Oct 2, 2023 | Changemakers, Llansamlet, Swansea

Meet the people transforming a graveyard for the community

One of the recipients of our Changemakers funding is The Llansamlet Graveyard Community Garden, which is doing amazing things for locals and wildlife. We caught up with project manager David Rooke to hear the latest news.

St Samlet’s church in Llansamlet has a long and fascinating history. There has been a church on the site since the 6th Century; the current building dates from 1878 and was bombed in the war. You can still see burn marks from the bomb on its wood flooring. 

Its 7-acre churchyard is home to thousands of graves, including Commonwealth War graves and the grave of the real-life Maid of Sker, whose story was commemorated in folklore and song – and, more recently in a video game. Her name was Elizabeth Williams, and she is said to have died of a broken heart after her father banned her from seeing her harpist lover and forced her to marry another man.

The church is still in regular use – it’s one of the busiest in the parish and a true community hub. A £750,000 project to refurbish the church, its roof and its interior was recently completed, and several grants – including a £768 grant from our Community Changemakers Fund – have helped to transform the graveyard into a community garden.

The Llansamlet Graveyard Community Garden project manager David Rooke is delighted with how the area has been transformed with the help of volunteers from Shine Cymru, a local organisation for young adults with learning difficulties. 

Raised beds

Allotments have been created and 30 Shine Cymru volunteers visit the graveyard twice a week to help with tasks such as digging, weeding and planting. 

“We erected six raised beds in an area of the graveyard that isn’t currently being used,” he says. “Last year we got a polytunnel, a greenhouse, tools, seeds, meadow turf – all the things we needed, and we started planting earlier this year, with the idea of the produce going to the local food banks.”

The garden is also a wildlife haven; the volunteers feed the birds and have added hedgehog houses and other elements to make an inviting habitat for wild animals. An education area has been created, and the Community Changemakers grant enabled them to buy three picnic benches so that the volunteers can sit outside in good weather to eat their lunch with their carers.

Green house and polytunnel

Blue plaques have been added to highlight historically important graves, and plans are afoot to create a woodland burial area, which will improve sustainability both in terms of the environment and generating an income for the church.

Inside the church, further restoration work is underway, including uncovering and making a feature of the baptistry that lies under the floor of the hall at the rear of the church.

“It got covered over 20-odd years ago but now we’re opening it up again and putting a glass cover over it so people can see it, because it’s an important part of our heritage,” says David. “We’re also producing 1000 copies of an A4 pamphlet so people can do self-guided heritage tours of the graveyard and of the church.”

Those are not the only things keeping everyone busy.

“We’ve got four bee hives in the graveyard now producing honey,” he says. “We’re also linking with the Soto in South Africa to help them build some toilets out there – so there’s always something going on!”

Llansamlet Graveyard Community Garden Volunteers

Skip to content