The historic parish church of St. Peter’s is the earliest industrial church in Blaenavon, Wales. The attached churchyard which was created in 1805 holds the bodies of 36,000 people.
It is replete with graves of every social class identified by the owners of the iron industry and the workers who toiled there.
Many headstones identify industrial accidents within the coal and iron industry.
Beneath the rocks I used to toil for bread,
Beneath this piece of rock I rest my weary head.
Till rock and ages shall in chaos roll,
On resurrection’s rock, I’ll rest my soul
Epidemics of typhus, smallpox and measles that caused hundreds of deaths quickly used the available land, and the churchyard was extended in 1882 to accommodate new burials.
As a closed burial site with very old graves and few visitors, the upkeep of the graveyard relies on volunteer gardeners as maintenance is not the responsibility of local councils in Wales. When the maintenance became too much for the volunteers, the cemetery became so overgrown that it was impossible to see many of the headstones.
In 2016, Reverend Rufus Noy had an inspiring idea to use goats to clear the vegetation. Six South American goats were provided by a local farmer to consume the weeds, grass, brambles and other plant matter.