The Civic and Parish Church of Bournemouth

St Peter’s Churchyard Re-Imagined – a Look Back Over 2020


The purpose of this short document is to explain how the design for the Project came about and what we have done in 2020

Design Brief

Dorset Wildlife Trust who initially granted us £10,000 to help transform the grounds agreed the following parameters with St Peters:

  • Open up the churchyard to create a more modern welcoming destination for visitors.  Include spaces to sit, areas for lunchbreaks, wildlife trails, historical trail, room for quiet reflection.
  • The grave of Mary Shelley receives many visitors, and this area needs to be enhanced with some paving, planting and seating.
  • Planting is very important, as you would like to greatly increase the diversity of wildlife using the graveyard.  We propose to use native English plants in the main adding in non-native species in some areas to increase the season of interest and range of colours.  Planting to be low maintenance as all gardening is volunteer led.
  • A meadow bordering the lower path, both sides.  Bulb naturalised through here for winter/spring interest.
  • Some conifers being removed in the middle of the churchyard to allow more light, this will provide more planting along the earth path used that joins the upper and lower hard standing paths that can be accessed by wheelchairs and buggies.
  • The curving path to be enhanced with planting and a destination area.
  • The majority of the Rhododendron will be removed, planting to replace this will be higher in diversity to attract wildlife, be more colourful, enhance the slopes and general lie of the land.
  • There are some available trunks to create simple woodland seating.
  • The top tarmac pathway leading to the upper rear gate will be cleared of Rhododendron, planting will be needed along this path to soften the space.
  •  Spaces for bug hotels, log piles, bird boxes etc.
  • Heritage trail to mark famous graves
  • Wildlife trail to highlight wildlife/trees for children.

JPS Landscaping were agreed to be appointed due to their vast experience/expertise in Dorset. The following was their statement to us:

“We would be delighted to assist with the Masterplan required by the project. With 14 national landscape awards to our name, JPS possess an in-depth knowledge of sites such as this, and associated professionals such as architects, ecologists and heritage specialists. Our experience and qualifications are coupled with excellent customer care to provide a service unrivalled by other landscape professionals.

Masterplan (Strategic overview

We believe that our design process, that is underpinned by thorough desk research, observant field study and a commitment to collaboration, will ensure that the landscape concept will bind the development and serve as a means to engage and seek input from its stakeholders ahead of the development of a detailed landscape plan. 

By working with the landscape at an early stage and embracing its complexities as opportunities, we believe an identity to the development can be formed that allows for a genuine community, economy and ecology to emerge that is vibrant and fit to integrate into the existing landscape. “

The St Peter’s DCC and Rector were involved in approving this planned approach from the beginning and the PCC were updated.  The design itself has been on display at the back of the church for feedback/information for over a year now. I have also been in contact with the Parks Department and Council at all stages of this design. The Diocese have granted a faculty for the initial works of planting the cherry trees, feeling the poor specimen self-seeded mainly conifers identified in the wildlife walk area to enable planting. Stakeholders are happy that our vision complements and indeed enhances our historic Grade 1 listed church.

BCP Council were delighted with the project, awarding us £20,000 in Summer 2020.

The main aim was to turn an overgrown and sadly dangerous 3-acre site into a beautiful one that visitors, residents and office workers, congregation and families can access and feel safe in. 

We completed Stage One by end of October – removal of overgrown dense undergrowth where drug dealers have been present for as long as we can remember. The grounds were also used by drug users and when we cleared the churchyard, we found many stolen goods and hidden areas used to de-tag stolen goods.

All business parkers, choir parents, dog walkers, visitors and congregation members have expressed their absolute joy at the site now and comment on how safe they feel/how beautiful it all looks. 

We have not started putting in either of the signposted Trails, nor installation of bat and bird boxes which will be made with local schools and businesses. The signs are now with the designer for layout and the final versions will go to the Diocese for approval before we get them made. We must give thanks to Mrs. Alice Miller who researched all of the Heritage Trial signs. For information the signs will cover the following: 

Heritage TrailWildlife Trail
Shelley Family
Resurrection Chapel
Earp and Street
Isabella and Hubert Parry
Morden Bennett
Autumn Ladies Tresses
Pollinator Friendly Plants
Log Piles
Cherry Tree Walk

We have uncovered the gravestones that are still there, reuniting broken crosses with the relevant site and carefully attended to them to remove earth, ivy and weeds, and debris. Those still standing/exposed can now all be seen so we feel that this has also brought respect back to all those who were buried here.

