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St Michael’s, Tilehurst: geological developments since the enlightenment in a rural-to-urban graveyard in central Berkshire

Allen, J. R. L. (2019) St Michael’s, Tilehurst: geological developments since the enlightenment in a rural-to-urban graveyard in central Berkshire. Landscape History, 40 (2). pp. 127-142. ISSN 2160-2506

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/01433768.2020.1676047


Divided into unequal parts by New Lane Hill, the large graveyard at St Michael’s Church makes a substantial contribution to the landscape of Tilehurst, an independent medieval settlement episodically absorbed into the modern town of Reading as it grew westward. Memorialised burials began here in the eighteenth century and continued without a break at an increasing rate up to the present. A total of 2,446 memorials (ashes burials excluded) can now be seen, of which 300 (12.3 per cent) cannot be dated, mainly for preservational reasons. A wide variety of geological and some artificial materials have been used for memorials. The most prevalent of British origin are Cornubian granites and Portland stone, the latter from the earliest burials onward. The most prevalent rocks from overseas are Italian marble, generic granites, diorites-gabbros, and microgabbros. Minor use was made of Scottish granites (Aberdeen, Peterhead), Upper Carboniferous sandstones (including Millstone Grit and Pennant sandstone), generic limestones (including Nabresina and Lower Carboniferous limestones), Norwegian larvikite, slates, and gneisses/ migmatites. The seldom-used artificial materials include terrazzo and concrete. These various materials appear in the graveyard in a well-defined temporal sequence that reflects successive, cost-reducing advances in national and international transport (turnpike roads to shipping freight containers). Changes in local taste over time are reflected in the design of the monuments, ‘Georgian’ headstones giving way to Gothic, in turn replaced by art deco, and then modern. The rate of memorialisation fell during historical periods of economic hardship, when non-essential goods and services were less affordable. The Napoleonic Wars, the Great Agricultural Depression, and the two World Wars are all recognisable in the temporal pattern of dated burials as relative wealth fluctuated.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:86998
Uncontrolled Keywords:History, Nature and Landscape Conservation, Horticulture
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

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