Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Completion of the Mapping Project 2010

David Earle mapping Ryde Cemetery

In July 2010 David Earle Ryde Social Heritage Group’s “Map Master” completed the preliminary mapping of Ryde Cemetery.

Here is David’s report on that project:


The preliminary Mapping of the whole of Ryde Cemetery was completed in July 2010 and had been started some time in mid 2005. Large areas of the New Cemetery have yet to be transcribed and this will inevitably result in alterations having to be made to the maps.

I have enjoyed meeting people in the cemetery, sometimes frequently and at other times only once when I have been trying to help them locate a grave of a relative or person they are interested in.

I have enjoyed helping to answer queries that have been received by the RSHG through the website.

I have also enjoyed some things which can hardly be described as ‘mapping’ but have been associated with the graves and the people interested in the graves. For example, re-assembling broken headstones or kerbs is not mapping but it helps the mapping and makes a nice change.

I also want this Report to give some idea of the extent of the work, the methods used, the assistance received from others and some of the unusual or interesting aspects of the mapping. However, I cannot convey the almost unbelievable feeling I got when I realised that I was plotting the last grave on the last map.


The mapping has involved surveying and plotting approximately 10,100 individual graves on to 56 Maps. There are six for the Old Parish Cemetery, 24 for the Old Cemetery and 26 for the New Cemetery. Initially I calculated that 61 maps would be required but eventually I only needed 56. They can be printed from the website. A map showing the layout of the individual maps is also available from the website.

Alpha Indexes have also been produced and list approximately 16,700 individual names that have either been read on the graves or obtained from Isle of Wight Bereavement Services records. Each entry includes a Map Reference, a Grid Location on that Map, details of whether the grave is marked, un-marked or obscured, the area or Section of the cemetery and the Plot Number if available.


I joined the Ryde Social Heritage Group in 2005. It is generally accepted that I had just ‘wandered’ into the cemetery whilst walking down West Street and there have been suggestions that I was not fully in command of the direction my wanderings took.

Actually I quite like cemeteries and had nothing else to do that day so I deliberately walked into Ryde Cemetery and found a leaflet outside the Lodge giving details of the Ryde Social Heritage Group. The leaflet was asking for volunteers to produce leaflets, posters and the like using a computer and I was tempted to volunteer.

After I had attended a few meetings I learnt that mapping the cemetery would be very useful. When I innocently suggested that I could possibly do that my offer was rather warily pounced upon and maps from the Isle of Wight Bereavement Services were produced. It was suggested that I start in the south-east corner of the cemetery, in the Old Parish Cemetery, as that would probably be the most difficult to map.


The method used to produce the maps has varied slightly from area to area but basically it has involved using Bereavement Services Maps to obtain approximate layouts, names and Plot Numbers. I visited the cemetery and tried to relate the actual layout of the graves on the ground to these maps.

The Old Parish Cemetery was a nightmare as the layout of the graves was almost completely random. While surveying that area I had to start with a blank sheet and sketch a lot of the graves individually, relating them to graves already surveyed and plotted, before I could transfer the positions etc: to a computer generated map. I started in the south-east corner with the grave of Elizabeth Barkham.

The fact that the Old Parish Cemetery was the most difficult area to map actually turned out to be very useful in that the problems experienced were uncovered when I was fresh to the job, enthusiastic and could still walk and bend with ease. The basic method of recording on the maps graves that had visible markers, no markers at all or were obscured by foliage or other elements were determined in that area and required very little amendment as the work progressed. Later symbols were developed to indicate Commonwealth War Grave Commission graves and graves that were marked but where the headstone had fallen forwards or was otherwise hidden. I later plotted an approximation of the canopy cover of the trees in the cemetery. All the information regarding the symbols etc: is recorded on a Legend Sheet which is available from the website.


As the first RSHG maps were produced l was told what details had to be included. I originally assumed that only marked graves would need to be plotted but I was told that was not the case in no uncertain terms. Actually I now believe it would have been more difficult to omit unmarked graves as the alignment of graves would be difficult to determine.

