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Volunteer group remembering the lost souls of Hartwood Paupers Cemetery wins Scottish Project of the Year Award

7th December 2023

A community group who came together to restore an old paupers’ graveyard at the former Hartwood Asylum near Shotts has won a top national award.

Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery with their trophy.
Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery with their trophy.

Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery has been named Scottish Project of the Year in the 2023 National Lottery Awards. The group is a collection of dedicated volunteers who have given names and dignity back to over a thousand once forgotten pauper patients and staff of Hartwood psychiatric asylum who were buried in the hospital’s cemetery between 1895 and 1952.

They beat off competition from 3,780 nominees across the UK to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

The project has emerged as the Scotland winner following the public vote which was held earlier this year.

Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery with memorial plaque.
Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery with memorial plaque.

Delighted to be voted by the public as The National Lottery Scotland Project of the Year, Loraine Duncan, Founder of the group, said: “It is an honour for Friends of Hartwood Paupers Cemetery to win a National Lottery Award.”

“The volunteers have put so much hard work into remembering the lost souls of Hartwood Asylum and it’s wonderful to have this recognition. The individuals buried in the grounds of the hospital have been forgotten for too long, so it gives us great joy to know that their stories are being told and they are no longer hidden from society.”

“We’re massively grateful to everyone who plays The National Lottery for the funding which has enabled us not only to restore the cemetery but, most importantly, create a piece of living history that gives dignity to those who are buried there.”

Hartwood Asylum opened in 1895 and closed in 1998. There were around 1,255 people buried in 630 graves within the psychiatric hospital grounds, the majority were ‘pauper lunatics’ according to the records with no money or means to be buried outside the hospital. When the hospital building was cleared out, the record books detailing the names and grave markers were rescued from a skip.

Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery with their trophy.
Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery smiling with their trophy.

A team of local volunteers cleared the weeds and rubbish from the cemetery and matched names with grave plots. Thanks to their meticulous research, and the support of National Lottery funding to finance the project, they have managed to identify all of those buried, and remarked graves, installed name plaques and improved the condition of the neglected cemetery as well as reaching family members across the world through their website.

The National Lottery Award follows news that Hartwood Cemetery has recently been added to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission following the discovery of a grave belonging to a World War One veteran. The soldier, Patrick Tierney, had been marked as a missed casualty following the end of the war. Volunteers from the ‘In from the Cold’ project, which aims to research and identify all service men and women missing from the official Commonwealth War Graves Commission list of casualties from the First and Second World Wars, located evidence proving his grave was in Hartwood Cemetery where his cause of death was recorded as ‘died post-discharge of general paralysis of the insane’.

Plans are now underway to erect an official war grave headstone.

Jonathan Tuchner from The National Lottery said: “Congratulations to the Friends of Hartwood Pauper’s Cemetery on winning a National Lottery Award. The group have shown incredible dedication to ensuring the people buried in the grounds of Hartwood Asylum are remembered and the cemetery becomes a place of historical significance for future generations. Mental health is still surrounded by stigma so the work the group have done to remember these individuals seems more relevant today than ever.

Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery with their trophy.
Friends of Hartwood Paupers’ Cemetery both holding their trophy.

“It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that the work of projects like Friends of Hartwood Pauper’s Asylum is made possible.”