Old English Cemetery
History and museums
The Old English Cemetery is a cemetery in Livorno, central Italy, located on a plot of land near the Via Verdi, close to the Waldensian Church and to the formerly Anglican church of St. George. It is one of the oldest non-Roman Catholic cemeteries in Italy.
In the late 16th century Livorno became an English Navy base for patrolling shipping routes in the Mediterranean Sea, thereby attracting a large English community to the city. Soon the community, essentially consisting of Anglicans (and non-Roman Catholics in general), needed a burial place for its dead. Some historians argue that the cemetery was founded before 1609, although the oldest graves are dated around the 1640s. Some sources say that in 1594 the burial ground was opened by authorization of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I, who had recently completed a commercial agreement with Queen Elizabeth I. The cemetery was erected outside the city walls, in an area called "Fondo Magno". For a long time it was the only English and Protestant cemetery in Italy and probably in the entire Mediterranean area.
Initially the cemetery was unenclosed, which was rectified by the erection of railings in 1745, thanks to a substantial bequest from the wealthy merchant Robert Bateman. In 1838, during the construction of the new Anglican church of St. George, the cemetery was closed and replaced with a new one in the northern part of the city, close to the San Marco gate.
Despite the important historical value of the cemetery, and against the advice of art historians, in 2007 the construction of a huge multi-level parking lot was started just a few yards from the cemetery walls, replacing the historical Odeon cinema. In 2009 a restoration and study project was started by a group of volunteers and is still ongoing (April 2013).
The cemetery survived great damage caused by bombing during World War II, which also damaged the adjoining Waldensian and St. George's churches. It remains one of the most charming and interesting places in Livorno.
After the Second World War the cemetery was to be found hidden behind a large six-storey apartment-block, showing the distinct lack of sensitivity of the local administration of the time.
The entrance is located in a small square, accessible through the property of the Arciconfraternita della Misericordia. The cemetery is a large quadrangle, characterized by dense arboreal vegetation, with century-old cypress trees and various Mediterranean plants. A notable feature is the presence of what some believe are elms from Virginia, said to have been planted by American sailors visiting the graves of their loved ones.
Among the most ancient graves is that of Leonardo Digges, son of Dudley Digges, whose grave, dated 1646, is decorated with a bas-relief, which served as a model for many other monuments in the cemetery. Also notable are some graves from the 18th century, such as Robert Bateman's grave, which have convex and concave shapes. At the end of the 18th century and in the 19th century the Neoclassical style of decoration became evident in the monuments, which often bore citations from the works of Bertel Thorvaldsen, who lived in Livorno.
Notable people buried here include: