Bath Union Workhouse Burial Ground.
A field just off the Wellsway, Bath.
A burial ground that does not exist on a current map.
Here over 3100 bodies lie in unmarked graves, the last remains of those who died of poverty in the Bath workhouse between 1858 and 1899.
In the low winter sun you can make out the mounds and depressions of the burials.
A makeshift memorial comes and goes in a place that once may have had something more permanent.
Visitors add flowers occasionally. We add to them.
A regular monthly virtual walk, click here for latest details
A further 1100 bodies of those who died between 1838 and 1858 lie in unmarked graves in a small triangle behind the old Workhouse Chapel on Frome Road, Bath.
The only memorial there is to Rock 'n' Roll hero, Eddie Cochrane who died there following a car crash near Chippenham in 1960.
Eddie's body was finally buried in California, three steps to heaven, with step one taken in Bath's former Workhouse.
There are no memorials to the Workhouse dead.
Walking the Names
By 2019 the names of the Workhouse dead had been digitised we now at least have the names from the old register opening up a far easier way of finding out more about them. At the end of the year I hosted a first slow walk, walking and reading out the names, day by day, week by week and year by year of their burial. This will continue throughout 2020 as part of a slow walk, in principal on the first Sunday of the month from 11.00-12.00.. There will be a moment for sharing and conversation at the end of each walk, music and poetry welcome, a continuing improvised memorial and poor requiem. In April 2020 as a result of virus restrictions this part of the project went online, see below.
The next Walking The Names will be on
Sunday 3 May 2020
at 11.00-12.00, Respecting social distancing and in our moment of exercise walkers are invited to walk alone, read and record 20 names from the Workhouse Burial Register, these will then be assembled into a sequence and published here. This is an open invitation, details here
As this develops John and I hope that more will join us and we will find out more about those whose remains lie under the soil of this field behind that grim wall just off Bath's Wellsway.
Bath Union Workhouse, Odd Down, Bath. Over 4000 Bath residents died in poverty 1838- 1899 they were buried in the land alongside the building and most in a nearby field. There is no memorial to them.
An aerial photo a hot summer ago faintly shows the ragged teeth of the burial plots jammed in over a period of forty years. How a rich city in a rich country at the centre of an Empire dumped the bodies of its poor, consoled at least that it was in consecrated ground.
In a series of performative walks in collaboration with historian and poet Dr John Payne 2017 coinciding with his exhibition about the Workhouse at the Museum of Bath at Work we hosted conversations about poverty and welfare. There were further walks to the burial ground in 2018, as part of the Bathscape Walking Festival where we improvised a poor requiem in the rain. Paying our respects to the forgotten poor of the enchanted city.
The resonances from these walks continues, opening conversations on poverty, welfare and civic responsibility. Many questions are unanswered about who the dead were and where they came from, as well as the practicalities of their burials and how this space might memorialise them appropriately. We learned about the Workhouse school and the love-struck school master walker Mr Winkworth, In 2017 we retraced the epic walk he led the Workhouse boys on around the parishes of Bath. Perhaps here lie the parents or grandparents of the boys, perhaps some of the boys themselves.
Walking conversations and research
This is a developing project and I am lending this page for building the network...there are so many questions and much to learn. Hopefully leading towards some kind of recognition and respect shown. If you would like to be involved, help network, fund raise or research or have information to add come along for Walking the Names and /or use the contact form below...become a friend of the Workhouse Burial Ground? ( it needs some!)
Walking the Names online
April 2020, as the virus closes us down to isolation and social distancing Walking the Names went online. An informal trawl of those who had joined the first few monthly walks resulted in nearly twenty walkers interested in taking part on line. Each walker was issued with 20 names from either 1862 or 1863 entries in the Register of Burials at the Bath Union Workhouse Burial ground just off the Wells Way. This brings a whole new set of voices to the project and as they get stitched together it promises to be an interesting piece with contemporary voices and reflections. The contributions will be assembled into a series of continuous pieces of reading and walking.