Hand-coloured steel engraving. Source: Poole 106 (see bibliography). Reproduced by kind permission of Derek Robinson.
London Road Cemetery, Coventry, is a Grade I listed burial ground of about 42 acres, about one kilometre from the city centre. Joseph Paxton was commissioned to lay it out in October 1845, and it was finally opened in 1847. The built structures were most probably designed with assistance from both the younger architects working in his office: John Robertson (1808/9-1853), who is thought to have helped design the gates, lodge, and Anglican chapel (see Hall); and George Henry Stokes (1826–1871), who took over from Robertson in Paxton's Chatsworth office in 1847. Not until later would Stokes marry Paxton's daughter Emily, and go into partnership with his father-in-law, but his name first crops up in connection with the cemetery (see Kenworthy-Browne). Significantly, Robertson had previously worked for John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), whose highly influential work, On the Laying Out, Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries, and on the Improvement of Churchyards, had been published in 1843.
In recent years, Coventry had been suffering from the same problems that afflicted London, namely, a massive increase in population and the inadequacy of city graveyard space. The problem was not simply that of over-crowding, but (again, as in the capital) of hygiene. The spacious and attractively landscaped Highgate Cemetery in London had opened in 1839, and had proved not just a facility but an amenity, where people could enjoy the pleasantly laid-out setting. Paxton shared Loudon's vision of "a graceful gentleman's park, in which the dead would be cradled within the harmony of harnessed, ordered nature" (Collquhoun 143). Opened within less than ten years, Coventry's new burial ground is another excellent early example of a Victorian garden cemetery. Further reasons given by Historic England for its Grade I listing include the quality of its buildings, its well thought-out planting scheme, and the many fine monuments here, reflecting the way in which Coventry was developing and thriving at this time. — Jacqueline Banerjee
Cemetery buildings and lay-out
- Paxton Memorial
- Robinson family grave (1855)
- Joseph Nevill's headstone (1866)
- Tomb of Berkely William Hicks (1877)
- Grave plot of the Newsome family (1878)
- Francis Skidmore’s headstone (1896)
Collquhoun. A Thing in Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton. London: Fourth Estate, 2003.
Hall, Ann. "John Robertson of Baslow — Architect." Friends of Princes Park. Web. 31 July 2019. [This is a very useful and relevant piece of research.]
Kenworthy-Browne, John. "Paxton, Sir Joseph (1803–1865), landscape gardener and architect." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 31 July 2019.
London Road Cemetery, Coventry. Historic England. Web. 31 July 2019.
Poole, Benjamin. The New History of Coventry, Being a Concise Account of its Ancient Institutions, Customs, and Public Buildings. Coventry: D. Lewin . NB A later edition of this is available as a free Ebook on Google Books, but there is only a blank page where this engraving should be.
Last modified 31 July 2019