Commonwealth War Graves

There are 370 commonwealth war graves in the cemetery. Most of the 152 First World War burials in Tynemouth (Preston) Cemetery are distributed throughout the cemetery, but there is a small war graves plot in the north-western part. Opposite this is a plot containing most of the 223 Second World War burials. This total includes 26 men of H.M.S.”Patia”, sunk off the coast of Northumberland following an air attack in April 1941. The rest of the war graves are scattered throughout the cemetery. 5 of the Second World War burials are unidentified sailors of the Royal Navy. There is also 1 French Navy war burial and 5 non-war service burials here.

History of the Cemetery

in 1832 Parliament finally acknowledged the need for the establishment of large municipal cemeteries and encouraged their construction outside London. Burial grounds of different religions were scattered all over the borough so Tynemouth Corporation decided to build one central cemetery. Land measuring 33 acres was purchased from Mr. John Fenwick of North Shields from the grounds of Preston Villa for this purpose.

The cemetery was opened on New Years Day 1857 and consecrated by the Bishop of Durham on April 23rd 1857.

The grounds contain two chapels. The southernmost, built of stone and with a steeple, is a dissenters or non-conformists chapel. The northernmost chapel has had a crematorium added to it

The stone cottage next to the northern gates of the cemetery called North Lodge, was built as a home for the cemetery superintendent, Mr. J. Blyton.

Conservation Areas

Preston Cemetery is a key site in Preston village and is one of the largest open spaces in the North Shields area.  Covering 52 acres it  includes five conservation areas and is home to a variety of bird and plant life. The conservation areas are monitored by the North Tyneside Council and a leaflet detailing a short walk through the cemetery which highlights points of interest and wildlife is available from the cemetery office or North Council Leisure and Tourism Service.

The site is designated a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) formerly known as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance(SNCI) – these sites hold special designation due to the diverse flora and fauna found at the site.  This urban cemetery is characterised by mature trees, under storey planting of bulbs and tall herbs.
The following is taken from the North Tyneside Biodiversity Database site description:
Preston Cemetery was created in 1856 on former pasture land and is the largest cemetery in North Tyneside and one of the largest open spaces (21 Ha) within urban North Shields. The area therefore represents  an important  refuge for wildlife  within  the  built environment  and  is dominated by large areas of mature secondary woodland with small remnant patches of old grassland.
The cemetery is sensitively managed by North Tyneside Council for the purposes of burials, informal recreation and nature conservation.
The majority of the cemetery is characterised by an open canopy of mature trees including horse chestnut, lime, beech, wych elm, ash and sycamore.  Many areas are dominated by introduced bulbs such a daffodil, grape hyacinth, spanish bluebell and snowdrop.  These areas are left uncut until earl July which allows many native woodland forbs to flower and set seed.  These include primrose, wood anemone, greater stitchwort, wild garlic, Dog’s mercury, Lords-and-Ladies and lesser celandine
Un-shaded areas of old grassland are characterised by meadow foxtail, sweet vernal grass and red fescue associated with forbs including germander speedwell, pignu, buttercup (bulbous and meadow) and sorrel.  The wooded areas of the cemetery provide cover for a number of woodland birds including: Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Creeper, Wood pigeon, Goldcrest, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin and Wren.  Regular winter visitors include Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling.  Mammals observed in the cemetery include hedgehog, mole, rabbit, fox and weasel.
In autumn the wooded areas of the cemetery are characterised by an interesting array of fungi including Brown Roll Rim, Slippery Jack, Rufus Milk Cap, Dyads Saddle, Honey Fungus, Earth Ball and Orange Antler Fungus. “ (Preston Resident’s Association website)

images copyright Alex Bolger 2018

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