Standing row upon row, these gaunt headstones, with three or four basic-shaped tops, are the ‘Guinea Graves’, - common shared graves distinguished by the humanitarian concept of having erected over each, a sturdy headstone with minimal but identifying commemorative details.
If a poor family could scrape together £1.1s, (£1.05), or half-price for under 7’s, this would cover the cost of a shared grave and shared headstone, with up to 36 letters inscribed. People were buried either side of the headstone, and both sides were headed ‘In Memory Of’ followed by the list of names and dates of death.
They are properly known as ‘Inscription Graves’. The practice dates back to around 1850 and continued until the 1930’s.
There would still be the shame of a ‘pauper’s grave’ for the many penniless people buried in Beckett Street Cemetery, but those poor but not destitute people, who could afford a Guinea Grave, were at least spared that shame.
Although we know of other cemeteries with Inscription Graves, we believe that Beckett Street Cemetery contains the most in the country.