Graveyards of Glasgow: Western Necropolis and St Kentigern’s

Cenotaph, Western Necropolis

Glasgow’s main Necropolis, which I wrote about last time, is not the only one in the city which also boasts Southern, Eastern and Western Necropoli. I’ve yet to visit the Eastern one, the Southern has appeared in a long ago post on the Gorbals, and the Western first appeared (along with its neighbour, Lambhill Cemetery) in May’s Gallivanting post, a visit which inspired us to go back to explore further.

Western Necropolis

Established in 1882, the Western Necropolis was one of several non-denominational cemeteries established to cope with the huge demand for burial space created by the rapid expansion of Victorian Glasgow. Garden cemeteries were designed to be recreational spaces where contemplation of death was made less painful by careful layout and design. The Western was the last of the four Necropoli to be created, and the only one to have a crematorium on the grounds: built in 1895 it was the first crematorium in Scotland and only the third in Great Britain. Opposite the cenotaph and crematorium is the monument shown above, It commemorates the South African War of 1899-1902, the Second Boer War.

Further into the necropolis we found a grave for which we were specifically looking. Sir William Alexander Smith, who founded the Boys’ Brigade in Glasgow in 1883, is buried here with his wife and other family members. His headstone is shown below in a gallery which also includes images of the building in North Woodside Road where the BB began, and of its commemorative plaque.

Other graves to catch my eye included (left to right below) Isobel MacKinnon Gardner who died at the young age of 32 in 1908, an array of Celtic crosses, and the three-part Walker memorial. The last one prompted some further research into “David Walker of Belmont, Kelvinside Gardens, and Principal of Belgravia College, Glasgow” who died in 1906.

I had never heard of Belgravia College, but it turns out to be a school for young ladies situated on Newton Terrace, Sauchiehall Street. To appreciate fully the floridity of its description it’s worth following the link to this 1891 business directory entry, but here’s a flavour:

The College, which was established in the year 1868, has had a career of great usefulness and academical prosperity. Having been instituted for the special purpose of providing young ladies with a very complete course of instruction, in all branches of a liberal English education, upon the most moderate of terms, it has with a remarkable elasticity of constitution adjusted itself to the varying needs of the age, and to-day, by reason of its admirable appointments, excellent management, and efficient teaching staff, occupies a position of scholastic repute of no mean order.

Lucky young ladies!

The Western Necropolis forms part of a larger cemetery network with the adjoining Lambhill Cemetery and St Kentigern’s. Having visited the former last time, this time we crossed into the latter via the poignant Infant Memorial Garden, as shown above.

St Kentigern’s

St. Kentigern’s Roman Catholic Cemetery was established, like the Western Necropolis, in 1882 and is named after the founder of Glasgow (also known as St Mungo). Many memorials feature beautiful, if sentimental, sculptures.

Two memorials of note are shown below. The worst pit disaster in the area was at Cadder, in August 1913, when 22 miners were killed. Most lived locally and all of Lambhill turned out for the funeral cortege. This collective memorial for the eleven Catholic miners was erected in St Kentigern’s, while the others had individual stones in Lambhill Cemetery.

Benny Lynch (1913-1976) was the undefeated flyweight champion of the world and the first Scotsman to win a world boxing title. His black marble headstone was erected by fans, features an image of him boxing, and has the inscription “Always a fighter”

Jewish cemetery

Finally, we arrived back at the entrance to the Western Necropolis via the Jewish section which serves Garnethill Synagogue in the city centre (also shown).

Next time: Cathcart Cemetery

37 thoughts on “Graveyards of Glasgow: Western Necropolis and St Kentigern’s

  1. hilarymb October 24, 2020 / 16:14

    Hi Anabel – the first couple of pictures give the concept of a garden crematorium just beautifully … also was pleased to see the Boer War II Memorial … fascinating people you found … your ladies! Incredible sculptures … one can wander round graveyards, crematorium and see so much … thanks for all the info … especially that look back to 1891 and David Walker’s school … take care and stay safe – Hilary

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    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter October 24, 2020 / 18:14

      They are very like gardens, and in lock down were much quieter to walk round than parks. There are so many interesting stories to be found if you look carefully enough.

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  2. Erica/Erika October 24, 2020 / 01:49

    Cemeteries are often fascinating places to explore, Anabel. Wow, the memorials do feature beautiful sculptures. Fascinating history and stories. Reading through the comments, I agree how sad the infant mortality numbers at that time.

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  3. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) October 22, 2020 / 13:47

    I love that Glasgow has four different Necropoli cemeteries – the plural of necropolis is fun to say! I’ve been to a lot of Catholic cemeteries, since that’s where basically all my deceased relatives are buried, and they’re usually not that exciting, as all the graves seem to have similar motifs (Jesus, Virgin Mary, angels) – you seem to only get the more creative headstones in non-denominational cemeteries, though I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule!

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    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter October 22, 2020 / 17:01

      I find the opposite, Certainly in these two cemeteries, the Catholic ones seem to be more elaborate and interesting – with exceptions such as the college principle with his triple angel affair.

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  4. susan@onesmallwalk October 21, 2020 / 16:06

    Anabel – Am I being insensitive by being glad you posted another tribute to cemeteries? More, please 😉 Cheers – Susan

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  5. rosemaylily2014 October 21, 2020 / 10:14

    There are so many fascinating stories to be found on gravestones and memorial plaques though the infant mortality back in those times is so terribly sad.

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  6. Ann Coleman October 20, 2020 / 21:31

    Cemeteries are fascinating places, I think. There is so much history there. But I always find the grave stones for infants and children beyond depressing.

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  7. Elaine - I used to be indecisive October 20, 2020 / 10:54

    It’s fascinating to read all of these inscriptions and to look at the different styles of gravestones and markers. Western Necropolis is one I know, and I think it is a beautiful spot with wonderful views over the countryside. It is where both my parents are, though their choice was for cremation. I didn’t know that this was the first crematorium in Scotland.

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  8. BeckyB October 20, 2020 / 09:40

    oh my that description. What a school – hope it was as good as its advertising would suggest!

    And what a fabulous necropolis. I do so love that word. Don’t tend to see it used much around here, we do have the large cemeteries but maybe we don’t have as many angels and other statues

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