In the 19th and 20th Centuries Glasgow was a prosperous city, its wealth created by trading with the West Indies and the Americas. It was also a major producer of heavy engineering, including ship-building.
Early in the 19th Century a cemetery was built in the East of the City, adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral (also called St Mungo’s Cathedral) and the Royal Infirmary. The Glasgow Necropolis was built on a low, but very prominent hill and fifty thousand individuals are buried there. It was modelled on the Pere la Chaise cemetery in Paris
Many of the merchants who made Glasgow the ‘Second City of the British Empire’ are buried there.
Typically for the period, only a small percentage are named on monuments and not every grave has a stone. Approximately 3500 monuments exist there.
Ornate Entrance Gates
Ornate gates at the entrance to the Necropolis were erected in 1838 and lead to a bridge over a small river. The bridge was completed in 1833 and became known as the “Bridge of Sighs” because it was part of the route of funeral processions.
Between the main gates and the bridge are memorials to still-born children, the Korean War and Glaswegian recipients of the Victoria Cross.
Layout of the Necropolis
The cemetery was laid out as an informal park, as was common in Victorian cemeteries. Modern cemeteries have a grid layout. The paths of the cemetery lead to the top of the hill where most of the larger monuments are.
The tallest monument in the cemetery is that of John Knox, Protestant Reformer, and many of the larger momuments are clustered around this statue.
While most of the monuments are of Christians, there are memorials to people of other faiths. Many of the memorials are intricately decorated and many display a Celtic Cross.
The cemetery is very popular with tourists as it is a provides an insight into the Glasgow merchants who made Glasgow a prosperous city.
From the top, there are excellent views of the City and Glasgow Cathedral.
In recent years there has been moves to get volunteers to help maintain the cemetery to avoid it falling into disrepair.
There are many famous people buried in the cemetery. Some of these are included below.
Scottish Poet William Miller
William Miller was a Scottish poet who lived most of his life at No.4 Ark Lane in Dennistoun. He was the author of the poem ‘Wee Willie Winkie’. He died in 1872.
- Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
- Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
- Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
- Are the children in their bed, for it’s past ten o’clock?
- Hey, Willie Winkie, are you coming in?
- The cat is singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,
- The dog’s spread out on the floor, and doesn’t give a cheep,
- But here’s a wakeful little boy who will not fall asleep!
- Anything but sleep, you rogue! glowering like the moon,’
- Rattling in an iron jug with an iron spoon,
- Rumbling, tumbling round about, crowing like a cock,
- Shrieking like I don’t know what, waking sleeping folk.
- Hey, Willie Winkie – the child’s in a creel!
- Wriggling from everyone’s knee like an eel,
- Tugging at the cat’s ear, and confusing all her thrums
- Hey, Willie Winkie – see, there he comes!”
- Weary is the mother who has a dusty child,
- A small short little child, who can’t run on his own,
- Who always has a battle with sleep before he’ll close an eye
- But a kiss from his rosy lips gives strength anew to me
Major Archibald Douglas Monteath
Major Archibald Douglas Monteath of the East India Company also has a memorial in the cemetery. He was alleged to have made his fortune by acquiring the gems being carried by an elephant of one of the Maharajah.
His monument is based on the Knights Templar Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Charles Clark Mackirdy
Charles Clark Mackirdy (1811-1891) was the owner of a large cotton spinning company. He lived at 5 Blythswood Square Glasgow till his death at 80 years of age and was buried on Christmas Eve in 1891.
His monument is based on the popular design of Lysicrates with a Corinthian rotunda boasting unusually fine granite detail.
The Necropolis is worth a visit when in Glasgow.
Opening Hours: 07.00 until Dusk.
(Main Gates are Behind St Mungos’s Mungo’s Museum of Religous Life and Art)