Up on top of Lansdown, on the north side of Bath, sits a landmark well-known to anyone local to the area: Beckford’s Tower and Museum.

Looking up at Beckford's Tower. It's a square building with a tower on top. The tower has three distinct layers, each one smaller than the one below.
Looking up at Beckford’s Tower

 

The tower was built in 1827 by William Beckford as a folly in which to keep his library and indulge in his passion for the arts. The tower was part of a large estate which stretched down to Lansdown Crescent; today, much of this land is covered by Kingswood School.

In 1848, four years after Beckford’s death, his daughter repurchased the tower, and the land directly next to it was donated to the local parish and consecrated. This ground is now Lansdown cemetery.

I grew up just down the road from Beckford’s Tower. So, when I was back down visiting family in January 2015, I went for a (re)visit.

The tower itself is closed between October and March, so it was only the cemetery that was open. But, to be honest, it’s enough of a visit in itself.

It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp and clear January afternoon, and as the cemetery looks across the Bath valley, I could see for miles. The low, bright light was casting long shadows, which created gorgeous textures from the gravestones and the overgrown grass and trees.

Looking across Lansdown cemetery. In the foreground are three graves with near-identical, plain stone crosses
A row of crosses
A dog is standing and staring intently into a small tree that's growing out of a grave
There’s something in there …
At the edge of Lansdown cemetery, looking over a low, stone wall, the valley stretches out as far as the eye can see. In the foreground are two graves with tall crosses. One cross is plain and the other is ornate, in the style of ancient Celtic crosses
Looking across the valley
A closeup of the Celtic-style cross. It has a circle around the centre and decorative knots. Beckford's Tower is in the background.
Celtic-style cross
A gravestone encased by a large, slightly jagged rock. A tree is growing up from the rock; some of the roots are wrapped around the rock
The jagged rock with the tree growing surrounding this headstone is unusual
A stone cross carved to look like it's made of wood. It also has carved stone flowers draping around the cross
A particularly beautiful, imitation-wood-and-flower carved-stone cross
A strange-shaped grave. with a cross on top. The grave is the shape of an arched roof and has moss growing all over it.
I don’t know what this grave is supposed to be …
A tall, cuboid gravestone. On the top are carvings which look like they're supposed to be something like weeping willow leaves
I don’t know what this is supposed to be either …
A statue in a typically Victorian, neo-classical style. The statue is a woman in draped clothes, with one arm up in the air.
A very dramatic-looking Victorian lady
A grave that looks like medieval tombs found inside churches. It has a hollow, carved centre, that you can look through. Ivy is climbing over the grave.
This gravestone is reminiscent of the grand tombs of knights and kings you find in cathedrals. Beautiful!

 

Beckford’s grave

In keeping with the gilt-pillared, lavishly decorated tower, Beckford’s grave is similarly immodest. It sits on its own mound, separated from the rest of the graves by a moat-like ditch. The tomb itself is made of granite and the pillars and edging are wonderfully reminiscent of ancient Egyptian temple architecture.

Beckford's grave is shaped like a rectangular, Egyptian sarcophagus, with miniature Egyptianesque pillars at either end. The grave is on an island, all by itself, within Lansdown cemetery, with a moat-like ditch around it.
Beckford’s grave
A closeup of one end of Beckford's grave. You can see two of the Egyptianesque pillars in detail. In the background is an obelisk-shaped grave.
The Egyptianesque pillars and edging

 

“Kate”

There was one gravestone, however, which caught my eye more than any of the other elaborate, beautifully carved offerings. It’s a plain, undecorated cross which, at some point over the years, has fallen over. Its engraving simply says:

“Kate” at rest

This grave makes me feel a little sad. Whoever occupies this grave seems to be unknown. Who was “Kate”? Was that her real name? How old was she? Did she have family who cared for her? Somebody obviously cared enough to provide a burial and headstone, but who?

The grave is poignant and stands out in its simplicity amongst the grandiosity of its neighbours. Rest in peace, “Kate”.

Part of a cross from a grave lying flat on the grass. It's plain, with just the words '"Kate" at rest' across the middle.
“Kate”
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