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Burial Ground Extension, 1950s-1960s

We have recently finished cataloguing items concerning the churchyard extension for St James’ Church, Badsey, which took place in the 1950s and 1960s.  This is the story of how the church came to acquire the land.

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Ownership by the Sladden Family

In 1909, Julius Sladden (later Sir Julius), together with his four sons, bought five old cottages (a row of four cottages built in 1843, known as Sharps Row, and an older detached cottage at right-angles) to the south-east of the churchyard and two thatched cottages to the east of the churchyard.  Julius Sladden was a prominent figure in the village, a churchwarden and a strong supporter of the church.  He bought the cottages with the intention of leaving them ultimately to the church so that the land could be used to extend the churchyard.  A Phoenix Assurance Company policy gave details of the property which was insured for £350:

This policy of insurance witnesseth that Mr Julius Sladden of Seward House, Badsey, Worcestershire, John Dilnot Sladden, of Sydenham, Kent, Arthur Francis Savory Sladden of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Londeon, George Mourilyan Sladden, of Sydenham, aforesaid, and Cyril Edgar Sladden, of Seward House, Badsey, aforesaid, for their respective rights and interests ……

£200 in equal portions on four private cottages adjoining each other, occupied by Knight, Crane, Hartwell and another respectively
£50 on a private cottage detached near, at present void
£40 on a private cottage near, brick and stone built and thatched, occupied  by Mrs Keen
£60 on a private cottage adjoining last, brick and stone built and thatched, occupied by Roberts

All brick built and slated or tiled buildings except as stated, and situate at Badsey, Worcestershire.

Memo – Said thatched cottages do not adjoin any other thatched property.

On 31st March 1921, 77-year-old Julius Sladden and his sons, for £400, conveyed these properties to his daughter, Ethel, who still lived at Seward House, and who likewise was very involved in church activities.  Ethel was later (in 1932) to become the owner of Vine Cottage (8 Chapel Street) which was immediately behind Sharps Row.

The need for a bigger churchyard

By the late 1940s with an increasing population, Badsey was desperately in need of further grave space and discussions began concerning an extension to the churchyard.  The Sladden family had long made it known that they would transfer the land adjoining, so that a much bigger churchyard could be achieved.  

A Churchyard Fund appeal was launched and, by April 1948, it was reported in the parish magazine that £54 had been collected.  Reverend W B Chapman, who had arrived the previous year as Vicar of Badsey, expressed his appreciation in the February 1949 parish magazine for the willing volunteers who turned up on 21st January and began the work of clearing the land.

Formal proceedings then took place to effect the transfer of land.  In the parish magazine of November 1949, it was reported that, at a meeting of the PCC on 3rd October, a letter was read from Mr K G Johnson of Messrs Byrch, Cox & Sons, Solicitors, giving details of Ethel Sladden’s offer to donate the land she owned situated on the eastern side of the existing churchyard for use as an extension.  In so doing, she was carrying out the intentions of the late Sir Julius Sladden and other members of the Sladden family.  Mr Johnson also indicated that Ethel had offered a sum of approximately £100 to be earmarked to cover, in the first instance, all expenses in connection with the transfer of the land to the church, and the balance to be used to start a fund out of which various improvements could be made.  Mr Johnson’s letter concluded by saying:

As far as the services of my firm are necessary in representing Miss Sladden in this matter, there would be no charges beyond such unavoidable disbursements as Government Stamp Duty, Surveyor’s Fee, etc.  The expenses of transferring the land would, therefore, be kept at an absolute minimum.

In addition to the Sladden land, there was also the matter of the Fire Engine shed which stood on a plot of 47 square yards and was owned by the Parish Council.  The Badsey Fire Brigade had functioned as an independent body until 1942, being then absorbed into the newly-formed National Fire Service, so the shed was now redundant.  At a special parish meeting of Badsey Parish Council held on 28th November 1949, it was resolved:

That this Meeting of Badsey Parishioners agrees to hand over that portion of land which is now occupied by the Fire Station and land adjoining for the purpose of the extension of the Churchyard.

This was ratified at a meeting of the Parish Council on 9th January.  D A Jelfs, Clerk to the Council, wrote the next day to J Major, Secretary to the Parochial Church Council (PCC), saying that the shed would be handed over to the PCC for them to us it entirely as they wished.  Harry Stewart made a generous offer to provide labour to make a start with clearing the ground.  An Appeal letter was circulated and gifts began to be received.

