Watler Cemetery

Last updated
The Watler Cemetery at Prospect, Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman Islands, British West Indies Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman.jpg
The Watler Cemetery at Prospect, Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman Islands, British West Indies

The Watler Cemetery is a historic cemetery located in Prospect, Grand Cayman. It was donated to the National Trust for the Cayman Islands by the Watler family in 1991. [1]

Cemetery Place of burial

A cemetery or graveyard is a place where the remains of dead people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery implies that the land is specifically designated as a burial ground and originally applied to the Roman catacombs. The term graveyard is often used interchangeably with cemetery, but a graveyard primarily refers to a burial ground within a churchyard.

Grand Cayman island in the Caribbean

Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and the location of the territory's capital, George Town. In relation to the other two Cayman Islands, it is approximately 75 miles (121 km) southwest of Little Cayman and 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Cayman Brac.

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is the national trust serving the Cayman Islands. Its purposes are to preserve sites of artistic and architectural interest in the islands and to provide protection for local natural resources and wildlife. It also oversees a program in which sites of special historic interest are marked with a plaque noting their importance.


Although the graves in the cemetery date from the beginning of the 19th century, the site was in use before that time, as Watlers have lived in the Cayman Islands since the 17th century and are among the original settlers of Cayman. It is thought that the name is derived from the fact that walters in Wales were craftsmen who specialized in the construction of wattles, a form of thatched roofing.

Cayman Islands British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean

The Cayman Islands are an autonomous British Overseas Territory in the western Caribbean Sea. The 264-square-kilometre (102-square-mile) territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, which are located to the south of Cuba and northeast of Honduras, between Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. As of spring 2018, the population of the Cayman Islands was estimated to be 64,420 making it the second-most populated British overseas territory after Bermuda. The capital city is George Town, situated on Grand Cayman, by far the most populous of the three islands.

Watler Cemetery is notable for the number of traditionally Welsh constructed graves which still stand today. Shaped like houses, the memorials are constructed from a combination of crushed coral and limestone daub. Similar markers dating to the Middle Ages, have been found in both England and Wales, and markers in this style dating to the 17th century may be seen across the British West Indies. [1] Boulders are heavy enough that only the most violent storms can dislodge them. Some graves may have had a mahogany tablet set into one wall, but this fact is disputed. More modern stones may cover numerous burials, but these structures were designed for only one body each. [1]

Coral Marine invertebrates of the class Anthozoa

You like ice cream?

Limestone Sedimentary rocks made of calcium carbonate

Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolomite, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In old USGS publications, dolomite was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolomites or magnesium-rich limestones.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Today this cemetery is enclosed by a stone wall. The original entrance is now filled in, but evidence of its original location can be seen almost directly across from the current entrance. Mature trees surround the graveyard, and the Prospect Youth Centre is located on the eastern side of the cemetery. The centre is run by the United Church.

The cemetery is almost all that remains of Prospect, although residents still identify the area by name when describing their neighborhood.

Cemetery markers

The National Trust of the Cayman Islands placed several plaques in the Watler Cemetery. The plaques are described below:

The Watler Cemetery – a typical family cemetery

Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque, "The Watler Cemetery A Typical Family Cemetery" Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque - The Watler Cemetery.jpg
Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque, "The Watler Cemetery A Typical Family Cemetery"

As the plaque asserts, it was the custom of early island settlers to set aside a portion of their land as family graveyard. The Watler Cemetery is a good example of a typical Caymanian family graveyard. The graves date from the early 19th Century, but it is believed that it was in use for a considerable period before that. According to Hirst's Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands, many of the pioneers were of Brisith and Welsh descent and are buried at Prospect.

The Watlers were among the earliest settlers in Cayman. Some have asserted that the first Watler was a deserter from Cromwell's army. However, with the advent of the Internet and widespread access to authentic documentation of genealogical history & migration, this assertion has been found to be a myth.

The surname "Watler" is of Welsh origin. As is the case with most Anglo-Saxon surnames, the name originates as a description of the familial vocational craft. In this case, it was he who built wattles: A Watler.

This small family cemetery was donated to the National Trust by the Watler family in 1991.

