had to provide a sexton’s labour and act as Register Clerk to the Burial Board. There were no less than 34 applicants for the post and the salary was £24 a year.
On 3 December 1895 the Burial Committee decided to order the following:
4 dozen Irish Yews @ 18/- per dozen
One dozen Evergreen Oaks @ 12/- per dozen
9 Cornish Elms @ 15/- per dozen
9 Birch Trees @ 10/- per dozen
Imperial War Graves Commission and the Great War
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Four of the many Great War graves which are located in all areas of Portslade Cemetery.
The above organisation sent a letter to Portslade Council dated 7 November 1932 asking for exclusive rights of burial in war graves that had not been purchased by relatives. Some war graves were already being tended by the Imperial War Graves Commission and to these were added the following:
Sergeant Major J. Anderson
Private C.A. Church
Private E. Luff
Private C.W. March
Deckhand A. Miles
Rifleman H.M. Moody
Private G.P. Moore
Private J.W. Oakley
Private C. Sergeant
Private W.W. Wynn
It is worth noting that the names of Private C.A. Church, Able Seaman C. Findlay, Private Luff, Deckhand A. Miles and Private C. Sergeant do not appear on the war memorial in Easthill Park, Portslade or in the war memorials at St Nicolas Church and St Andrew’s Church.
Sergeant Major J. Anderson was an Old Boy of Portslade Industrial School and Private George Moore used to attend St. Andrew’s Church, Portslade.
The following is a list of Great War Graves in Portslade Cemetery:
Anderson, J. MGC (Inf) 9 March 1919
Church, Pte. C.A. Royal Sussex Regiment 18 April 1916 aged 40
Farmer, Pte. C.H. Royal Sussex Regt. 22 July 1917
Findlay, Able Seaman C. RNVR HMS Clio 24 November 1918
French, Lt. Edward John, RNR HMS Good Hope 1 November 1914 aged 31. (This memorial is a private one and does not have an official white headstone)
Goble, L/Bombardier W. RGA 25 April 1921
Goddard, Pte. Law RASC 28 February 1919
Luff, Pte. E. Royal Sussex Regt. 18 April 1916 aged 40
March, Pte. G.W. Royal Sussex Regt. 7 April 1916 aged 31
Miles, Deckhand A. RNR HMS Victory 20 July 1918 aged 48
Moody, Rifleman H.M. King’s Royal Rifle Corps 7 July 1918 aged 18
Moore, Pte G.P. Bedfordshire Regt. 20 April 1918 aged 21
Oakley, Pte. J.W. Royal Marine Artillery 21 September 1918 aged 18
Sargeant, Pte. C. Essex. Regt. 25 May 1915 aged 23
Sinnock, 1st class Stoker J.C.G. HMS Victory 29 May 1919 aged 38
Sizer, Pte. G.G. 2nd Batt. Royal Sussex Regt. 23 October 1918
Wilkinson, 2nd Engineer R.S. SS John Miles 22 February 1917
Wynn, Pte. W.W. Royal Sussex Regt. 19 August 1916 aged 26.
Private Farmer’s name also appears on the St Andrew’s Church War Memorial, along with Lieutenant French and Private Moore.
Private Oakley’s name appears on the St Nicolas Church War Memorial, along with 1st class Stoker Sinnock, Private Sizer and Private Wynn.
The most memorable war grave is that commemorating Lieutenant French although he is not buried here. He was lost alongside the entire crew of HMS Good Hope in the dreadful Battle of Coronel fought on 1 November 1914 off the coast of Chile. The Good Hope was considered an elderly ship and certainly it was never expected she would confront the most up-to-date vessels of the German Navy. But that is what happened and the Good Hope and Monmouth were comprehensively out-gunned and soon set ablaze. What makes the loss of these two ships even more poignant is the fact that between them there were 200 young boys aboard.
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The most memorable war grave is that commemorating Lieutenant French although he is not buried here. He was lost alongside the entire crew of HMS Good Hope
Able Seaman Findlay was serving aboard HMS Clio when he died. Unfortunately, there were two ships with this name; one was a somewhat brutal training ship for young boys, often sent there in unhappy circumstances, moored in the Menai Straits; the other ship saw service in the Middle East.
2nd Engineer Wilkinson died while serving aboard the SS John Miles. The ship was named after one of the directors of the Portslade Gasworks, and carried a precious cargo of 870 tons of coal from Jarrow on Tyne to Portslade. The German submarine U-21 torpedoed her and within two minutes she sank. Despite the war, an inquest was held into the deaths of three crewmen, including Wilkinson. At the time it was believed that the John Miles had hit a mine and the truth of the attack was not known about until later. It is interesting to note that the brass ship’s bell was recovered in 2007.