On 30th December 1950, the conveyance of land between Ethel Sladden and the church was formally made.  The land in question was the site of the two thatched cottages which had been demolished in the 1940s, plus land to the south where the one original 18th-century parish cottage still stood (the four cottages built in 1843, known as Sharps Row, at right-angles to the old parish cottage, were not part of the settlement).

burial ground burial ground

Early in 1951, the original parish cottage was demolished.  The job of demolition was done by Messrs C Savage & Son; they then erected a building for the storage of tools and coke.  Harry Stewart defrayed the cost of a fence on the south side.  Ronald Churchill helped enormously by levelling the ground and Scoutmaster Blake and the Boy Scouts helped with tidying up the churchyard.  

On Sunday 22nd July 1951 (ie, the Sunday before St James’ Day), the Bishop of Worcester, Rev W Wilson Cash, came to consecrate the extension of the churchyard.  The petition for consecration was read by Mr G Austen Jones, church warden.  Then the Bishop, preceded by the church wardens and followed by the choir, processed round the ground singing Psalms 16, 23 and 90.  The Bishop consecrated the ground, signing the Sentence of Consecration, which was witnessed by Rev Canon T Charles Jones, Rural Dean and Rev W B Chapman, Vicar of Badsey.  After prayers, the hymn, “On the Resurrection Morning” was sung, followed by an address by the Bishop.  The service closed with the singing of the hymn, “Let saints on earth in concert sing”.

G Austen Jones, church warden, reads the petition to the Lord Bishop of Worcester, Rev W Wilson Cash, at the consecration of the burial ground extension, 22nd July 1951.  Photo courtesy Angela Holdsworth (née Chapman).

At Evensong, the preacher was the Reverend John Cyril Sladden (grandson of Sir Julius Sladden who had originally bought the land in 1909, and nephew of Ethel Sladden who donated the land to the church in 1950).  An extract from his sermon was published in the September 1951 parish magazine, the opening words being:


We might put it like this.  God created a garden eastward of Badsey Church from the very moment, many years ago, when a plot of land was first bought on behalf of the church and designated to become a part of the churchyard.  God created the garden then, but the garden has taken a very long time to materialize, to become actual and visible.  During this long period of more than 50 years [sic – it was actually 42 years], there have been many vicissitudes.  Difficulties of unexpected kinds have been met and faced.  Apathy and lack of interest have had to be overcome.  At times it has almost seemed in the sight of men, even to those who most ardently believed in the plan, that nothing would come of it.  Those people who did believe in it have had to exercise great patience and faith in co-operation with God’s purposes.  During all those years the plot of ground has been for the most part little less than a wilderness.  There has been until very recently little sign of progress towards the desired goal; one tree, planted in faith and hope, has stood as a sign of things to come.  In the patience of God, His purpose for Badsey churchyard has taken more than half a century to work out.

Work was in progress for the building of a lych gate.  This was the gift of Beatrice Alice Sears, in memory of her late husband, Arthur Sears, who had died in June 1946.  The lych gate was dedicated after Evensong on 4th November 1951.  At the same time, churchyard lights (in memory of Beatrice Violet Marshall) were dedicated. 
The first burial in the new portion did not take place until March 1954.  This was Alice Anker who died at Evesham Hospital on 6th March, aged 72, and was buried on 10th March 1954.  The parish magazine of May 1954 reported that two magnolia trees had been planted by the church wardens on 14th April, thanks to a gift from “a kind friend”, who wished to remain anonymous.

burial ground

A sum of £300 had been spent on the churchyard, but more was needed in order to complete the lay-out of the churchyard.  Initially, the land cleared was that to the north of the path leading to the church.  Work continued on clearing the land to the south of the path.  The first burial in this section took place in June 1958.

Garden of Remembrance Extension

On 17th July 1961, Ethel Sladden died.  Her executors were her sister, Juliet Sladden, and her nephew, John Cyril Sladden.  By her will made on 29th January 1960, she left “… the cottage known as Vine Cottage and the strip of land behind it, on which the row of cottages known as Sharps Row stood, to the Badsey Parochial Church Council.  They are situated in Chapel Street, Badsey …”.