House-shaped graves

Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque - House-Shaped Graves Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque - House-Shaped Graves.jpg
Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque – House-Shaped Graves

Characteristically, most of the graves are marked by house-shaped tombs. Tomb structures of this nature originated in England where karst made grave digging for underground burial impractical. This is also the case in many British West Indies islands where "iron shore," which are coral geological conditions, also make underground graves impractical. Upon BWI island settlement from the 1600s onward, this method of burial was simply an exported custom, along with many other customs familiar to the settlers.

Some assert these tombs once exhibited an unusual feature: A hardwood marker bearing the name and other information about the deceased. It is further alleged that these hardwood headmarkers were used instead of inscribing in the stone because the early settlers were carpenters and shipbuilders rather than stonemasons. This is disputed by others.

Early settlement and the work of the church at Prospect

Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque - Early Church and Settlement Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque - Early Church and Settlement.jpg
Watler Cemetery Grand Cayman Plaque – Early Church and Settlement

The Prospect area is one of the oldest settlements in Grand Cayman. It rose to residential prominence in the 18th Century before Bodden Town or perhaps even George Town. However, several factors led to its population decrease. Its geographical position left it vulnerable to bad weather, especially during nor'westor storms, resulting in roads that were frequently washed out. Further, what little harbor exists is shallow, thus further isolating its residents from sea access, which even today continues to be a substantial means of transportation between island locales. The lack of any substantial barrier reef that offers other island towns at least some protection against these elements, further left the area vulnerable.

Church records show ministers were assigned to Prospect from Reverend Elmsie's time in 1846 until 1936. This helped to substantially increase the population, at which time, it is noted, church membership peaked at Prospect. In 1915 the cornerstone was laid for the chapel still sitting on the site. In addition to regular church services, Sunday School, Christian Endeavour, Prayer Meetings and other social functions were held in this building. Gas lights were used at for the very popular evening "Magic Lantern" shows (slide shows) organized by Mr. A. C. Panton, the schoolteacher at nearby Spotts.

However, the infamous hurricane of 1932 destroyed nearby Red Bay and led to the exodus from the area of some families to places like Crewe Road (outskirts of George Town) and Savannah. The United Church kept the Prospect Chapel, and in the 1990s, work was finally undertaken to rehabilitate the building. A service of dedication was held on the site in June, 1992. Today the chapel is still used for devotions and services by campers at the Prospect Youth Centre.

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 Archived June 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Watler Cemetery at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 19°16′26″N81°20′06″W / 19.274°N 81.335°W / 19.274; -81.335

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.

Related Research Articles

Green-Wood Cemetery Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York

Green-Wood Cemetery is a 478-acre (193 ha) cemetery in Brooklyn, New York City. The cemetery lies several blocks southwest of Prospect Park, located between South Slope/Greenwood Heights, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Kensington, and Sunset Park. It is generally bounded by 20th Street to the northeast, Fifth Avenue to the northwest, 36th and 37th Streets to the southwest, Fort Hamilton Parkway to the south, and McDonald Avenue to the east.

Grave Burial location of a dead body

A grave is a location where a dead body is buried. Graves are usually located in special areas set aside for the purpose of burial, such as graveyards or cemeteries.

Old Chapel Hill Cemetery

Old Chapel Hill Cemetery is a graveyard and national historic district located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Kings Chapel Burying Ground

King's Chapel Burying Ground is an historic graveyard on Tremont Street, near its intersection with School Street, in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the oldest graveyard in the city and is a site on the Freedom Trail. Despite its name, the graveyard pre-dates the adjacent King's Chapel; it is not affiliated to that or any other church.

Scottish gravestones

The Scottish or Lowland Scottish gravestone is unique to the north of the British Isles. The study of Scottish Lowland Gravestones is essential to the overall study of British monumental inscriptions. The level of symbolism and detail on Scottish stones reached a peak during the 18th century.

Grave field prehistoric cemetery lacking above-ground structures, buildings, or grave markers

A grave field is a prehistoric cemetery, typically of Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe.

Myles Standish Burial Ground

The Myles Standish Burial Ground in Duxbury, Massachusetts is, according to the American Cemetery Association, the oldest maintained cemetery in the United States.

