Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Grave matters: Protecting Dundee’s Howff

Simon Goulding, chair of the Dundee Howff Conservation Group.
Simon Goulding, chair of the Dundee Howff Conservation Group.

The Howff is bathed in centuries of fascinating history. Local cemetery enthusiast Simon Goulding reveals the important heritage of Dundee’s graveyard.

It all began with an advert in The Courier in February 2014. A concerned local resident was seeking volunteers to join a not-for-profit group to help preserve the Howff in Dundee city centre – one of Scotland’s oldest urban cemeteries.

Simon Goulding, 50, formerly a special investigator with the military police before joining Dundee City Council as a licensing standards officer, was keen to share his forensic photography skills.

He jokes that an ill-timed cough during the gathering led to him becoming a committee member. Four years on, Simon is chair of the Dundee Howff Conservation Group, which has six committee members and scores of volunteers keen to help with individual projects.

The original idea was to replace or mend some of the fallen headstones, but preserving the heritage of the Howff soon became paramount.

“I started researching and realised there are a lot of procedures to follow if you want to do that – for example, mapping the graveyard,” Simon explains.

Simon photographing one of the tombstones.

He saw it as essential to investigate every stone in the cemetery, since time and the elements would one day render the sandstone carvings beyond repair. The group “adopted” the Howff through Archaeology Scotland’s adopt-a-monument scheme and set out its aims: to create detailed records of all of the memorials and share this information online, thereby building a valuable resource.

“We are not here for genealogy: our part is to record the stones in as much detail as we can,” Simon goes on. “We are preserving the Howff for future generations.”

All of the known 1,751 stones will each have a 10-page written record and between 20 and 100 photographs taken. Photography is also used in conjunction with specialist software to create models of the gravestones using a 3D printer.

An example of one of the model gravestones.

The Howff is situated in the grounds of a 13th Century Franciscan friary which was burned in 1548 during a raid on the city by the English army. In 1564 the land was granted to the city as a place of burial by Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Howff means “a meeting place” in old Scots because it was common practice for people to use graveyards as a venue for events such as markets. The Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee discussed business there until 1776. Burials ceased in 1860 due to overcrowding and it’s estimated it contains around 80,000 bodies. The Howff was protected as a Class A Listed Building in 1963.

Dundee City Council – which owns the Howff – granted DHCG funding to undertake a week-long digital mapping exercise in April last year. During the process, a rare medieval burial marker was unintentionally discovered by Perth-based archaeologist Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage.

The 13th century stone has now superseded a stone dating from 1577 as the oldest in the cemetery. It was excavated in December and will be assessed by sculpture conservation experts. DHCG is now looking at ways to preserve it.

The recently-excavated medieval stone.

A self-confessed taphophile (the term for a cemetery enthusiast) Simon believes the group is only in the early stages of uncovering the cemetery’s historical treasures. He can spend up to 30 hours a week on Howff-related matters: “I come home from work, walk the dog to blow away the cobwebs, then start working again!”


To find out more, visit the Dundee Howff Conservation Group’s website or follow on Facebook and Twitter



Already a subscriber? Sign in



More from The Courier Past Times team

More from The Courier