People who know Liverpool well will be aware of St James’s Cemetery which lies in the eighteenth-century quarry below the site of the twentieth-century Anglican Cathedral. Opened in 1829, it’s the well-known resting place of nineteenth-century Liverpudlians but it’s not the first such cemetery in Liverpool.
The Low Hill General Cemetery was opened in 1825 where Brunswick Street becomes West Derby Road on the approach to Everton – a compact, level five-acre site around which the Liverpool architect John Foster Jnr placed boundary walls and an austere but elegant Greek Revival entrance.
Its title “General Cemetery” indicated that it was open to any who did not wish to be buried according to the rites of the Church of England:
The chapel will be at the service of such persons who may wish to use it, and any religious funeral ceremony may be formed in it by the minister, or other person chosen by the parties who may require its use, provided such ceremony is not an outrage upon the decencies of life or offensive to civilised society…or, if preferred, the interment may be made without any form or religious rite.
The Necropolis Burial Ground, as it came to be called, remained a popular burial place throughout the mid-Victorian period, until in the late 1890s it became full with eighty thousand interments, and was closed by the City Council as insanitary.
The buildings were demolished and the gravestones cleared, but the bodies remain in situ beneath the blank lawns that have replaced the flower beds of Grant Gardens (named after the chairman of the Parks & Gardens Committee), which opened in 1914.
Nothing above ground survives of John Foster Jnr’s design. The existing ornamental gateposts bear no resemblance to the entrance in early twentieth-century photographs, nor are they in the same position: Liverpool Necropolis Information – Toxteth Park Cemetery.
No-one would recognise the site now as a place of burial. However, on at least one occasion dog-walkers in Grant Gardens were made disconcertingly aware of what lies beneath. In February 2021 a sinkhole appeared caused by an incorrectly backfilled crypt: Sinkhole appears after former crypt collapses at mass grave site – Liverpool Echo.
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