Mill Road in Lockdown – Mill Road Cemetery

Caro Wilson has shared her email to Friends of Mill Road Cemetery to keep in touch with you about Mill Road Cemetery, and to make a couple of suggestions if any of you are finding time hanging heavy on your hands.

Wildlife and Art

Some of you may be able to walk in the Cemetery at the moment and I hope if so you are able to enjoy the wildlife, particularly the birdsong without the usual traffic sounds. Perhaps you are enjoying the Bird Stones sculptures by Gordon Young. (Click through for further information.)

Gordon Young with ‘Blackbird’ Photo courtesy of Friends of Mill Road Cemetery

See also the wonderful Motherwell Album of sketches and bird song.

A set of seven stones by sculptor Gordon Young in Mill Road Cemetery. (Thrush, Dove, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird, Crow and Sparrow.) Each has a poem and phonetic inscription of the bird song. This is a video of my sketchbook, with soundtrack of birdsong recorded at the site.
– Sam Motherwell

See more of Sam Motherwell’s art on his website.

History and the Archive Project

Alas, the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery History Group had been planning an all-day mapping session at the end of April with our marvellous volunteer from the Ordnance Survey.  We hoped to complete a whole section from the Andrew the Great parish area.  This has obviously had to be cancelled but I do want to celebrate with you the fact that our extraordinary researchers, Mary Naylor and Claire Martinsen, have between them researched over 100 graves since lockdown began. This is complicated and, at times, frustrating work and we are hugely grateful.  They have also managed to get up to date with all the many requests that we get by email from all over the world to help locate and research family graves.  We are always delighted when those who have taken the trouble to get in touch with us are pleased with the results.

Thank you very much for the update. What a beautiful job you’ve all done! You truly do honour to their memory.


At the same time our splendid volunteer, Sheila Plaister, is undertaking the very painstaking work of collating all the research, keeping tabs on it all and amalgamating posts and life stories. This is in continuance of our project to print out all the webpages to give them the longevity this very special record of social history deserves. We have been asked to lodge this with the Cambridgeshire Collection in the City’s Central Library who recognise its importance. 

Monuments and their Stories

So, if you are in the Cemetery and you pass a monument that interests you, perhaps a namesake, or one whose design appeals to you, do look it up on the website and see if it is one we have researched already. This is easily done in situ on a smart phone, or just remember its name and do it when you’re home again. If you get stuck then do email and we’ll try to help.

Photo: Pamela Wesson, Proprietor, Fantasia & Friends, 64 Mill Road CB12AS

Here’s a recent story which I am particularly pleased to have been told about because the road I live in is named after him: Robert Willis (27 February 1800 – 28 February 1875) and do look up Frederick Burwick to whom we should all be very grateful. He did a lot for sanitation in Cambridge and worked on the main sewer at the old Addenbrooke’s site (now the Judge Business School on Trumpington Street opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum).

Mill Road History

One last suggestion for you.  If you haven’t done so already this might be a good time to sign up to the Mill Road History Society’s free mailing list and check out all the research on Mill Road’s History on the Capturing Cambridge website.

Go well and stay safe.

Caro Wilson on behalf of the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery committee.

More from local residents…

Roger and I counted 38 species of plant (herbs, ie weeds, shrubs and trees) in flower last weekend.

Photo: Pamela Wesson, Proprietor, Fantasia & Friends, 64 Mill Road CB12AS

There may well be more, but Roger is too lame to leave the made-up paths to investigate.

Janet & Roger, Emery Street.

A personal perspective of the ‘joys of Mill Road Cemetery’

I’ve always appreciated having Mill Road Cemetery just around the corner, but since lockdown it has brought so much extra pleasure. It’s a lovely bubble of nature and normality in a strange, strange world. While a short walk through is always therapeutic, I’ve delighted in wandering around, taking hitherto undiscovered little paths.

The first bluebells appear! Photo: Maggie Carr

It’s been wonderful watching spring unfolding, and pure magic seeing the first bluebells appear a little while ago. I love observing other people also enjoying the space and the way we all do the ‘corona dance’ to avoid crossing each other’s paths. I’ve reread all the bird poems, and am often amused by the way a particular bird will perch in the ‘wrong’ place, for example, a blackbird on the sparrow’s poem!

My favourite time is late afternoon/early evening when all the birds seem to be singing their hearts out at once. Aren’t we lucky to have this little piece of paradise on our doorstep?

Maggie Carr, Perowne Street 

We’re so lucky to have the cemetery for exercise during lockdown – wonderful wildlife haven. I was there at 5.20 am on Sunday [3rd May 2020] which was International Dawn Chorus Day. Birds everywhere coming really close to me – blackbirds the most common but also dunnocks, hedge sparrows, magpies, jackdaws, crows, robins, wood pigeons, a song thrush and a wren. Nothing rare or even unusual but songs prolonged and beautiful. No other people about at that time!

Sarah Oliver, Secretary Mill Road Bridges

Editor notes: We love magpies, jackdaws, crows, jays (corvids) but not covid!
More seriously, if you’d like to enhance your knowledge of birds check out the RSPB bird identifier, which lists 408 species of birds found in the UK, including some rare overseas visitors.

More photos from Pamela Wesson
Photo: Pamela Wesson, Proprietor, Fantasia & Friends, 64 Mill Road CB12AS
Photo: Pamela Wesson, Proprietor, Fantasia & Friends, 64 Mill Road CB12AS
Photo: Pamela Wesson, Proprietor, Fantasia & Friends, 64 Mill Road CB12AS

See also our earlier pieces:

Meanwhile, on the other side of the cemetery wall, in Perowne Street, Monica Smith celebrates VE Day with the original union jack from 1945.

More on Monica Smith from the Capturing Cambridge website.

Add your own comments, below, or Email your words and photos to us at

See also our index page Mill Road in Lockdown, and the posts on Coleridge Rec, Ramadan and Cambridge Central Mosque in lockdown, and Decorations on Ditchburn Place Railings.

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19 May 2020 16:54

[…] also our index page Mill Road in Lockdown, and the posts on Mill Road Cemetery, Coleridge Rec and Decorations on Ditchburn Place […]

19 May 2020 14:07

[…] also our index page Mill Road in Lockdown, the post on Mill Road Cemetery in lockdown, and on Coleridge […]

14 May 2020 17:50

[…] See also our index page Mill Road in Lockdown, and the post on Mill Road Cemetery in lockdown. […]

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