Bath Abbey

Status: 
Closed
Number of Burials: 
6,540 (1600-1845)

From time immemorial burials have occurred in the crypt of Bath Abbey. Prior to 1844 the occurrence of an entry in the burial register indicates that the burial took place in the Abbey.

 

Layout of the Abbey and the floor memorials.jpgLayout of the Abbey and the floor memorials

There were only between 20 and 50 burials per year in the period 1600-1844. The main exception was in 1643, probably due to the typhus epidemic during the Civil War. Those buried were nationally or locally prominent people and parishioners. 

The entries in the register are mainly (90%) for burial within the Abbey. However some entries are explicit in stating that the burial was elsewhere: the churchyard (7.8%), the skullhouse (1.5%) and St John’s Chapel. The numbers buried in the churchyard are low until the 1730s, this ceasing in 1763. The skullhouse was used only in the period 1774-1780. Its location has yet to determined; it may have been in the crypt.The Bathwick registers have a number of burials of people designated as being from Abbey parish. Burials at the Abbey & St James Poor House in Widcombe started in 1784 and ceased in 1857.

Of the burials, about 4% have a corresponding name on a wall memorial.  After the opening of Bath Abbey Cemetery in 1844 (see separate section) only a few further burials occurred in the Abbey; the last burial in the Abbey occurred on 29 Jan 1845. The entries in the register thereafter are annotated as the burial having occurred in the cemetery.

Number of burials per year

Number of burials per year by burial location 1700-1800

The number of burials per year was quite low compared to parishes such as St Swithin’s and St James’, reflecting the small size of the parish. Nonetheless, as is evident from other registers, burials of Abbey parishioners were also occurring in other burial grounds with significant numbers at Bathwick and the Abbey (& St James’) Poor House in Widcombe. The last burial in the Abbey occurred on 29 Jan 1845, a few months after Bath Abbey Cemetery opened.

Documentation: 

The burial registers for the Abbey have until recently been un-indexed and with the need to consult the microfiche copies at either Bath Record office or the Somerset Heritage Centre.

Transcripts of the Register of Bath Abbey 1801-1840 and of the Register of Bath Abbey & St James Burials (Poor) at Widcombe 1784-1840. E S Jenkins (1980).

The Registers of the Abbey Church of SS Peter and Paul Bath, edited by Arthur J Jewers, Vol II (London, Harleian Society 1901)

Bath Abbey - Alphabetical index of baptisms, marriages and burials, 1743-1940 – Somerset Record Office D\P\ba.ab/2/9/1 (microfiche).

The National Burial Index 3 has 2,397 entries for Abbey parish for the period 1668-1945 provided by the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society but these records are not complete; there should be over 5,000 entries alone for those buried in Bath Abbey cemetery. In addition the list of years covered indicates that the records are incomplete. There are over 3,000 records in the transcript by Arthur Jewers which covers the period 1569-1800.

The Abbey is rich in internal memorials and these are documented in: Memorial Inscriptions in Bath Abbey, by J Dunn 1914 [Bath Record Office and Bath Central Library]. See also Somerset Record Office Somerset Record Office DD\TB/20/2. However, these wall memorials have not been photographed and mapped systematically.

In addition, where a flat slab on the floor served as the memorial, there is Inscriptions on the Flat Stones in the Bath Abbey Church copied by Charles P Russell (Parish Clerk) at the Time of the Restoration of the Church in 1872. [Bath Record Office] This is handwritten and has an accompanying map (see figure above).

Bath Abbey – Burial Register Name & Memorial Indexes. Widcombe Association 2013. Contains name, floor memorial and wall memorial indexes, the memorial indexes based on the prior documentation of floor and wall memorials. For an entry in the burial register any floor and/or wall memorial reference is given. [Bath Record Office]