Shared Spaces was an innovative outdoor learning and heritage project that sought to engage young people in local history by unlocking and saving the history of the 8045 people buried in the North Road Burial Ground (NRBG) in Westcliff-on-Sea. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Trusthouse Foundation and the Ernest Cook Trust.
Inspired by the students of the Westborough School who wanted to look after the neglected cemetery, it brought together a team of local historians who wanted to rediscover the history of the ordinary people who were fast being forgotten, while also the exploring whether a burial ground can be used as an effective classroom.
Shared Spaces successfully brought together the old and young generations of Southend residents in order to save the heritage of this site. Together they compiled an online archive of photographs, audio recordings, artwork and official information about the people – including many war dead - who were laid to rest there. A Heritage Trail was produced in the cemetery telling the hidden stories of 12 of those buried there since it was opened in the late 1800s.
The Learning Programme included sessions on history, art, literacy, science and citizenship. Throughout the year activities took place across these subject fields that have built the children's knowledge and interest in their local history, and their concern and respect for the space they are working in. When asked whether they had enjoyed being taught in the classroom we had a 99% positive response from the students. When we asked them if they thought cemeteries should be respected 100% told us that they thought it was essential that these spaces should be well looked after.
Community participation and volunteering has been a major success in the Shared Spaces Project. The voluntary contribution made a huge difference to Shared Spaces and their expertise has given the project a huge boost in terms of the outcomes achieved and the legacy that has been created. From computer experts, nature specialists, artists, gardeners, filmmakers, the wise and the good of Southend-on-Sea turned out to show the children that their community is strong, talented and generous.
As part of the project, the team worked with the Southend Branch of the Essex Society for Family History to transcribe the thousands of entries in the Burial Record Books held by Southend-on-Sea City Council Burial Services Department and make them available to the whole community.
To download the Excel Database please click on the XLS icon below (The file is 3.7MB)