Uncovering the Past


The weather was not promising for a morning of gardening.  It was that misty fine rain that seems to soak you more than you feel it should the moment you step out into it, but I was meeting Rosemary and Ann (David Parr’s great grandchildren) at Mill Road Cemetery to uncover his grave so there was no cowering inside. Luckily, once on my way the rain stopped and, helped by Mary and Robin who carried out the research to find the grave, we began to cut away the long grass that overwhelmed it.


What we found underneath was a simple grave, no headstone, just four stone surrounds beautifully inscribed with the simple words:

In loving memory of
David Daniel Parr died December 6th 1927 aged 73 years
Also his wife
Mary Emma Parr died November 13th 1949 aged 89 years

The grave gave up this hidden inscription quite quickly once Mary produced her essential grave-clearing tool – a small brush, which gently removed years of dirt and lichen.


The bold, elegant, finely carved letters perfectly reflected the life of David Parr – a man of dignity and style.


As we worked our way around the inscription it was noticeable that the carving in memory of David Parr’s wife had been done, as might be expected, by another’s hand. The lettering was not as large, deep or regular, and was harder to make out even when cleaned.


We had  a satisfying and enjoyable morning uncovering the grave and it is always a treat to visit Mill Road Cemetery.  It was created in 1848 when the City’s churchyards were overflowing and new space was needed to bury the ever-increasing population of Cambridge. A plot was chosen on land that was at the time on the outskirts of the City, but is now very much in its centre.

The layout was designed by Andrew Murray (who also created the Botanic Gardens on Trumpington Road) based on the fashionable belief of the time that a cemetery could be a much-needed green ‘breathing space’ for a city.  The design was to be as much a ‘garden’ as a cemetery, somewhere you could walk and enjoy the environment around as well as contemplate those who found their last resting place there.

This legacy lives on today as all those who happen to find their way to the cemetery appreciate – it is a place where nature can breathe among our concrete streets.  If you are nearby and have never discovered it make time to go, it is worth it.  Further details can be found on the Mill Road Cemetery website.

Robin, Rosemary, Ann and Mary
Robin, Rosemary, Ann and Mary