Arnos Vale Cemetery

Bristol, England

Arnos Vale Cemetery isn't just a place of remembrance; it's a cherished part of the community for its dramatic landscape, terraced walks, and stunning views of Bristol.

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Discover Arnos Vale Cemetery

Arnos Vale Cemetery, located on the A4 road from Bristol to Bath, was laid out in an Acadian style with classical buildings, historic monuments, and sweeping carriage drives. The Grade II* listed site on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens has two chapels, entrance lodges, a war memorial, and numerous listed tombs and monuments. The cemetery is set on steep, north-facing slopes, with terraced grounds forming level walks lined with burial plots, wildflowers, and ornamental plantings.

Today, the cemetery's small team of dedicated staff and volunteers work tirelessly to maintain and enhance this special place, which has been described as "so beautiful, so original and so unusual that you just can’t fail to fall in love with it." It is the perfect example of a Victorian cemetery that after falling into disuse was saved from destruction by the local community.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 7
- crabchick

The History of Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol

Creation and Decline

Arnos Vale Cemetery was designed by Charles Underwood in the style of a Greek Necropolis. It officially opened its gates in 1837, with its first burial in 1839, and quickly became the most fashionable burial place in Bristol. However, as the years progressed, Arnos Vale Cemetery experienced a period of decline. Throughout the 20th century, the once-pristine grounds became neglected. Maintenance issues and a lack of funding led to overgrown vegetation and deteriorating structures, prompting much concern in the local communities.

Campaigns for Restoration

In 1987, the situation at Arnos Vale Cemetery took a critical turn when the owner announced plans to exhume the bodies and repurpose the land for housing development. This proposal sparked a strong public outcry and sparked local groups to campaign for the cemetery's preservation. Their efforts aimed to protect those buried in the cemetery as well as the site itself.

Eventually, the campaigning paid off. Bristol City Council issued a compulsory purchase order to take control of the site. This pivotal action marked the beginning of a new chapter for Arnos Vale Cemetery. In 2003, the cemetery's plight was documented on the BBC programme "Restoration," where it was named a South West region runner-up. This exposure helped garner further support and awareness for the cemetery's restoration needs.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 1
- Rob Brewer

Heritage Lottery Fund Grant

Arnos Vale Cemetery received a £4.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This funding paid for much of the restoration work carried out across the cemetery. However, several structures, including the Mortuary Chapel, Entrance Lodges and Gates, and the Nonconformist Mortuary Chapel, remain listed on the English Heritage Heritage at Risk Register. Despite these challenges, the restoration work continues.


Awards and listings associated with Arnos Vale Cemetery:

  • Listed on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
  • The cemetery's Mortuary Chapels and several grave structures are Grade II* and Grade II listed.
  • Landscape Institute's 2010 Heritage and Conservation Award.
  • RIBA South West Town and Country Design Conservation Award 2010.
  • Bristol Civic Society Environmental Award 2010.
  • English Heritage Angel Award 2011.
  • Arnos Vale also holds the Social Enterprise Mark.

Designing Arnos Vale Cemetery

Arnos Vale Cemetery covers approximately 45 acres and is situated about 2 km southeast of Bristol's city centre. Perched on a steep north-facing hill, with a combe descending from southwest to northeast, the cemetery’s landscape is dramatic. The main entrance is from Bath Road, through a pair of cast-iron carriage gates supported by stone piers and flanked by Doric temple-style lodges. There is another entrance on the western boundary near the junction of Cemetery Road and Hawthorn Street. Here visitors pass through mid-19th century cast-iron gates and a two-story lodge. Upon entering the cemetery views open up across Bristol.

Arnos Vale has a lot of pathways and terraces on the north-facing slope. leading to different areas of the cemetery. The two main chapels are centrally located, with the rest of the site extending into densely vegetated areas. The landscape is punctuated by mature specimen trees, flowering shrubs, and carefully laid out burial plots, creating an Arcadian setting. While some parts of the cemetery are well-maintained, other sections are overgrown.

Arnos Vale Cemetery
- Bio Blitz

Inside the Arnos Vale Cemetery

The cemetery's design includes a drive leading from the main entrance to the chapels, forming a processional route surrounded by lawns, trees, the marble sarcophagus of Thomas Gadd Matthews, and the terraces on the north-facing slope.

Other highlights inside Arnos Vale Cemetery include:

Anglican Chapel

The Anglican Chapel, built in 1837-38, was designed by Charles Underwood in a Neoclassical style. This Grade II* listed building has a grand entrance, classical cupola, inspired by the Roman monument at St. Remy, France, Corinthian pilasters, and a large Venetian window. Although it is currently disused, it remains an important example of the cemetery’s impressive architecture.

Nonconformist Chapel

Also designed by Charles Underwood and constructed in 1837-38, the Nonconformist Chapel is a Grade II* listed building designed in the style of an Ionic temple. A broad flight of stone steps leads to a monumental Greek Ionic portico. The south-west wall has tall rectangular windows separated by pilasters. Adjacent to the chapel is a stone crematorium building, designed in Neoclassical style by H.G. Malcolm Laing in 1927. The crematorium and chapel are currently not in use.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 4
The Crypt of Raja Ram Mohan Roy - Rob Brewer

The Chhatri of Raja Ram Mohan Roy

One of the most impressive monuments at Arnos Vale is the Chhatri of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. This Indian reformer, often referred to as the "Founder of Modern India," died in Bristol on 27th September 1833. Initially buried at Stapleton, he was reinterred in 1843 under a mausoleum designed by William Prinsep, modelled on a traditional Indian tomb or chhatri. Every year, a commemoration ceremony is held at the chhatri, attended by Bristol's Lord Mayor and the Indian High Commissioner, as well as many others.

