Society of Friends (Quaker) Burial Ground, Albert Street

Compiled from notes Somerset Heritage Centre DD/SFR.w/41, 96-100, 145

The Society of Friends purchased the land for their burial ground in 1721. The Friarn Street Meeting House was built in 1722 (and enlarged in 1801) (VCH), so this seems to be a part of wider Friends’ expansion in the town. The original indenture of lease of the ground, dated 5 April 1721 between George Balch and William Alway. The ground was made up of 566 square yards. At the time Albert Street was known as Roper’s Lane.

There are 74 known burials, although there were probably quite a few more, as there does not seem to be a proper record kept in the eighteenth century. The earliest burial is assumed to be a William Alloway in December 1721, although there is a big gap until the next recorded individual. The adjoining Wesleyan ground contains upwards of 142 known burials up to 1879, when only about half of the space was used up.

The two Albert Street burial grounds were exempted from the closure of most non-conformist burial grounds in the town in 1851, in favour of the Wembdon Road Cemetery.

On 16 October 1934 the Town Clerk wrote to Mr Thomas R.Thompson (Roseland, Wembdon Road) of the Friends outline the agreement whereby the Borough Council would take over the burial ground. The council would plant trees and shrubs and erect suitable fencing; the monuments would be removed and re-erected as desired by the Friends; and a strip of land along Albert Street would be used for road widening – any disturbed burials would be reburied in the ground. The adjoining Wesleyan burial ground was to be purchased by the council at the same time, although this took several years to complete. The final transfer of land also stipulated that the council should never erect buildings on the land, nor disinter any further bodies from the ground.

The Friends complained to the council in 1941, as improvement works around Albert Street had stalled, and the Friends’ burial ground had been left to grow derelict, rather than being turned into a public garden as promised. As such there were reports that children had pulled down some of the tombstones (Taunton Courtier and Western Advertiser 7 June 1941). On 15 February 1948, the Society of Friends wrote to the Bridgwater Mercury, concerning a recent complaint about the state of the cemetery in the letters written to the paper. They asserted that they were no longer responsible for the site, having transferred ownership to the Borough Council in 1935, with a view of it being laid out as an open space, but that this had not been carried out. They suggested conversion to a children’s playground at the earliest opportunity (although this was something that had been specifically forbidden for the adjoining Wesleyan burial ground in 1941).

The memorials were later moved to the south west corner of the site. Most of the Quaker stones took the form of simple rectangular recumbent tablets.

For a known list of all the individuals buried here, visit the Members’ section on the website of the Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery.