History of Churches & Burial Grounds

St. Luke's

St. Luke's Church URC Roots

Their particular heritage was the Victoria Road Congregational Church which used to be a few yards down the road until demolition in 1989, when St. Luke’s building was renovated by both congregations to become a multipurpose space, a Centre available to the community as well as for worship. The Congregational Church was one of the founding traditions of the United Reformed Church, the other being the Presbyterian Church. These two denominations united in 1972 in what was the first union of churches since the Reformation. Ecumenism has always been one chief aim of this church and, in 1981, there was further union with the Churches of Christ. These “free” churches had grown away from the Church of England in the 17th century in their dissent from the 1662 Act of Uniformity, so it is truly wonderful in our time to witness God’s people at St Luke’s holding so much in common, as happens now.

Before 1997

St. Luke’s Parish Church and Victoria Road Congregational Church formalised their partnership as a Local Ecumenical Partnership in 2005. This PDF document contains the personal memories of members of the congregations of both churches, several of whom attended St. Luke's Church of England schools in Victoria Road. The accounts cover many aspects of life, centred around the churches, and extend over much of the 20th century. There is also a brief history of the area from early times and an account of the building of the two churches in the nineteenth century. You can also find photographs of the churches and the schools in the photo gallery.

St. Giles’ History

A detailed history of St. Giles’ and guide to the church is available here. "The Nave Windows of St. Giles Cambridge", a fully illustrated booklet in colour with the story of the saints depicted in the stained glass, is available in church or from the Parish Office, price £5.

Castle Street Methodist Church

There has been a church on this site since 1823, when a Primitive Methodist chapel was built in St Peter’s Street. The present building dates from 1914. More about the history of Castle Street Methodist Church can be found at our website.

Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground

(formerly Cemetery of St Giles’ with St Peter’s)
Since 20 May 2020 the graveyard has been closed by order of the Privy Council. The closure is because the burial ground no longer has room for any further burials, although there are limited exceptions which allow for burials, for those who have reserved an ashes plot through the Faculty process and for burial in an existing family plot where there is sufficient depth. (for further information contact Rev Janet Bunker. The burial ground continues to be open to visitors and remains consecrated land in the ownership of the parish but the closure now transfers all the maintenance responsibilities to the City Council.


The one and a half acres of the burial ground were established in 1857 when extra burial space was needed as the city of Cambridge expanded in Victorian times. The first burial there was in 1869. Today some 2,500 people of every religious denomination and none are buried in 1,500 plots. Many city and university dignitaries, scientists and scholars are buried there including Nobel prize winners. Perhaps one of the burial ground’s most famous graves is that of Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher (1899-1951).

In 1997 Dr Lucy Joan Slater, a renowned pioneer of computing in Cambridge and enthusiastic genealogist, completed a remarkable listing of all the graves and their inscriptions in the burial ground; she herself was buried there in 2008.

In 2000, Mark Goldie of Churchill College complied a list of the more famous people buried in the cemetery, along with a brief biography of each person. As he says Their lives provide vignettes of Cambridge, snapshots which tell stories of Victorian scholarship and college life and which trace the growth of new disciplines in the sciences and the humanities. (A Cambridge Necropolis, Mark Goldie, March 2000)

Today the burial ground is a designated City Wildlife Site and is part of the Storey’s Way Conservation area. In 2005 the plant species present were catalogued and the site is now managed so as to encourage wildlife and habitat diversity, as well as to care for the graves themselves. The conservation management plan can be downloaded and viewed by clicking on the previous link, or below. It is a ‘hidden’ part of the busy and rapidly expanding city and remains little known even to people who have lived all their lives in Cambridge.

The former chapel of rest within the burial ground is now the workshop of the letter-cutter, Eric Marland, who often holds workshops and public events as part of the Open Studios scheme.


The burial ground is accessible to visitors during daylight hours, via All Souls Lane which is a private road. Please be aware that, for reasons of safety, the gates may be closed during the day. There is no access for vehicles, except for those with mobility problems and in the case of funerals, so please do not bring your car down the lane but park elsewhere. Be aware that the ground throughout the cemetery is uneven and there is limited accessibility to some areas, so keep to the paths as much as possible.

If you have a query concerning the burial ground then please contact the Parish Office in the first instance.

Parish Records

We do not store the old parish registers - these are kept now in the Cambridgeshire County Records Office and not in our churches. They have a search service for people who cannot visit to search their archives online, but there is a charge for this. The County Records Office holds the records of St. Giles' Church for Baptisms -1585-1969, Marriages - 1607-1974, Burials - 1609-1957 and Banns of marriage 1755-1969.

We hold a list of burials and memorials in the Parish Office.

Friends of the Ascension Burial Ground

There is a group of Friends of the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground that aims to protect and enhance the ground for the public benefit as a place of remembrance, spirituality, history and nature. They welcome new members and are happy to answer enquiries about Friends' activities. Their brochure may be viewed or downloaded below. They hold regular work parties, on Saturday mornings once a month, to clear graves and keep things tidy. The dates of the monthly meetings are in the calendar.