The Wyatt Tombs

The Wyatt Tombs

We look after the Wyatt Tombs.

Back in the Autumn of 2007 it was agreed that the Wyatt Tomb endowment and responsibility for its application, should be transferred to the Friends of Foster Hill Road Cemetery from the Bedford Society. This arrangement was approved at the AGMs of both groups and members of the Wyatt family.

Background to the Wyatt Tombs
James Wyatt (1816-78), who founded the Bedford Times newspaper in 1845, was Bedford Borough Treasurer (an unpaid post in those days) when he bought the future site of Bedford Cemetery, on behalf of the Borough Council, in the early 1850s. He took the opportunity to reserve a family plot, north-east of the Chapel, with extensive views to the south-east. Handsome wrought-iron railings, with gates, enclose the Wyatt plot, which contains numerous memorials to family members and to two of the three servants who are also buried there.

The first of the family to be buried in the enclosure was Otho, eldest son of James and his wife Augusta (nee Coleman), who died aged 10, a month after the opening of the Cemetery in June 1855. Their other children are all buried there too: Revd Vitruvius Partridge Wyatt (with his first wife Emily), Revd Paul Williams Wyatt, and Arthur James Hervey Wyatt and his wife Katherine Laura, together with their son Dr Raymond Benedict Wyatt and his second wife Sheila.

James and Augusta are buried beneath a monolith in one corner, and in the adjoining corner is the red marble tomb of James’s mother-in-law Mary (nee Banks, whose first two husbands were named Coleman and Walton) and her third husband William Williams (a former Mayor of Bedford). Mary’s unmarried daughter Henrietta Coleman has a white marble tomb in the next corner. Gravestones for two family servants stand close to the railings: Catherine Reid, housekeeper to Mary Williams and Paul Wyatt, and George Orchard, manservant to Paul.

The gravestone of another servant of Paul’s, John Sparkes, no longer exists. To mark the centenary of James Wyatt’s death, the Bedfordshire Times (successor to the Bedford Times) paid most of the cost of restoring the Wyatt tomb enclosure in 1978. When Mrs Sheila Wyatt (the last person ever to be buried in the enclosure) died in 1988, her niece Dr Sheila Fowler provided the Bedford Society with a substantial endowment to maintain the Wyatt Tombs in perpetuity. This was augmented by a generous annual donation from Dr Raymond Wyatt’s son John and his wife Joan, until John’s death in April 2008 (see below).

The Wyatt Tomb Fund pays for the railings to be painted and the enclosure re-gravelled at regular intervals, and in past years the memorials to Otho and Paul have been repaired after damage by vandals.

Obituary. John Hervey Wyatt (1924-2008)
Mr John Wyatt died on 4th April 2008, aged 83. John was the great-grandson of James Wyatt (1816-78) who, as borough treasurer, purchased the site of Bedford Cemetery (opened in 1855). John’s grandfather and grandmother, Arthur and Katherine Laura Wyatt, are also buried in the Wyatt Tomb enclosure. Katherine Laura’s nephew, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, conducted the burial service for John’s father Raymond at the Cemetery in 1977. John was a mine of information about the Wyatt family, and closely resembled photographs of his great-grandfather, who in 1845 became the founder and first editor of the Bedfordshire Times newspaper.

Obituary. Mrs Joan Wyatt.
Mrs Joan Wyatt, who died on 27 May 2013, aged 88, was the widow of John Wyatt (1924-2008), great-grandson of James Wyatt (1816-78) who founded the Bedford (later Bedfordshire) Times newspaper in 1845. Joan Darnell was at Oxford (Somerville College) at the same time as John (Worcester College), but they did not meet until both were working at GCHQ in Cheltenham. They married in 1955 and lived in a 1950s semi-detached house which they called ‘Kempston’ (7 Church Street) in the urban village of Charlton Kings, a suburb of Cheltenham, opposite St Mary’s, the parish church, of which they were devoted parishioners and where their funerals were held. They had no children.

John and Joan Wyatt

Joan and John Wyatt with an African student and the bust
of Trevor Huddleston on the day of Nelson Mandela’s visit
to Bedford in April 2000.

John and Joan attended the unveiling of the inscription on the plinth of the Trevor Huddleston bust in Silver Street, Bedford, by Nelson Mandela in April 2000. Archbishop Huddleston, who was John’s father’s cousin by marriage, conducted the funeral service of John’s father Hervey at Foster Hill Road Cemetery in 1977. John supported the continuing maintenance (by the former Bedford Society) of the Wyatt Tombs in the Foster Hill Road Cemetery through an annual covenant until his death. Latterly Joan had moved into a care home in Cheltenham. She had expressed a wish that various items of Wyatt memorabilia should be donated to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service.

Grave Ref: G9.84