St Andrew's Hospital cemetery Memorial Gardens

Text © Copyright Evelyn Simak, January 2018
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak

When the hospital's burial plots (it is thought that there were two or three - all now lost) were full to capacity, another location outwith its grounds had to be found. A document dating from 1859 (in: Ernest Folk Cannell, "The Progress of a Century 1814-1914") states "And whereas the number of persons residing within the said Asylum is considerable and the burial from the same are numerous and there is not sufficient room in the Church yard belonging to said Parish of Thorpe next Norwich nor in the three pieces or parcels of land or ground of the Asylum". Consequently, from 1859 until 1903 the asylum's dead were buried in the Thorpe St Andrew community cemetery. The last entry in the asylum's own Register of Burials in the Parish of St Andrew (NRO ref SAH 233) suggests that 1622 patients were interred there, with the last burial dating from 20 June 1903 (William Wenn from Worstead, aged 53, #1622). Then the hospital opened a new cemetery on a plot of land situated immediately adjacent in the west to what was then Plumstead Road (this road no longer exists due to having been built over). It was consecrated on Friday the 26th June 1903 by the Bishop of Norwich, John Sheepshanks. A small mortuary chapel was constructed in 1904 at approximately the centre of the plot and water was laid to the cemetery in the same year.

TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Memorial in disused cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Memorial in disused cemetery (commemorative plaque) by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Memorial in disused cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak

The chapel has long since been demolished, presumably before or around the time the burial ground was officially closed in 1973. A hand-drawn plan (anonymous but annotated "done 1973") held by the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), where it can be found inserted as a loose sheet in front of the Register of Burials in the Cemetery of the Asylum in the County of Norfolk, January 1908 - October 1966 (NRO ref SAH 234), shows the locations of the 217 graves marked on it. The plan depicted here is an exact replica of the hand-drawn original, with the graves of the Polish and Ukrainian nationals highlighted and their names added by the author.

TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Graves in disused cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak  St Andrew's Hospital cemetery plan of graves

Records of the first interments, numbering from #1 up to #216A/B, can be found in SAH 233 (mentioned above) starting on page 70. 81-year old Robert Ambrose from the Thetford workhouse was the first to be buried, on 9 July 1903, as the sole occupant of grave #1 in the newly opened cemetery, followed by 50-year old Hannah Howes from Wiggenhall St Peter on 13 July 1903, in grave #2A (the A indicates that this grave contains two bodies, the other being #2B). The great majority of graves, in fact, contain two bodies, no doubt to save space, with grave #126B being the last entry in this register. Entries are continued in the consecutive register (starting with #127A on 3 January 1908). This register has only recently been opened to the public, the reason being that access to patient records not giving medical information, including burial records, is restricted for 100 years. (Access to patient case papers and medical records relating to adults is restricted for 115 years after the last date in the file.)

No burials took place between 16 April 1915 (Dorothy Noble from Stoke Ferry, aged 82, grave #324A) and 31 January 1920 (Mary Ann Gaze from Stalham, aged 69, buried in the adjacent grave, #325A). This gap is due to the fact that the hospital was a war hospital during WW1 and that the bodies of deceased military patients are commonly returned to their families for burial. At the very end of the register, on page 203 (the last burial, dating from 1966, was recorded on page 143) there are two records of presumably civilian casualties, one Alice Maud Mary Stead (38, Norfolk War Hospital, 30 January 1918) and Elizabeth Valerie Winder (3 months, Thorpe End, Norfolk War Hospital). No other details are given.

A considerable number of burials spanning several decades, although diligently recorded in the registers, are missing from the 1973 cemetery plan. The first grave actually shown on the plan (situated near the northern boundary fence) has the number 495. It contains the bodies of Annie Bunting from Dereham, aged 40, who was buried in #495A on 29 January 1936, and of Edith Cotterill from Heydon, aged 65, buried in #495B on 13 February 1936. The last burial, #711B (Hannah Feltell from Southery, aged 67) is recorded on page 143 of the register to have taken place on 14 October 1966 and is located immediately to the left (west) of the entrance at the southern boundary.

