Help uncover stories behind 1,800 graves at old hospital

Help uncover stories behind 1,800 graves at old hospital

Local councillor and amateur historian David Henwood who is trying to find out more about the 1,800 people buried near the old Littlemore mental hospital

The old Littlemore mental hospital

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Rose Hill, Iffley and Littlemore. Please call me on (01865) 425422

AMATEUR historians investigating bodies buried in unmarked graves at Littlemore have discovered more than 1,800 people were laid to rest at the site.

It has always been known there was a large piece of consecrated land beside the former Littlemore mental hospital,used to bury patients who died there. right up until 1954.

But the scale of the burials was only discovered by residents when plans to build 270 homes on the site were announced by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, in conjunction with property and infrastructure business Capita.

Oxford city councillor for Cowley and vice-chairman of Littlemore Parish Council David Henwood is appealing for relatives of the dead to come forward. It is hoped they may have more specific information on where their ancestors are buried.

Mr Henwood discovered a distant relative, Joseph Henwood, was buried there in 1854.

He said: “We know the names of the dead, their ages and when they were buried, but not the locations of the plots. We are talking to relatives and trying to talk to people who have ancestors there to see where they are buried.”

The hospital opened in 1846 and bodies were first buried on the land that year.

It was not until 1882 that the Bishop of Oxford consecrated an acre of ground for burials, and 18 years later another half-acre was consecrated. The last patient was buried at the site in 1954.

Oxfordshire History Centre archivist Hannah Jones said there were a number of reasons why so many people were buried at the site.

She said: “Partly it was a taboo around mental health and partly because a lot of the patients didn’t have living relatives who could come and claim the bodies after death.

“It was built in 1846 as a place for ‘pauper lunatics’, so the people who were there would have been quite poor.

“Their families therefore couldn’t always come to claim them and take them to other graveyards when they died.

“It had to be extended several times, which shows the sheer volume of people who passed through.”

Littlemore History Society member Maggie Wallis has been researching the graves, on part of the site currently used as a garden, since news of development plans for the land were announced.

She said: “I knew there had been a burial ground there for ages but I was very surprised at the number of bodies.

“The hospital got very full, often because the sort of people who came in didn’t get treatment in the community.

“People entered the hospital with all sorts of problems and mental health was not really understood.”

The OUHT which runs the Littlemore Mental Health Centre on part of the site, did not respond to requests to comment.

To contact Mr Henwood, email cllrdhenwood@oxford.gov.uk

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone's contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

Send your Letter to the Editor

11:20am Monday 28th July 2014

What do you think? We welcome letters from our readers on a wide variety of subjects and you can send us a letter through the blue headline above.


Our top stories

Cyclists warned: Don't be dimwits

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Saturday 25th October 2014

BIKE safety campaigners have warned that cyclists are risking their lives, after an Oxford Mail survey found more than half of them were riding without lights.

FOOTBALL: Rose wants to keep Oxford United climbing

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Saturday 25th October 2014

Danny Rose is targeting a move into mid-table today as Oxford United visit Carlisle United in search of a third win in eight days.

Shhh... silent film is a reel hit with movie buffs

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Saturday 25th October 2014

FILM buffs were given a taste of how movies used to be watched as they turned out for a silent screening in Witney.

Update: Oxford University student Isobel Priest is found safe and well

Oxford Mail:

8:49am Saturday 25th October 2014

Police have said the 21-year-old Oxford University student who was reported missing has been found safe and well.

Runaway emu killed after crash with car

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

8:40am Saturday 25th October 2014

AN EMU escaped from a garden in Boar’s Hill and died after being hit by a car, Thames Valley Police said yesterday.

Off and running for entry to our OX5 extravaganza

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Saturday 25th October 2014

THE starting gun has been fired for next year’s Oxford Mail OX5 Run as places open for runners in the fundraising extravaganza.

 

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree