FRIENDS OF BEDFORD CEMETERY
Foster Hill Road
THE WYATT TOMBS
WE LOOK AFTER THE WYATT TOMBS.
Back in the Autumn of 2007 it was agreed that the Wyatt Tomb endowment and responsibility for its application, should be transferred to the Friends from the Bedford Society. This arrangement was approved at the AGMs of both groups and members of the Wyatt family.
BACKGROUND TO THE WYATT TOMBS
James Wyatt (1816-78), who founded the Bedford Times newspaper in 1845, was Bedford Borough Treasurer (an unpaid post in those days) when he bought the future site of Bedford Cemetery, on behalf of the Borough Council, in the early 1850s. He took the opportunity to reserve a family plot, north-east of the Chapel, with extensive views to the south-east. Handsome wrought-iron railings, with gates, enclose the Wyatt plot, which contains numerous memorials to family members and to two of the three servants who are also buried there.
The first of the family to be buried in the enclosure was Otho, eldest son of James and his wife Augusta (nee Coleman), who died aged 10, a month after the opening of the Cemetery in June 1855. Their other children are all buried there too: Revd Vitruvius Partridge Wyatt (with his first wife Emily), Revd Paul Williams Wyatt, and Arthur James Hervey Wyatt and his wife Katherine Laura, together with their son Dr Raymond Benedict Wyatt and his second wife Sheila.
James and Augusta are buried beneath a monolith in one corner, and in the adjoining corner is the red marble tomb of James’s mother-in-law Mary (nee Banks, whose first two husbands were named Coleman and Walton) and her third husband William Williams (a former Mayor of Bedford). Mary’s unmarried daughter Henrietta Coleman has a white marble tomb in the next corner. Gravestones for two family servants stand close to the railings: Catherine Reid, housekeeper to Mary Williams and Paul Wyatt, and George Orchard, manservant to Paul.
The gravestone of another servant of Paul’s, John Sparkes, no longer exists. To mark the centenary of James Wyatt’s death, the Bedfordshire Times (successor to the Bedford Times) paid most of the cost of restoring the Wyatt tomb enclosure in 1978. When Mrs Sheila Wyatt (the last person ever to be buried in the enclosure) died in 1988, her niece Dr Sheila Fowler provided the Bedford Society with a substantial endowment to maintain the Wyatt Tombs in perpetuity. This was augmented by a generous annual donation from Dr Raymond Wyatt’s son John and his wife Joan, until John's death in April 2008 (see below).
The Wyatt Tomb Fund pays for the railings to be painted and the enclosure re-gravelled at regular intervals, and in past years the memorials to Otho and Paul have been repaired after damage by vandals.
John Hervey Wyatt (1924-2008)
Mr John Wyatt died on 4th April 2008, aged 83. John was the great-grandson of James Wyatt (1816-78) who, as borough treasurer, purchased the site of Bedford Cemetery (opened in 1855). John’s grandfather and grandmother, Arthur and Katherine Laura Wyatt, are also buried in the Wyatt Tomb enclosure. Katherine Laura’s nephew, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, conducted the burial service for John’s father Raymond at the Cemetery in 1977.
Mrs Joan Wyatt has generously offered to continue John’s financial support for the maintenance of the Wyatt Tombs, which are now in the care of the Friends. John was a mine of information about the Wyatt family, and closely resembled photographs of his great-grandfather, who in 1845 became the founder and first editor of the Bedfordshire Times newspaper.