A survey of the surviving monumental inscriptions (MIs) from the Cerne Abbas Burial Ground and from St Mary’s Church in Cerne Abbas was undertaken by the Cerne Historical Society in 1994. Records of the survey are held by the Dorset History Centre and are available there for inspection or from the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society.
The American Connection
Two memorial brass tablets in the floor of the nave of the church, dated 1612 and 1626, refer to the Notley family. The Notley’s were early settlers in America and owned Cerne Abbey Manor in Washington, the site on which Capitol Hill stands today. In 1676, Thomas Washington married Maria Randoll in the church. They lived in the Pitchmarket opposite the church and the pump head from that house, dated 1697 and bearing the initials TMW, is now in the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. It is said that Thomas was the uncle of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.
Up until 1837, churches were responsible for recording their burials in burial registers; these recorded the burial service of whomever with varying details included, but usually not where the burial took place. This may have been in the Cerne Abbas burial ground, or possibly elsewhere. Probably St Mary’s Church managed the burial ground as well, but no records survive. For St Mary’s the burial registers date from 1653 and continued until 1862. The originals are in the Dorset History Centre, but have been transcribed by the On-line Parish Clerk (OPC), who is nothing to do with the local parish council or their parish clerk. The Cerne Abbas OPC lives in Canada and is a distant relation of Thomas Coombes who lived in No. 29 Long Street.
The original Cerne burial ground goes back centuries, but was extended about 1884 to the south, ie behind St Augustine’s Well. A local burial board then took responsibility for registering all burials, in turn to be taken over by the Parish Council in 1896. The Parish Clerk to the present Cerne Valley Parish Council keeps burial records from about 1884 to the present day and can provide details as required. Unfortunately, the earlier records (pre-1994) do not state where the burial took place.
In 1994 the Cerne Historical Society completed a survey of all the surviving MIs in the burial ground and church. The Society drew up a plan to place the gravestones in the burial ground and this plan is now used by the Parish Clerk to place post-1994 graves. The original plan appears on this website with an index of surviving MIs in 1994. This index gives basic information on each MI, but the Society may be able to provide supplementary information for an MI.
In summary, the Society may be able to help in identifying whether a burial of an ancestor took place in the burial ground and where they are buried, but the chances are slim. However, we will do what we can to help.