Grants from Bournemouth Rotary also helped fund ”Fresh Start” to spearhead the clearance operation over the Summer, which meant that we met and worked with many current and ex-rough sleepers. This was also the aim of the work-outreach. We cannot begin to thank Mark Richmond who put us all to work for three days a week over three months and worked himself to the bone. Repainting of ironmongery on the church doors, railings and lampposts, painting of doors and benches and repair of signs were all done alongside ground clearance. 

Firm friendships have been made and another positive outcome is the gardening groups that now meet once or twice a week to spend 5 hours on each day to keep on top of the site. These include congregation and DCC members, wardens, residents, Bournemouth Rotary Club Members and an ex-rough sleeper who are delighted with how safe the grounds make them feel and the difference it has made to their peace of mind as one block of residents in particular complained of anti-social behavior in the wee hours of the morning every night by our Resurrection Chapel with some actually selling up because of it. By this Chapel alone, over 500 needles were picked up over two days in the original clearance. Simply terrible and very unsafe.

The planting suggested is beautiful and merely replaces only a few small areas of this huge site that of course were covered in dense overgrowth – mainly rhododendrons and brambles. Everything is totally sympathetic to a restful and tranquil churchyard.

Join us for Stage 2 in 2021!

Jane MacDonald-Styslinger

Churchyard signs

A couple of examples of the Heritage trail signs to whet your appetite!

Example 1 – Sir Daniel Eyres Godfrey (1868 – 1939)

In 1893 Sir Dan Godfrey became the first Musical Director of the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra (later renamed the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) at the age of 25. He retained the position for the next 41 years. Originally contracted by the Bournemouth Corporation to conduct a seasonal band of 30 musicians, his ambition was to build a permanent symphony orchestra in the town to establish Bournemouth in the musical world.

Hugely energetic and musically curious Godfrey cultivated connections with most of the prominent British composers of the day inviting them to conduct their own works at his music festivals. Godfrey’s genius was both for the music and its presentation, making ordinary people interested in what he was doing by mixing populist elements, such as variety acts and light music with extracts from more serious pieces. 

By the turn of the century Godfrey was gaining a reputation as an exponent of British music giving British premieres of major works by Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, and Strauss. In 1910 Bournemouth saw the first provincial premiere of Elgar’s Violin Concerto after the world premiere in London.

In 1922 the greatest friend of the British Composer was knighted ‘for valuable service to British music. He was awarded honorary membership of the Royal College of Music a year later. Ever ahead of his time, in 1927 Godfrey devoted his Easter festival to the music of British women composers.

Sir Dan Godfrey retired in 1934 and in 1939 the father of municipal music in Bournemouth, died.  His grave is in the south-west corner of the churchyard, near the lychgate, and the inscription reads, ‘Music Begins Where Words End’.

Example 2 – Anna Maria ‘Isabella’ Parry nee Fynes-Clinton (1816 – 1848)

Mrs Anna Maria Isabella Parry (1816 – 1848), known as Isabella, was wife to the artist and collector Thomas Gambier Parry. She travelled widely with him and was engaged with him in the design and construction of a village church to benefit the scattered residents on their estate. 

By 1948 she and her husband were expecting their sixth child. Of delicate health and suffering from tuberculosis, to which she had already lost three infants, Isabella travelled to Bournemouth from her Gloucestershire home on medical advice. Sadly, in March of that year, twelve days after giving birth to a son, Isabella died. The motherless Charles Hubert Hastings Parry was baptised in St Peter’s church two days after Isabella’s interment there, and taken home by his grieving father to be raised with his two older siblings at Highnam Court, Gloucestershire. 

The child, the only one of Isabella’s children to reach adulthood, was to become known as Sir Hubert Parry, one of Britain’s most creative and prolific composers of choral music, oratories and anthems, including “I Was Glad” for the coronation of King George VII. He is most well-known for the choral setting to William Blake’s words for “Jerusalem”. Hubert would often return to Bournemouth at the invitation of Sir Dan Godfrey to conduct the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra (later renamed the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) at the Winter Gardens Concert Hall. On such occasions he would visit his mother’s grave in this churchyard.

In the 1880s Sir Hubert became attracted by the radical ideology of the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Prometheus” and composed a choral and orchestral version for the 1882 Gloucester Festival. Little could Sir Hubert have realised that some of the remains of Shelley would eventually reside just yards away from those of his dear mother. 

Both Hubert and his wife Maude were early and active supporters of women’s rights including their right to vote so it is fitting indeed that Hubert’s mother is also laid to rest close to the remains of that most famous advocate of women’s rights Mary Wollstonecraft.