Bellar Gate Rest Garden

by Joe Earp


The Plaque Recording the History of the Bellar Gate Rest Garden- Photo Credit: Joe Earp

This plaque marks the old site of the Barker Gate Burial Ground then known as the Middle Burial Ground (Burial Ground No. 1).

After it ceased to be used for a burial ground it became a rest garden. In the last ten years most of the old burial ground has been replaced by an ugly looking car park and the rest garden has become quite neglected and forgotten. Scattered around the site can still be seen a few old gravestones, which when viewed can seem quite eerie.

The history of the burial ground can be traced back to 1742 when a piece of ground on Barker Gate was acquired from Evelyn, Duke of Kingston for the sum of ten shillings. This, the first of the Barker Gate burial grounds, later became known locally as Middle Bury. The Deed was enrolled in the Court of Chancery and lodged in the hands of George Gregory Esq. The land was described as having seven houses fronting onto Bellar Gate, the rest being garden. Early pictures show the Duke’s home, Pierrepont House on Stoney Street with formal gardens sloping down the hill to Bellar Gate.

In 1827 there was an incident involving body snatchers or “resurrection men” who attempted to despatch two corpses to London. Great concern was raised when families checked recent burials in the Barker Gate burial grounds and discovered that thirty bodies had been stolen. More about the ‘the Body Snatchers of Barker Gate’ can be read by clicking on the link below:

In the 1830s the burial ground was used to accommodate the victims of a Cholera epidemic which struck Nottingham. In the outbreak of the epidemic, 330 people died in Nottingham. This caused many deaths in the Narrow Marsh and Broad Marsh areas, which had some of the worst slums in Europe.

In 1883 a Faculty permitted the taking down of two of the walls for the building of St Mary’s School on Barker Gate. St Mary’s School was erected in 1799 by the General Baptists. The old St Mary’s School was originally built as a Baptist chapel. It was converted into a school by the architect Thomas Chambers Hine in 1886. The building no stands empty and derelict. It looks in a poor state and looks like it has seen better days.


The Old St Mary’s School- Photo Credit: Joe Earp


Entrance to the old St Mary’s School- Photo Credit: Joe Earp

In 1921 Middle Bury, described then as being an eyesore with irregular wastes of trodden earth, was paved over and became the playground for the school children and for those who lived in the local overcrowded housing. In the post-war period St Mary’s choirboys used the playground after choir practice. The school building and its entrance still stand today but look in a poor state, as can be seen from the above photographs.

The burial ground eventually closed in 1897. After that the City Council  maintained the rest garden under a perpetual licence from the Chancellor of Southwell Diocese. The rest garden like the adjoining St Mary’s School building, have seen better days. Most of the graves from the burial ground have been taken away but if you look you can still see a few which have placed to the sides of the garden.


The site of the Bellar Gate Rest Garden March 2014- Photo Credit: Joe Earp


A few gravestones can still be seen scattered around the garden- Photo Credit: Joe Earp


A few gravestones can still be seen scattered around the garden. This one dates from 1793. – Photo Credit: Joe Earp


About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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