TG2809 : Paved path traversing disused cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Oak trees on the cemetery boundary by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : View across disused cemetery by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Disused cemetery in Memorial Way by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : View across disused cemetery in Memorial Way by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Disused cemetery in Memorial Way by Evelyn Simak

According to the cemetery plan, and considering that the majority of the graves contain two bodies, approximately 430 bodies are shown have been buried on the site. According to the burial registers, however, the site contains many more graves. The fact that the first grave shown on the plan has the number 495 suggests the existence of an additional 494 graves, and consequently 988 unaccounted for bodies, since most graves contain two - with the exception of a handful of Roman Catholic burials (#631, #641, #657, #658, #688), and grave #634, which is recorded to have caved in due to wet weather and was hence only used the once. Grave #666A (Agnes Sylvia Johnson of Creek Farm, Salters Lode, aged 67, buried on 29 November 1956) also contains the cremated remains of Arthur Johnson which were interred on Monday, 2 April 1973. (An addendum informs that per request of the relatives, who did not attend, only Rev G Whitehead and Mr Rooney, the funeral director, were present.) Adding the number of bodies interred in the 217 graves shown on the 1973 plan to the number of burials recorded in the register but omitted from said plan suggests that more than 1400 bodies lie buried in this cemetery, and also that many of the older graves appear to have been re-used for later interments.

A record to confirm whether all graves originally had headstones or iron markers with a number only, or if the hospital graves were in fact never marked, has as yet to be unearthed. The graves of three Polish nationals also interred there are however reported to have been marked with iron crosses. The three men, soldiers or refugees, would have arrived together with many others sharing the same fate, at the nearby Norwich Thorpe (now Norwich) railway station and were cared for at the Thorpe St Andrew's Hospital, which at the time was once again used as a war hospital. They were

Mykola Zaluckyj from Huntington, buried 7 Nov 1951 aged 29. Grave #631
Dmytr Teluk from Sleaford, buried 12 Oct 1955 aged 45. Grave #657
Wladyslaw Pawel Bartnicki from Thorpe St Andrew, buried 1 Dec 1960 aged 64. Grave #688

[In an email dated 4 December 2017, site visitor Mariusz Wojtowicz points out that two of the names are ethnically Ukrainian - Western Ukraine formed part of Poland before the war.]

In contrast to almost all of the other graves, which contain two bodies, the Polish and Ukrainian nationals are the sole occupants of their respective graves, the reason being that they were Roman Catholics. Due to the fact that none of the men would seem to have married and started a family, presumably spoke little English and kept to themselves, and also also because the patient records are still closed to the general public, very little additional information has to date come to light. It is also unclear why two of the men were buried here and not in a cemetery local to where they had lived and died - only WP Bartnicki was still in Thorpe St Andrew when he passed away - and why a fourth Polish national is commemorated here.

Dmytr Teluk's funeral was conducted by a Ukrainian Catholic (the Ukrainian Catholic church belongs to the Greek/Byzantine Catholic rite) chaplain called Antin Mychalskyj, who is documented to have been one of the longest-serving priests in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Great Britain (UCC-GB). Wladyslaw P Bartnicki's funeral was conducted by another Ukrainian Catholic priest whose signature in the burial register is difficult to decipher but who probably was Andrij or Wolodymyr Choma, both of whom are also listed to have served in the UCC-GB for 15 years or more. Interestingly, an Archpriest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church called Andrew Choma currently serves at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Duke Street, London W1 - could he be Andrij? Mykola Zaluckyj's funeral ceremony was held by Mykola Habak, a Ukrainian Catholic chaplain who, in 1948, together with five other priests had arrived in the country from displaced persons camps in Germany or Austria.