Donnybrook Cemetery cemetery in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland

Donnybrook Cemetery is located close to the River Dodder in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland. The cemetery was the location of an old Celtic church founded by Saint Broc and later a church dedicated to St. Mary. The site has been in use between 800 to 1880 with the exception of some burial rights.

Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria cemetery in Cagliari, Italy

The Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria is located in Cagliari, Sardinia. In use between 1829 and 1968, this monumental cemetery originally occupied an area at the base of the hill of Bonaria, and over time expanded upwards. The main entrance is located in Piazza Cimitero, with a second entrance in Ravenna, at the Basilica of Bonaria. Several famous people were buried in Bonaria, including the canonical archaeologist Giovanni Spano, the tenor Piero Schiavazzi and General Carlo Sanna.

Wainsgate Baptist Church Church in West Yorkshire, England

Wainsgate Baptist Church is a redundant chapel standing in an elevated position above the town of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England. The chapel and its attached school are recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. The chapel is managed by the Historic Chapels Trust.

Prospect Cemetery (Queens) United States historic place

Prospect Cemetery is a historic cemetery located in the Jamaica section of the New York City borough of Queens. It was established in 1668 and known as the "burring plas." The cemetery's original main gate was on Beaver Road which led from Sutphin Boulevard to Jamaica Avenue. The cemetery was generally known as the Presbyterian burial ground and is one of the few remaining Colonial cemeteries in Queens. The First Presbyterian Church was given control of the care and maintenance of the cemetery after it was taken from the care of the town. There was a dispute between this Church and the Grace Episcopal Church in regard to which church would maintain the cemetery.

Cemeteries and crematoria in Brighton and Hove

The English coastal city of Brighton and Hove, made up of the formerly separate Boroughs of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, has a wide range of cemeteries throughout its urban area. Many were established in the mid-19th century, a time in which the Victorian "cult of death" encouraged extravagant, expensive memorials set in carefully cultivated landscapes which were even recommended as tourist attractions. Some of the largest, such as the Extra Mural Cemetery and the Brighton and Preston Cemetery, were set in particularly impressive natural landscapes. Brighton and Hove City Council, the local authority responsible for public services in the city, manages seven cemeteries, one of which also has the city's main crematorium. An eighth cemetery and a second crematorium are owned by a private company. Many cemeteries are full and no longer accept new burials. The council maintains administrative offices and a mortuary at the Woodvale Cemetery, and employs a coroner and support staff.

Old Protestant Cemetery, George Town

The Old Protestant Cemetery, also known as Northam Road Cemetery, is a disused Christian cemetery in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. After more than a century of neglect, it is now listed as a Class 1 Heritage Site and is maintained by the Penang Heritage Trust.

La Pointe Indian Cemetery United States historic place

La Pointe Indian Cemetery is the common name of the St. Joseph Mission Cemetery, located on Madeline Island in La Pointe, Wisconsin. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It is a frequently visited historical site.

Christ Church, Tingalpa

Christ Church Tingalpa and Burial Ground is a heritage-listed former Anglican church at 1341 Wynnum Road, Tingalpa, City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was built from 1868 to 1993. It is now known as the Pioneer Wedding Chapel. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 2 February 1998.

St Bartholomews Anglican Church and Cemetery, Prospect

St Bartholomew's Anglican Church & Cemetery is a heritage-listed former church and cemetery at Ponds Road, Prospect, City of Blacktown, New South Wales, Australia. It was designed by Henry Robertson and built from 1838 to 1840 by James Atkinson. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

Wilberforce Cemetery

Wilberforce Cemetery is a heritage-listed cemetery at Clergy Road, Wilberforce, City of Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Australia. It was laid out by surveyor James Meehan and established in 1811. It is also known as St John's Church of England Cemetery. It is owned by Hawkesbury City Council. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 20 August 2010.

Torquay Cemetery cemetery in Devon, England

Torquay Cemetery, also known as Barton Road Cemetery is a burial ground located in the town of Torquay, Devon, England. The first internment, which took place in the Nonconformist section, was in 1852. The cemetery has been Grade II listed since 2002.