I received continuing encouragement and support and I was quite surprised when the RSHG maps took shape and enabled graves to be located in the actual cemetery.


Before I had completed the Old Parish and Old Cemeteries another RSHG Member expressed an interest in mapping the Cemetery and was introduced to me at a Members Meeting. This was Lydia Jackson, a lovely lady with a gentle voice and a charming smile. Lydia had a small property in George Street where she came to spend time on the Island. We arranged to meet each other by e-mail and telephone and would meet in the cemetery where Lydia quickly became an expert at interpreting the Bereavement Services maps. Some of them really needed interpretation as they bore only a vague resemblance to the layout on the ground and the writing left a great deal to be desired. This is not a criticism of the present Bereavement Services organisation but of the people who drew the maps in the mid-1800s.

Working with Lydia meant that I could work much faster than I could alone. With Lydia’s help I did not have to keep putting the Council map down, thus losing my place on it, as I recorded details on the draft RSHG Map. While I was drawing and writing Lydia would move ahead and try to relate the next visible grave to the Council map.

Lydia Jackson

Lydia Jackson

It was with great sadness that I received the news of Lydia’s death and I am still disappointed that I was not able to report to her that I had finished the preliminary mapping. When we worked together that seemed unlikely.

I also received help from another RSHG Member, Stephen Day. We were not able to meet in the cemetery so Stephen surveyed rows of graves that I had printed out and gave his results back to me later. Unfortunately I was not able to continue to use that method as I quickly found that I had trouble making sense of information that was obtained when I was not present and relating it to my own surveying. That was entirely my fault as I had spent so long looking at each grave personally that I could hardly make sense of what I had drawn myself and given to Stephen. That was a pity as Stephen’s help would have been valuable.


As each section of a map was completed the names that I had recorded were compiled into Alpha Indexes for the various sections of the cemetery. In order to keep the files to manageable lengths they were split into sections, A to F, G to L, M to R and S to Z for each section of the cemetery. There are separate Alpha Indexes for the Old Parish Cemetery, the Old Cemetery and the New Cemetery.

I found this part of the work really boring but, without these Alpha Indexes, it would be virtually impossible to locate a specific grave by name or Plot Number in the cemetery.


Eventually the maps for the Old Parish and Old Cemeteries were completed. As the Transcription Group moved across the cemetery additions and corrections had to be made to a lot of the maps. Transcription can determine if names on the Council maps are spelt wrongly, if I have read them incorrectly (e.g. Sprakling instead of Spratling), if additional names not easily read by me were available and if people are married or not married as they are recorded differently on the maps. This work of correction is much simpler than actually surveying in the cemetery.

When I had finished the Old and Old Parish Cemeteries the Pellhurst Road at the western end of the New Cemetery looked a very long way away and I was not sure I could walk that far.


The Council maps for the New Cemetery are much easier to deal with in many cases and the layout of the graves is almost entirely in aligned rows east/west and north/south. This enabled me to use a different method of surveying. I was able to plot on the maps a grid of grave spaces, each with provision for a name or names and a Plot Number. I then consulted the Council Map and filled in the details given for each individual grave before visiting the cemetery. After surveying legible names were identified and all the outlines were re-plotted in accordance with the Legend Sheet. This allowed for much quicker surveying and plotting and I was able to survey up to fifty graves in a single visit.

A lot of the graves in the New Cemetery have legible headstones which are much easier to read than the inscriptions on kerbstones and this also allowed the surveying to speed up. In the Old Cemetery I would get down and clear kerbs to get the names. In the New Cemetery I could not expend as much of my dwindling daily store of energy and, rather lazily, simply marked the grave with covered kerbs as ‘Obscured’ so that the Transcription Group will have to read the names.

I was still not sure whether or not I could finish the preliminary mapping so I mapped the larger areas first, but finally finished along the northern boundary with the grave of Violet Hill.


