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In historical times only Catholics could be buried in sanctified ground in Spain. A burial at sea could resolve the problem of what to do with the deceased, but it was an on-going and difficult problem. There are even macabre references, especially in Malaga, about burying Protestants in an upright position on the shoreline at night, facing out to sea.
In 1789 Mr Eden, the British Crown Representative in Madrid, requested a decent place for burials. In 1795 the Marquis de Bute, Lord John Stuart, the then British Ambassador repeated the request, and as late as 1830, the British Minister in Madrid was still making a plea for decent burial places for Protestants throughout Spain.
Finally, on 13th November 1831, the Spanish Royal Decree initiated suitable places for the burial of non-Catholics whose lives ended in Spain, or on its shores. Among the British Cemeteries in Spain, the oldest are those in Malaga, Madrid, Cadiz, Cartagena and Valencia.
Many of the engineers, technicians and sailors drawn to the Valencian region in the early and mid- 1800s with the development of its industrialisation, and who ended their lives in Valencia, were British. The ports of Gandía, Denia, Alicante and Valencia were established or extended by northern European as well as British engineers, as were several mining projects and steelworks. British engineers created a railway network linking Cartagena, Alicante, Denia and Alcoy.
Sadly in December 1851 the Valencian Town Hall made a complaint about the Protestant Cemetery’s inadequate care, and in 1870 an order was given to provide a new and better place , but without any church, chapel or any sign of public religious worship. In 1872 the British Vice- Consul, Enrique Dart y Anglin (1836 – 1894), purchased land, as did Norwegian Hon. Consul, Per Eknes (1827 - 1886), and others, in order to extend the Cemetery, which was approved for this purpose in 1879. It was finally consecrated by the visiting Archbishop of Gibraltar on 7th November 1889.
Although British Protestant Cemetery by name, it is actually multi-denominational and multi-national and available to all. There are more than 21 nationalities, including Spanish Catholics and non-Catholics, buried within its walls.
THE CEMETERY'S ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN
The Valencian architect, Antonio Martorell, signed off the plans on 2nd April 1879. It included the ornamental façade with the coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
The gate that leads to the Cemetery itself, and the stained glass entry door, were designed by Valencian artist, Vicente Sancho Fuster, as was the Chapel - all of which were added in 1907.
GOVERNANCE & FUNDING
As the majority of the then buried were British, the land was presented to the British Monarchy by the British Consul of the time and other expatriates, and administered by the Crown Agents, now the Estates Department. Today, the British Protestant Cemetery continues to belong to the British Crown, with the Royal Coat of Arms over the entrance.
The disconnection caused by both the Spanish Civil and the two World Wars, greatly reduced the numbers of British and other foreign businessmen and their families resident in Spain, and the Cemetery suffered accordingly.
In the mid-1970s, the retiring British Vice-Consul, Francisco “Paco” E. Dalby, undertook responsibility for its administration, when the Consulate was closed. Funds had been achieved by the sale of part of the original cemetery land which were used to keep the place going, but the lack of interest, the reduction of burials and vandalism took its toll.
The Cemetery has been administered on an honorary basis for the last 30 years by a Nottingham-born Chartered Engineer, Trevor Nicholas.
Since the Spring of 2012, Mr. Nicholas has been assisted by those involved with the Bonnie Project of the International Women’s Club of Valencia. The Club wished to dedicate a practical memorial to the memory of Bernadette (Bonnie) Hinzpeter, a much loved member who died in February 2012. Donations have been received from members, friends and informal expat groups in the region and are being spent in the beautification of the Cemetery, both the garden in the front patio and the newly planted Garden of Remembrance