Smallcombe Cemetery, Bath – a hidden hideaway from the hustle and bustle

Smallcombe Cemetery in Bath is the perfect place to visit if you want to escape the noisy streets and crowds of shoppers in the centre of the city. A fifteen-minute walk from the Southgate shopping centre is this oasis of calm and reflection, which I visited for the first time last month. I wish I had known about it before; I’ve lived in Bath for thirty years and never knew it existed.

As soon as you reach the dusty path that takes you to the cemetery, a silence descends. There are very few houses around here, and I saw no traffic whatsoever. It is as if nobody knows it exists. And that is the major selling-point, in my opinion.* You will hear a variety of birds tweeting and chirruping, but no clamour of cars or chattering children. The tranquility of Smallcombe Cemetery will soon soothe your stress away as you sit on one of the benches overlooking the hills and fields that go down to the city.

I went there on what would have been my grandmothers 102nd birthday as I had read a review about Smallcombe Cemetery online. Walking around a graveyard may not sound like fun, but I wasn’t aiming on having a party – just a quiet walk away from bumping into people. Smallcombe Cemetery, in Widcombe, is accessible from a number of directions; obviously, I took a wrong turn and ended up taking the long, uphill way.

Besides graves for regular citizens, Smallcombe has a number of graves of soldiers who died in the two World Wars, and there are also markers that tell you that whole families of children died in infancy. The lettering on some of the gravestones have been completely worn away by time, which left me with a sense of sadness. Then I came across a grave that inspired me…

One grave had a small QR code at its base. I scanned the code and it took me to:

Charles Davis was an important architect, who built the Empire hotel next to Pulteney Bridge; Orange Grove; the shopfront of Jolly’s in Milsom Street; and was responsible for a great deal of excavation and restoration work at the Roman Baths. He was a controversial character, who liked people to address him as Major, and from his home at 55 Great Pulteney Street he was successful in making enemies of a great number of people including builders, architects, and the city Council.

The Empire Hotel has been described as “a monstrosity and an unbelievable piece of pompous architecture”, and “an enormous heap of ill-related architectural motifs”. Have a look when you next visit Bath and see if you agree that he built it as an act of revenge against all those who had criticised him in the past.

But what got me thinking was the QR code itself. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if all families put a similar link on their deceased relatives’ graves? We could then find out something more about the person who lies below in the cold earth: their passions; their lives, however significant; their dreams, desires, and achievements; and what they looked like. The writing on the gravestones may disappear as time and the elements batter it away, but the QR code would be a permanent reminder about those who have gone before us.

Anyway, I hope the video below gives you a sense of the tranquility of Smallcombe Cemetery and gives you the desire to visit. But, please, don’t all go at once.

Don’t bother with the Veed video below – it doesn’t work. But the YouTube link does!

*Although, it wasn’t easy getting a taxi back home; the woman on the taxi firm call-desk had no idea where I was calling from and couldn’t find it on her GPS. Absolutely, knackered, I had to walk all the way home with tired, aching legs.

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