I cannot write this report without mentioning the absolutely essential assistance that I have received from the staff at the Isle of Wight Bereavement Services Office at the Crematorium. Iain Donald, Janis Mundell and Doreen Innes have all rendered a great deal of assistance and encouragement. In particular Doreen must have expended a great deal of time and energy photocopying the Council maps and carefully taping them together for me. I gratefully acknowledge that, without their help and encouragement, the mapping of Ryde Cemetery could not have been completed in the way it has been.


I did not normally find the cemetery morbid or depressing. In nice weather it is a comparatively quiet and pleasant place to be. The flowers, some of the trees, the birds and the other creatures are all interesting and attractive. That is with the possible exception of rabbits, which have a tendency to dart out when least expected. They sometimes startle me and have been called some rather rude names.

There are other experiences that can enliven a surveying session. There are several graves of people with unusual names. When you come across the grave of Himalaya and Edwin Strange in the middle of Yucca bush it raises the spirits.

There are graves with unusual inscriptions. I suppose the most unusual must be the grave of the two wives of Robert Harvey. Unusual in that the inscription records the death of his two wives and the second wife is described as ‘She was what a wife should be’.

I am saddened by the graves of young children ranging from two hours to a few years old. Children’s graves appear all across the Old and Old Parish Cemeteries but appear to be fewer in the New Cemetery. I was particularly sad for the family of Stacey Louise Deakin who died in March 1979 aged nine months and Kelly Joanne Louise Deakin who died in July 1980 aged only two hours.

Another grave which has proved to be interesting is that of Peter Stephen Grundy. It is marked . . .

24509366 PRIVATE
16th DECEMBER 1979 AGE 21

Peter Grundy Grave

Peter Grundy Grave

Peter died as the result of a roadside booby trap bomb in Northern Ireland in 1979. On the thirtieth anniversary of Peter’s death his twin sister found a poppy wreath on his grave marked from ‘Cooney’. She had no idea who had placed the wreath there but contacted Janette who was able to find out by e-mail that a comrade had laid the wreath. The Parachute Regiment remember their fallen comrades on the anniversary of their deaths. Janette was able to give Peter’s sister that information.


I have been able to use the mapping and my knowledge of the cemetery to help quite a few people to locate graves they were interested in. Martin Wyatt had been searching for the grave of Sybil Carter. They had become friends when Martin was fourteen and Sybil was an elderly lady. I found it and, when Martin visited the Island on holiday, I was able to meet him and photograph him beside the grave of his friend.

We found two people wandering vaguely in Section New K with a sheet of paper. They were searching for the grave of a relative who was associated with a Dictionary of the Isle of Wight Dialect. The way to find graves when you have a map is not to wander vaguely but to find a grave alongside a path which is in the same north/south or east/west row as the grave you are seeking and walk along that row to the grave. We found the grave of Amy Eleanor Thearle and Elizabeth Ann Long who were the daughter and wife of W H Long, the author of the Dictionary.

On one occasion I was surveying when two young people who were on the Island to attend the Festival (anoraks, mud and Wellington boots) approached me and asked if I could if I could help them find the grave of the young man’s aunt. Unfortunately they did not know the lady’s correct name or where she might be in the cemetery, only that the young man’s father said the grave was white marble, had an angel on it and green chippings. Rather strangely we were unable to find a grave of white marble with an angel and green chippings although, if it had been anywhere near where they thought it was, it should have been fairly easy to locate. One cannot win them all!


At one point I was referred to as the Leader of the Mapping Group, for some time now I have been the Mapping Group. At the January 2011 Members Meeting I hope to show a presentation on the mapping with pictures. It will cover certain areas in greater depth than this report and hopefully the pictures will give a clearer idea of the work.

After over twenty years as a Civil Servant I am used to writing reports but I am amazed that I have managed this one without using the word ‘hereinafter’ or the phrase ‘*Delete as necessary’. I have, however, managed to ease the word ‘dwindling’ in, something I have never managed before.



Ryde Social Heritage Group is very grateful to David for taking on and, more importantly, completing this massive project. At our AGM in on 9 October 2010 David was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation and a copy of Dr McInnes book “A Gentleman’s Tour of the Isle of Wight” as a small token of our thanks for his achievements.