Situated in the shadow of Liverpool and Everton football grounds, themselves there since the later Victorian period, Anfield cemetery is even older having been taking in burials for over 150 years.
By the middle of the 19th Century Liverpool’s graveyards were reaching saturation point and in 1854 the Corporation prohibited any more burials in the centre of the town. The new cemetery at Anfield was designed by Edward Kemp and building work began in 1861 with the first burial taking place two years later. The total cost of the project, including purchase of the land, was £150,000, equivalent to £16 million today.
The cemetery is laid out in a diamond shape with four entrances and axial paths that run north-south and east-west. Liverpool architects Lucy and Littler designed the lodges, chapels and entrance gates.Only one chapel, originally for Nonconformists, remains and this is now unused and on the Heritage at Risk Register. The crematorium was opened in 1896 and was the first in Liverpool and only the fourth in the United Kingdom.
Four recipients of the Victoria Cross are buried in Anfield Cemetery, including John Kirk who was awarded one for gallantry in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. He died aged 38 in 1865, having fallen into poverty following a discharge from the army due to having contracted rheumatism which in the opinion of the Inspecting Medical Officer was ‘the result of, or aggravated by, the use of intoxicating liquors, or indulgence in other habits or vices.’ Kirk had been punished twelve times for being drunk on duty, going AWOL and escaping from barracks cells.
The cemetery contains a mass grave containing the remains of over 500 residents of Liverpool who were killed during the May Blitz of 1941. There are over 900 British servicemen from the two world wars buried in the cemetery as well as 67 from other nations, mainly Dutch and Norwegian seamen.
Notable local people buried in Anfield Cemetery include Thomas J Hughes, founder of the T J Hughes chain of shops in 1925; Michael J Whitty, former Chief Constable of Liverpool and founder of the Daily Post newspaper in 1855; shipowner Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, who opened the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1898 and whose grave is pictured left. Also buried here are Victorian boxing champion Jem Mace and singer Michael Holliday, whose song ‘Starry Eyed’ was the first number one of the 1960s.
Near to the Cherry Lane entrance is a grave containing the remains of husband and wife William and Julia Wallace, who were at the centre of a classic ‘whodunnit’ in 1931. On 20th January that year Julia was found battered to death at her home in Wolverton Street by William, an insurance agent. He was later charged with murder after police concluded he still had time to carry out the killing and then create his alibi, that he was in Allerton looking for an address that did not exist. After being found guilty by a jury he was sentenced to death but the conviction was overturned by the High Court as the verdict had been reached against the weight of evidence. Just two years later William died of renal cancer and was buried alongside his wife.
Being so close to Anfield and Goodison Park football stadiums, it is not surprising that a number of notable people connected to the early years of the Liverpool and Everton clubs are buried there.
William E Barclay holds a unique place in Merseyside football history as the only man to manage both clubs. He combined these roles with that of headmaster at an industrial school in Everton Terrace, off Netherfield Road South. He later drifted into obscurity and was found dead in tragic circumstances in 1917, an inquest returning a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity. His final resting place in Anfield cemetery remained unmarked over ninety years but due to the sterling work of local football historians a stone was placed on it in 2013.
Barclay had remained loyal to Liverpool FC founder John Houlding after the acrimonious split within the Everton membership in 1892. However local solicitor George Mahon was instrumental in Everton’s move away from Anfield and arranged the purchase of the land that became Goodison Park, after which he became the club chairman. He lived at 86 Anfield Road and was buried in Anfield cemetery after his death in 1908.
Liverpool FC’s longest serving manager was Tom Watson, who took over from William E Barclay in 1896 and guided then club to two league titles and their first FA Cup final. He died in May 1915 and his funeral at Anfield cemetery was attended by many leading figures from the game in which he was held in high regard, having also won honours with Sunderland. In May 2015 a headstone was re-erected on his grave after family members were traced.
Anfield cemetery remains open to burials today. A charity, the Friends of Anfield Cemetery, has been founded with the aim of removing it from the Heritage at Risk Register by 2025, as well as building a heritage and visitor centre whilst remaining mindful of the fact it is a working cemetery.