Two men, Deckhand Miles and 1st class Stoker Sinnock, are recorded as having served with HMS Victory when they died. This has nothing to do with Nelson’s magnificent flagship at Portsmouth but more to do with the docks or barracks or reserve forces at Portsmouth. Indeed such was the confusion caused by using the name twice that later on the name of Victory Barracks was changed to Nelson Barracks.
2nd Lieutenant Alfred George Andrews is remembered in Portslade Cemetery, as well as on the War Memorial in Easthill Park and St Andrew’s Church War Memorial. His body does not rest in Portslade but in the St Sever Extension, Rouen, France. He died on 14 October 1918 of battle wounds at the base hospital in Rouen and he was only 23 years old; it was tragically near to the end of the war too. He fought with the 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and was part of the 37th Division. He does not have a military headstone at Portslade but is recorded on the headstone of his parents’ grave. His father Captain Andrews died five years after his son while his mother Emily died in 1947.
Second World War
The Imperial War Graves Commission cares for nine graves situated in the north-west corner. But Canham’s headstone is on its own further to the east.
Bland, Sgt. R.A. Pilot RAF 27 February 1942 aged 21
Canham, Sgt. J.R. 14/Sussex Battalion Home Guard 8 December 1940 aged 51
Green, Sgt. W.H. RAF 6 January 1941 aged 54
Hemsley, Able Seaman A.A. RN lost in HMS Dunedin 24 November 1941 aged 29
Hill, 1st class Stoker F.G. HMS Manners 26 January 1945
Knill, Gunner C.W. Royal Artillery 24 April 1944 aged 24
Marlow, Pte. S.J. Hampshire Regt. 28 August 1940
Read, Leading Aircraftman R.E.M. RAF 13 February 1942 aged 27
Sharp, Flight Sergeant, wireless operator RAF 25 August 1941 aged 21
Out of this number only Stoker Hill and Gunner Knill are recorded on the War Memorial in Easthill Park while Sergeant Bland is remembered at St Nicolas.
Able Seaman Hemsley died in 1941 aboard HMS Dunedin when German submarine U-124 sent two torpedoes speeding towards the vessel while she was sailing in the Atlantic Ocean north-east of Brazil. Dunedin carried a crew of 486 officers and men but there were only a few survivors – four officers and 63 men.
H.M.S. Manners also fell a victim to German U-boats but this time it was in home waters around 20 miles off the Isle of Man. 1st class Stoker Hill was lost when Manners was hit by a torpedo from U-1051. The impact caused the frigate to break into two pieces with the stern sinking. Four officers and 31 ratings were killed while fifteen others were injured.
Controversial Land Sales
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This lovely memorial commemorates
Kezia Farmer died 17 May 1890
and Frederick Farmer died 20 May 1911.
In 1924 the Parish Meeting decided it was time to dispose of the four building plots fronting Trafalgar Road with the resulting money going towards the cost of laying out the new extension. The four plots were duly auctioned on 28 May 1925 and sold for £75 each.
In 1935 Portslade Council decided that the cemetery land fronting Victoria Road was surplus to requirements and ought to be sold off. Councillors estimated they had enough burial space to last at least until 1955.
In October 1935 it was stated that during the previous ten years there had been 205 burials in the old part (most of them second or third burials in old graves) and 909 burials in the new part (717 new, 192 second or third interments).
The strip of land in question could accommodate 1,176 additional grave spaces. But on the other hand the market value of the land was £4,776, which would provide useful revenue for council coffers.
Some Portslade residents protested against such a sell-off. A special meeting of the Portslade Ratepayers’ Association was called and met in November 1935. Andrew Melville told the meeting that the land was supposed to be retained for burial purposes and although it might not be needed at the present time, it might prove a useful asset in the future.
Mr H. Farrell said there was plenty of land available in Portslade for building purposes and so why bother to sell land that had lain dormant for the last 32 years and could be left for another twenty?
Mr Durrant commented that the cemetery might not even last for fifteen years, given the population increase.
The chairman of the meeting complained that not many Portslade councillors had the decency to attend the current meeting, which passed a resolution stating the land should be retained for burial purposes.
In January 1936 there was a full gallery with people eager to hear the debate between Portslade Urban District councillors. Members of Portslade Ratepayers’ Association were also present and Mr Durrant handed in a petition with 1,600 signatures against the land sell-off.