War Graves and Memorials

Arnos Vale Cemetery is also a significant site of remembrance for British and Allied servicemen and women. The cemetery commemorates more than 600 soldiers, sailors, and airmen, including three recipients of the Victoria Cross. Among these, over 500 British Commonwealth servicemen and women from both World Wars are honoured, with many buried in the 'Soldiers Corner' plot near the main entrance.

The cemetery also features a War Memorial designed by W. H. Watkins and commissioned by the British Red Cross Society. Unveiled in 1921, the memorial is inscribed with tributes to those who served and died.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 2
The Chhatri of Raja Ram Mohan Roy - Ben Salter

Archives and Records

For those interested in genealogy or historical research, Arnos Vale Cemetery keeps a detailed burial register. These records are managed by the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust and are accessible for public research. Additionally, the records of the Friends of Arnos Vale Cemetery are preserved at the Bristol Archives.


Arnos Vale Cemetery is home to numerous Grade II listed monuments, including:

  • 1852 Monument to James Bartlett
  • 1857 Monument to Thomas Lucas
  • 1857 Monument to Francis Barber Ogden
  • 1860 Monument to John Tilly
  • 1880 Obelisk Memorial
  • 1890 Monument to Heber Denty
  • Monument to Thomas Daniel Doddrell
  • Monument to Lieutenant James Gardner
  • Monument to Dr. Thomas Tovey Smart


Arnos Vale Cemetery plays a crucial role in Bristol’s biodiversity. Visitors can find an array of plants such as primroses, wild garlic, lady’s smock, and goldilocks buttercup in the woodland areas. The cemetery also harbours rare national species like ivy broomrape.

The tree population is diverse, including horse chestnut trees, oak, Irish yews, Austrian pines, Western red cedar, Chilean pine, Himalayan cedar, English yews, and weeping ash. Colourful shrubs like cherry laurel, Japanese spindle, and box also contribute to the ever-changing scenery.

Who is buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery?

Arnos Vale Cemetery is the final resting place for a number of prominent figures:

  • Harry Bamford: A professional footballer.
  • Roland Brotherhood: An engineer and friend of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
  • Daniel Burges: A World War I hero, decorated with the Victoria Cross, among other honours.
  • Mary Carpenter: An educational and social reformer.
  • Gronow Davis: A Crimean War hero awarded the Victoria Cross.
  • Elsie Joy Davison: The first female British aviator to die in World War II, serving in the Air Transport Auxiliary.
  • Dora Greenwell: A poet known for her work in the 19th century.
  • James Hosken: Captain of the steamships SS Great Western and the SS Great Britain.
  • George Müller: Founder of the famous orphanages in Bristol.
  • Elisha Smith Robinson: An industrialist, Mayor of Bristol in 1866, and a benefactor.
  • Jim Sanders: A professional footballer and showman.
  • Sir Charles Wathen: Mayor of Bristol.
  • Sir Frank William Wills: An architect, surveyor, and Mayor of Bristol.
  • Harry Blanshard Wood: A World War I hero honoured with the Victoria Cross and MM.
Arnos Vale Cemetery 6
- Ben Salter

Things to do at Arnos Vale Cemetery

Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol offers a variety of activities and events, making it much more than just a place of rest.

Self-Guided Tours

Self-guided tours are a great way to explore the cemetery at your own pace. The Discovery Trail map, which can be downloaded or picked up at the gift shop in the East Lodge, guides you to important graves and monuments, and provides lots of information about the history of Arnos Vale.


Throughout the year, Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust hosts a variety of events. There are guided tours and historical talks, special exhibitions at the West Lodge and Spielman Crypt from the cemetery’s Victorian origins to modern-day stories. There are also seasonal celebrations, which can be seen on the Arnos Vale website. Arnos Vale also organises educational programs that are perfect for everyone from primary school students to adult learners.

Venue Hire

Multiple sections of the Arnos Vale Cemetery can be hired for a versatile choice for events. The venues are available for meetings, training sessions, away-days, and funerals. Some even find them to be the perfect place to celebrate life, as the grounds are often hired out as a wedding venue.

The Anglican Chapel is suitable for Anglican ceremonies, while the Spielman Centre is registered for civil partnerships and ceremonies. Or the Underwood Centre provides the option for woodland weddings.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 5
Events such as ANZAC Day are Held at Arnos Vale Cemetery - Shawn Spencer-Smith

Visiting Arnos Vale Cemetery

Arnos Vale is open to the public every day, with the Bath Road gates open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Visitors can enjoy the café and its outdoor terrace, which operates from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and the gift shop, open from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm. On-site parking is available, with ramped access at the café and visitor centre. But the footpaths around the grounds can be uneven due to the natural landscape, accessible toilet facilities are provided. While entry is free, donations are always welcome to support the ongoing preservation efforts.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 3
- Bio Blitz

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What you need to know

Arnos Vale Cemetery
Bath Road, Bristol BS4 3EW
51.442329, -2.564881
Official Website
Tips before you visit