The First Burial at Foster Hill Road Cemetery

The First Burial at Foster Hill Road Cemetery

Foster Hill Road Cemetery opened on the 6th June 1855. It was created as a solution to the insanitary conditions of the overstretched churchyards. The chosen site for the new cemetery is on a hillside with views looking down on Bedford and the Ouse Valley, on the north side of the town.

It was purchased in 1854 and covered 18 acres of farmland. Improvements were made between 1854 and 1855 and then it was opened. During this time the two Chapels were erected and integrated into one building and the Lodge (the current Gatehouse) was built. A further 18 acres were added in 1886, making the area about 38 acres, made up of two sections and divided by a path – about two-thirds to the members of the Anglican Church and one-third to the Nonconformist.

The first burial to take place was that of Ellen Tacchi on the 5th June 1855. Ellen was the youngest of the nine children of Elizabeth and Joseph Tacchi. She was the granddaughter of Antonio Tacchi, who was the first generation of the Tacchi family to emigrate from Lombardy, Como, Italy, and settle in Bedford, in the early part of the nineteenth century.

Ellen succumbed to Scarletina (Scarlet Fever). She died 2nd June 1855, aged 2 years and two months at her home at 11, Wellington Street, Bedford. The Bedfordshire Mercury published the Registrar’s Quarterly Return of November 1855, in which it reported, “The mortality this quarter is considerably above average owing to the prevalence of scarlet fever there were twenty-three; twelve of the persons upwards of 3 years and eleven children aged 3 years and under. Although many deaths from scarlet fever have occurred in the better classes of society, the great majority of deaths from this and the other diseases have occurred in the worst drained and most densely populated localities. The sanitary conditions of the town are still very unsatisfactory”.

Ellen’s interment took place in the nonconformist section atop of the hill; a memorial such as a wooden cross may well have marked her grave. In October 2016, and a hundred and sixty-one years after her interment, Ellen’s grave was found, with no memorial. To mark the first burial in the cemetery a wooden cross was placed on her grave in memory of Ellen Tacchi. This section of the cemetery was once a hay field. With the passing of time, nature has taken its course. Ellen’s resting place, is now in a scenic woodland setting where trees are the dominate plant form. The individual trees form a canopy, which shades the ground to varying degrees.

Colin Woolf
Mike Day
Malcolm R Ayres
Linda S Ayres

Grave Ref: Section E11.36