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The West Bank

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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There were once two cemeteries on the West Bank.

The first was situated on the beachfront: between the coastal road and the sea, and approximately below the present West Bank High School.

It is not clear when it was created but it probably served initially as a burial site for deceased soldiers from Fort Glamorgan and so may have been initiated as early as 1848.

The site was not particularly advantageous to the small town. Butchers slaughtered their animals on the rocks close by, ostensibly so that the waves at high tide could wash the rocks clean.

As a result, the area stank dreadfully. Indeed, there were numerous complaints about the dreadful smell which permeated into St Peter's Church during services on Sundays.

Because the cemetery was so close to the shambles, however, it also proved a convenient place for the butchers to pen the animals prior to slaughtering. Any people visiting deceased relatives, therefore, had to contend with animals of all descriptions grazing amongst the tombs.

During the 1860s, therefore, a new cemetery was created further from the town. The spot, however, was not well chosen because it lay immediately above Baker's Wells which was the main source of water for the village on the West Bank.

There was therefore major fear that dreadful diseases like typhoid and cholera could break out as a result of liquid seeping from the decaying bodies finding its way into the drinking water.

Although much debate centred on the idea of removing this second cemetery, the idea of creating yet another cemetery proved to be abhorrent. Indeed, people were particularly concerned that the dead were already being separated.

Somehow the idea that relatives might not find their way to being reunited when the resurrection of the dead took place cancelled the idea of creating a third cemetery and further separating the dead.

The original cemetery at the waterfront was removed during the 1960s when the South African Railways decided to create a shunting line along the beachfront. Since the cemetery was in the way, it had to go.

Presumably many of the bodies were exhumed and re-interred in what is now known simply as the West Bank Cemetery above the golf course.

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