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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Buildings and Cityscape


By Ronnie Scott

Merchants' Park From the 1830s Glasgow's crowded and often unpleasant church yards were overtaken by cemeteries that were hygienic, secure and ornamental. The first and most notable of the new wave of burying grounds was the Glasgow Necropolis, developed by the Merchants' House and opened for burial in spring 1833. This, and the other cemeteries that followed, met and encouraged a growing demand for permanent, monumented graves in pleasant, park-like places where the bereaved could mourn their departed. They also gave spaces for commemoration where the city's emerging middle classes could publicly express their wealth and status through elaborate funerals and architect-designed monuments. These cemeteries included Sighthill (1840), the Southern Necropolis (1840) and the Eastern Necropolis (1847), all developed by joint stock companies. The growing Roman Catholic community opened St Mary's Churchyard in Calton in 1839 and the much larger St Peter's burying ground in Dalbeth in 1851.

Sighthill Cemetery Gates The Burial Grounds (Scotland) Act of 1855 led to the closure of older burial grounds and the opening of new cemeteries for the masses, built on the fringes of the city and with far less ornate landscaping and monumentation. The first of these were Craigton (1873), Cathcart (1978), the 85-acre complex of Lambhill (1881), the Western Necropolis (1882) and St Kentigern's (1882) in the north west of the city.

Gorbals Burial Ground, 1907 The Victorian fashion for ornate memorials and equally elaborate funerals and mourning customs was challenged at the end of the 19th century by the first cremations. The Scottish Burial Reform and Cremation Society opened the Glasgow Crematorium in the grounds of the Western Necropolis in 1895. It was the first in Scotland and the third in the United Kingdom.

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