TG2809 : Unmarked graves by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Unmarked graves by Evelyn Simak TG2809 : Unmarked graves by Evelyn Simak

Chaplain Habak and his colleagues in faith obviously looked after the spiritual welfare of at least some of the hospital's patients. Caring for the patients' physical and psychological well-being was Dr Boleslaw Pietocha (*01.01.1911) from Dobra Wola (northern Poland) who is documented to have served in No 316 "City of Warsaw" Polish Squadron RAF as a medical officer (in 1941). On 16 August 1942 he was attached to 306 "City of Torun" Polish Squadron, then based at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey. (Service number: P-1349, Rank: F/Lt). Nos 316 and 306 squadrons were two of 15 Polish squadrons fighting alongside the RAF in WW2. Still with 306 Squadron on 4 April 1944 (then based at RAF Coolham/Aston Down), he tried to rescue F/Lt Wladyslaw Jan Szajda, who during a training flight had to force-land his aircraft, resulting in the P-51d Mustang III (serial number FX881) bursting into flames. Despite F/Lt Pietocha's heroic attempt at trying to free the trapped pilot by amputating his legs, and in doing so exposing himself to the flames, the pilot sadly died a terrible death (source: Wilhelm Ratuszynski ("Polish Squadrons Remembered" website). Dr Pietocha joined the staff of St Andrew's Hospital, apparently as a psychiatrist, after the war and worked there until his retirement.

Since 1968, when the Hospital Board decided, against the advice of the chaplain and various members of staff, to remove and sell for scrap the iron crosses (source: NRO ref SAH: Records of St Andrew's Hospital 1813-1998; Admin History), the Polish/Ukrainian graves, like all the graves in this cemetery, are unmarked and therefore anonymous. Today, the outlines of some of the graves can still be discerned, but due to the re-use of many of the older graves and the absence of grave markers it is no longer possible to know exactly where in the burial ground a particular individual is interred. Today, only the names of the many people who lie buried here, all recorded in the hospital's burial registers and patient case files, bear witness that they once existed.

The cemetery was closed in the 1970s but re-dedicated in the late 1980s, although no new burials were ever added. A decade later, the Norwich Health Association sought planning permission for the erection of a memorial to commemorate the burial ground. Their application, including a plan, was submitted in May 1995 and the memorial subsequently installed. It was dedicated by the Archdeacon of Norfolk, The Venerable Michael Handley, in the same year. One of several plaques affixed to it commemorates the occasion. Another plaque claims to be commemorating "those who were interred in the cemetery on this site from 1859 until 1966" - despite the well-documented fact that the cemetery had not existed in 1859, and that for this reason no-one could possibly have been interred (or commemorated) here before 1903, when the burial ground was opened.

A small stone plaque situated in front of the memorial commemorates a fourth Polish national, Hipolit Zaniewski (*14 April 1912 - December 1997), who according to his death record, had lived and died in Norwich. The placement of the plaque suggests a strong connection with St Andrew's hospital and possibly also with the Polish and Ukrainian nationals interred in the cemetery, in all probability dating from WW2. Due to the political situation in Russian-occupied Poland, neither the refugees nor the many Polish soldiers and airmen who had fought for Britain were able to return home after the war had ended, and many chose to remain in the country for good. None of the three men buried in the hospital cemetery would, however, seem to have applied for British citizenship: their names are not listed in the National Archive's file (HO 405) relating to individual foreign citizens who arrived in the UK between 1934 and 1948 and who applied for naturalisation. In all likelihood the four men were friends who had perhaps reached the UK together and had remained close for as long as they lived, and who would appear to have wished to remain together even in death.

TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak

The hospital was closed in 1998 and its land, including the burial ground, sold off by the NHS, starting in 2000/2001. It has since been developed into the Broadland Business Park (owned by Lothbury Investment Management). Maintenance of the cemetery plot is undertaken by the staff of the Business Park estate's maintenance office. Tucked away at the eastern end of a new access road (formerly an unsurfaced track) called Memorial Way and hemmed in by large industrial units and warehouses, it is now being referred to as Memorial Gardens, but has become known locally as the "Polish cemetery", presumably because of information published by the NRO (amended in January 2018), which implied that a considerable number ("many") Polish airmen are buried there. Norfolk Heritage also creates the impression of there being more Polish nationals interred on the site than there actually are, by stating that the cemetery "contains the graves of those Polish refugees who died in the hospital during World War Two" - when as a matter of fact none of the three Polish nationals buried in the cemetery died during WW2. On their own website advertising the Broadland Business Park, Lothbury, the owners of the site (who should really know better) inform that "if you want a quiet place of contemplation there is the Memorial Gardens on Memorial Way home to a Polish War Memorial".

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My grateful thanks go to the friendly and very helpful archivists and staff at the Norfolk Record Office.


KML
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