Mr Durrant moved a motion that in view of the objections, the General Purposes Committee should reconsider the question. The motion was defeated by eight votes to three and the land was sold off for housing.
In 1974 it was stated that increase in cremations had extended the life of Portslade Cemetery from around eight to ten years. But in 2002 burials were still taking place although many of the subsidiary paths have gone in order to create more burial plots.
Today Portslade Cemetery remains a pleasant place with good tree cover and it is especially important in this area south of Old Shoreham Road, which apart from Victoria Recreation Ground is somewhat deficient in trees.
In a similar way to Hove Cemetery, trains thunder past at the southern extremity. But unlike Hove Cemetery, the area is more protected from vandalism because there is limited access. This is because houses were built on the former frontages to Victoria Road and Trafalgar Road. Although the sell-off was unpopular with ratepayers, it turned out to be an advantage in terms of security.
The chapel on the west side was still used for services in 2002 while the chapel on the east side was used as a store for lawnmowers and tools.
The term ‘exotic vermin’ is the official description of grey squirrels and while ‘exotic’ may sound exciting, in this case it means merely that the squirrel is not a native species like the red squirrel.
The greys can be very destructive in their behaviour and this became apparent in 2003 when a hoard of them invaded the west chapel. They made a great mess of the interior roof space and applied their sharp teeth to the furniture inside the chapel as well as chewing the carpet. Eventually, the chapel was unfit for use and contractors were called in to solve the problem. It was perhaps a little unfortunate the traps were set on a Sunday in December approaching the season of peace and goodwill. But there were estimated to be over 40 squirrels there and most were captured and destroyed. Of course some animal lovers were appalled at such actions and felt the animals should have been released somewhere else. It seems that some visitors enjoyed feeding them in the grounds. The contractors installed wire mesh all around the roof to seal the point of entry.
Early in January 2015 it was reported that a large tree, probably an elm, had come down in Portslade Cemetery, badly damaging some gravestones. One of them belonged to the Andrews’ family and the stone was broken. It commemorates Mr and Mrs Andrews and their son 2nd Lieutenant Alfred George Andrews who died of war wounds in 1918 and was buried in Rouen.
Memorials of Interest
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The draped urn of the Dudney memorial seems in tune with the drooping branches of the nearby trees.
Dudney – The Dudney family memorial occupies a double plot south-west of the west chapel. The details are as follows:
William Dudney born 29 December 1831 died 6 February 1896
His wife Fanny born 16 December 1831 died 24 November 1915
Eldest daughter Mary born 22 December 1856 died 29 September 1901
William Hudson born 8 January 1860 died 16 June 1922
Arthur Hudson born 12 January 1867 died 10 May 1939
Edith Ellen died 15 August 1959 aged 89
John Dudney, founder of Portslade Brewery lived in Easthill House while William Dudney and his family lived in Lindfield House.
Hillman – Walter. He died on 7 July 1926 aged 74 and his wife Emma Graham died on 3 July 1907 aged 54. Hillman was a prominent local businessman, a Justice of the Peace, Chairman of Portslade Council for eleven years, and Churchwarden of St Andrew’s Church, Portslade for thirteen years.
McConnochie – Gabriel McConnochie was headmaster of St Nicolas School from 1863 to 1893, he was organist and choirmaster at St Nicolas Church for 30 years and he founded Portslade Cricket Club in 1876.
He died aged 63 on 31 August 1898
His wife Caroline Louise died on 5 February 1917 (she also taught at the school)
Pepper – Annette Elizabeth Frederika Christina. She was buried on 18 March 1943 having been shot dead by her Canadian soldier lover who was later hanged for the crime.
Tierney – Sean. He was the 24-year old captain of the fishing boat Newhaven Warrior that capsized in a fierce storm in 1994. His body was recovered from the sea a week later at Rottingdean. His funeral was held at St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Portland Road, Hove and he was buried in Portslade Cemetery in September.
Wood – Thomas Huntley. He became famous as the sailor portrayed in glorious colour on the front of Player’s cigarette packets for many years. He and his wife Rebecca lived in Portslade and had a large family of seven sons and five daughters. She died on 2 February 1947 and he died on 24 August 1951.
Argus – 17/12/2003 – 5/1/2015
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Middleton, J. Hove and Portslade in the Great War (2014)
Portslade Council Minute Books
For information of burials in Portslade Cemetery, visit the Brighton & Hove City Council's family history research website
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