City Announces Repair, Protection and Preservation Plan for Old Loyalist Burial Ground

The City of Fredericton has outlined its plan to care for the Old Loyalist Burial Ground, an important heritage site in the heart of downtown, addressing a long running concern of residents. An annual budget of $50,000 has been earmarked for stone restoration, decorative metal work repair, graffiti clean-up, and turf and trail refurbishment. The City has also retained expert help in the protection and preservation of grave markers and other stonework on the site.

“The Old Burial Ground is a historical centerpiece of the downtown and we have struggled in the past with how to best care for it because it’s not a straightforward process,” said Councillor Eric Megarity, Chair of the City’s Livable Community Committee. “We now have expert advice and a plan to move forward.”

The City is also working on an enhanced care and maintenance protocol for the grounds given that it is a significant part of the City’s heritage.

The heritage value of the Old Burial Ground resides in its significance as a public monument to the City’s and the province’s founders. Loyalists, British Soldiers, prominent citizens, public officers and ordinary residents have been memorialized there, making the Old Burial Ground a microcosm of 19th century Fredericton society. The first recorded burial at the Old Burial Ground took place in 1787and limitation on further burials were imposed in 1886.

Over the years, many grave markers and monuments in the Old Loyalist Burial Ground have significantly deteriorated or been vandalized, and the many sections of wrought-iron fencing around and within the 1.6-hectare property have fallen into disrepair.

“The condition of the Old Burial Ground is a concern we share with those residents who have spoken out,” said Juan Estepa, the City’s Manager of Heritage and Urban Design. “However, historic grave markers and monuments require specialized care and there are many options out there.”

In mid-2020, the City retained the services of Robyn Lacy, a historical archeologist and burial ground specialist, based in St. John's. Lacy has worked in the heritage sector for ten years, both in the field as an archeologist and as a grave conservator, and in museums. She also owns a cemetery restoration company in St. John's. Her research explores colonial burial ground development in North America. 

Lacy has provided City staff with guidance on the best practices relating to the protection, preservation and repair of the markers. Her work thus far has included:

  • Assessed every single stone item in the cemetery.
  • Created an action plan for each individual stone for either preserving it in place, preventing further damage, repairing it if required and addressing health and safety concerns for those at immediate risk of falling on people.
  • Prepared an inventory log categorizing priority for response.
  • Provided guidance on dealing with graffiti and managing general clean-up of the site in a non-invasive way that doesn’t impact the grave markers and monuments.
  • Provided a list of grave markers and monuments that need immediate attention for 2021.

The City’s Parks & Trees Dept has also revised its maintenance protocols with regard to the Burial Ground to ensure that regular activities like mowing, pruning, clean-up, and general maintenance will happen more

frequently and be in line with best practices regarding protection and conservation of the delicate stonework on the site.

“For example, mowing will be done in a way that is more sensitive working around grave markers to avoid striking the fragile stone or inadvertently driving over sunken markers, which is a major cause of damage in historic graveyards like this one,” said Ashley Goggin, a Project Engineer with the City. “Staff will walk through the site weekly to monitor for any vandalism, health and safety concerns or a change in the condition of any of the grave. Any issues will be dealt with immediately.”

While the full annual plan for the Old Loyalist Burial Ground is still being finalized and will be presented to Council in the fall, the City has already accomplished many important tasks:

In 2021:

  • Where possible, graffiti was removed from the fencing in early June and on grave markers using an environmentally safe product recommended by Ms. Lacy and especially formulated for use on historic stonework. 
  • Advanced protocols were put in place for general maintenance of the site, which has translated into more frequent and less impactful care of the fragile site (as above).
  • Secured fencing that had been posing a hazard.
  • Identified a mason who specializes in historical stonework who will repair and stabilize the stonework that needs to be done this summer, per Lacy’s recommendation.
  • Planted grass in areas that had thinned out in recent years.

Moving forward, the plan will require that, each year, the City:

  • perform an annual fall review to prepare a financial plan for repairs required in the subsequent year.
  • repair, preserve, protect the grave markers identified by Dr. Lacy as a priority for the current season
  • repair metal fencing, as needed
  • clean up graffiti throughout the season within 5 days of it being discovered
  • top off footpaths with the site with new pea gravel
  • actively monitor the condition of grave markers and monuments by maintaining a live document that is updated weekly
  • maintain and seed the lawn in early summer each year, as needed.