The will was proved on 29th January 1962.  Badsey PCC was now in a position to apply to Evesham Rural District Council for outline planning permission to extend Badsey churchyard on the site of the Sharps Row cottages.  They had become semi-derelict and had been demolished in 1957.  The application was submitted on 20th February 1962.

Ethel’s will had not specifically specified that the land on which the Sharps Row cottages could be used for an extension of the churchyard, so matters rumbled on for another two years with various exchanges between solicitors.  On 4th February 1964, Juliet Sladden and John Cyril Sladden, as executors of the will of Ethel Sladden, conveyed, at the request of the Badsey Parochial Church Council:

All that piece or parcel of land formerly the site of the cottages known as Sharps Row situate in the parish of Badsey aforesaid adjoining the said churchyard or burial place on the south side thereof and for identification delineated and edged red on the plan annexed hereto and all title right and interest in the same and every part thereof to be held in fee simple as part of the said churchyard or burial place.

The ground then had to be laid out before an application could be made for consecration.   On 7th December 1965, a petition for consecration of an extension to Badsey churchyard was sent to the Bishop of Worcester, noting that a good, sufficient and substantial wall and fence had been erected to mark the boundary of the land, except where it adjoined the other consecrated ground.  A subsequent petition was sent in February 1966, requesting authority to reserve this addition to the churchyard for the disposal of cremated remains by strewing.  As stated in the April 1966 parish magazine:

The primary purpose of the Garden of Rest is the disposal of cremated remains of departed parishioners within the consecrated ground surrounding the parish church.  No grave spaces or caskets will be needed.  The ashes will be strewn (not scattered) on the rose beds and lightly covered over.  As there will be no visible memorials to individuals in the Garden itself, a Book of Remembrance is to be kept in a case in the church, in which the names will be entered of those persons whose ashes are deposited in the Garden.  The growing practice of cremation makes it highly desirable to have such a plot in our own churchyard, so that the ashes of parishioners may be laid close by their own church, if the relatives so desire, but without the expense and labour of maintaining a grave.

The consecration by the Bishop of Worcester of the Garden of Rest took place on Palm Sunday, 3rd April 1966.  The service began in the church, and afterwards, the Bishop and congregation proceeded to the Garden of Rest for the consecration, and the unveiling of the memorial stone to the memory of Charles Arthur Binyon.

The Garden was laid out by Complete Gardeners Ltd of Gloucester, and was planted with rose bushes and many varieties of flowering shrubs.  Six All Gold rose bushes were donated by Badsey Women’s Institute.  Edgar Mitchell looked after the Garden.  Shortly after the consecration, ashes began to be scattered in the Garden of Rest for departed parishioners.  Their names were recorded in the Book of Remembrance but not in the burial register.

The need for further land

By the end of the 20th century, the burial ground at St James’ Church was again almost full.  There were various meetings around the turn of the century, but it was not until 2016 that discussions again began in earnest.  In September 2016, the Parish Council met to hear residents’ suggestions for a major all-new project using New Homes Bonus money.  Members of the Parochial Church Council attended the meeting and requested the provision of a council-run burial ground because the churchyard was almost full.  Suggestions were also made for a Community Heritage Orchard and allotment gardens.

A Council sub-committee was set up to look for suitable land to buy, but there was little on offer.  It was only towards the end of 2019 that just over 11 acres of land was bought at Pear Tree Corner, then owned by the Diocese of Worcester, for the purposes of an orchard, allotments and burial ground.  The new ground was consecrated on 23rd November 2021 by Robert Paterson, the former Bishop of Sodor and Man (2008-2016) and honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Worcester and the Diocese of Hereford.  

The burial ground at St James’ Church was now closed for further burials, with the exception of where there was space in a family plot.  One such burial which took place at St James was that of Councillor Margaret Tyszkow, who was buried on 17th March 2022.  It was Margaret who came up with the words, “For Today, for Tomorrow, for Always” for the new burial ground.  These words may also be considered appropriate for the St James’ burial ground which is a peaceful haven in the centre of Badsey.  It is thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers which make up the Wednesday morning working group, that we can continue to enjoy the churchyard.

Maureen Spinks, April 2024

Sources of information