Guest Author - Asha Sahni
Glasgow Necropolis - a huge Victorian cemetery - lies close to St Mungo’s Cathedral. The remains of more than 50,000 people are buried here.
What would you like to find here? Hidden treasures, half forgotten or neglected graves? Secrets from times gone past which have to be uncovered, deciphered, pondered upon? An understanding of how the landscaping of the Necropolis provided a key draw for many eminent Victorians? Unparalleled views of Glasgow city? The grave of an ancestor which might inform your family tree? A guide to lead you through the language of the dead rooted in earth and stone? All are possible...
Glasgow Necropolis is a testament to the changing relationship of Victorians with their dead – a non-denominational cemetery, well kept gardens, personal spacious plots and memorials available to all those who could afford to pay. The result is a charismatic hotchpotch of notable Glaswegians, graves, tombs, memorials and architectural styles due to new opportunities for commemorating the dead worlds away from the small, crowded church graveyards which littered Victorian Scotland. The idea for the cemetery was inspired and informed by a larger, similar venture in France – the Pѐre Lachaise.
The Necropolis opened in 1833 – a development driven by the business and tradespeople of Glasgow at a time when trade was booming – at the time the city was sometimes called the Second City of the British Empire. A competition was held for the design of the new cemetery; in an early form of mass consultation all entries were made available for public viewing. The final design drew on elements of several of the competition entries and was developed by two architects and the curator of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens.
The Necropolis is situated on one of the largest hills in Glasgow. At the top of the hill, overlooking thousands that died after him, is a sandstone statue of John Knox (Knox is actually buried in Edinburgh, not Glasgow). In keeping with the mixed architecture of the area, Knox’s statue stands atop a Doric column.
People commemorated in the Necropolis include numerous businessmen and tradespeople who were prominent in their time – industries included banking, brewing and pottery. Others include:
Chief Constable of the Glasgow police – Alexander McCall.
Creator of Wee Willie Winkie – William Miller.
Professor of Anatomy – James Jeffray.
Queen of the Gypsies – Corlinda Lee.
Glasgow’s Jewish community chose to pay for their own walled burial area within the Necropolis – they had previously been taking their dead to Edinburgh.
Glasgow Necropolis is a living reminder of Glasgow’s heyday, ensuring that many of the city’s prominent Victorians will never be forgotten.