The Glasgow Necropolis - History and Facts | History Hit

The Glasgow Necropolis

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Amy Irvine

04 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Glasgow Necropolis

Situated on a hill adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral on the eastern edge of the city centre, the Necropolis is a Victorian garden cemetery full of ornate graves, sculptures and stories. Described as one of the most significant cemeteries in Europe, it was modelled on Père-Lachaise in Paris. It’s estimated that roughly 50,000 burials have taken place here, with around 3,500 tombs – amongst which are memorials dedicated to some of Scotland’s great and good.

The Glasgow Necropolis’ history

Originally an early 19th century arboretum and park on the Wester Crags site, the Necropolis was established by the Merchants’ House of Glasgow in 1831 (a wealthy group of individuals based in Glasgow) who wanted the site to reflect the wealth and brilliance of Glasgow at the time.

In 1825, the foundation stone of the first monument in the Necropolis was laid, which would eventually become the John Knox monument (the founder of Scotland’s Presbyterian Church) and still dominates the hill.

The Necropolis officially opened in 1833 as an interdenominational burial ground. At the time, it was one of the few cemeteries to keep records of the dead, including profession, ages, sex and cause of death. The records show that the first burial was a Jew named Joseph Levi – it was a full year before the first Christian burial took place.

The ornate entrance and bridge, ‘the Bridge of Sighs’ were completed in 1836. Later extensions were added to the site in 1877 and 1892.

The Glasgow Necropolis today

The burial grounds continued to be run privately until 1966 when The Merchant’s House handed the Necropolis over to Glasgow City Council.

The Necropolis is well-kept, making it easy to find gothic monuments and notable graves, including that of William Miller (author of the poem Wee Willie Winkie), industrialist Charles Tennant, brewery founder Hugh Tennent, a Gypsy King, and a Celtic Cross headstone designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Scotland’s most famous architect).

Guided walking tours of this 37-acre cemetery are available where you can learn considerable information about the famous people buried here and stories on the quirks of various graves.

Getting to The Glasgow Necropolis

The Necropolis overlooks the Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The main gates lie behind St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art, adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral. There is also a gate at Wishart Street and an entrance off John Knox Street opposite Cathedral House Hotel.

The nearest stations are High Street Station (a 10 minute walk) and Queen Street Station (a 15-20 minute walk). The nearest subway station is 15-20 minutes’ walk away at Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow’s main shopping thoroughfares.

Featured In

Historic Sites in Glasgow

Discover some of the best historic sites in Glasgow, Scotland - from its medieval cathedral (the oldest in mainland Scotland) to its Clydeside cranes which now symbolise this city's famous shipbuilding heritage.