A History of West Derby Cemetery

West Derby Cemetery, situated in the Croxteth district of Liverpool is administered by Liverpool city council.

Towards the end of the 1870s it was becoming apparent that neighbouring burial boards would no longer be able to accommodate interments for the residents of West Derby. This led to West Derby’s burial board, which also took in Old Swan and parts of Wavertree, purchasing the 151 acres Lower House Farm.

West Derby Cemetery

Mr F B Payton of Bradford was the architect and the grounds were laid out by Mr W Wortley, who had also worked on Kirkdale cemetery. Initially only seventy acres were developed as a burial ground, with the remaining land being rented out for agricultural purposes.

The opening ceremony took place on 28th January 1884 overseen by Protestant, Catholic and Nonconformist ministers. Members of the burial board then lunched in the registrar’s office, the food being provided by the landlord of the nearby Sefton Arms hotel.

The first registrar was Mr J Howarth Newton, a former chief clerk with the police in Preston, who successfully beat off over 200 applicants for the post. Perhaps the most notable burial that took place there before the turn of the century was in 1897 when champion diver Tommy Burns was interred. He was thirty years old when he drowned after getting into difficulty when he dived into the sea from Rhyl pier in front of 3,000 spectators.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has identified a total of 237 graves from the two world wars, situated in various parts of the cemetery. There are a number of graves of servicemen who died after hostilities ceased as there was a worldwide influenza pandemic in 1918/19 that some experts believe could have killed 3% of the total world population.

West Derby Cemetery

Amongst the military personnel buried there is Jindrich Bartos a Czechoslovakian pilot who was serving with the Royal Air Force. He had fled his homeland when Germany invaded in 1938 and initially settled in France, but escaped from there after it fell to Hitler’s forces. After arriving in Cardiff in August 1940 he joined the RAF and fought in the Battle of Britain. He was killed in February 1941 whilst on a high altitude training flight, the oxygen failing causing his plane to fall into an uncontrollable spin over North Wales.

Champion speedway racer Peter Craven is buried in the cemetery. Born and raised in Liverpool, he was world champion in 1955 and 1962 but died in a crash at Meadowbank stadium in Edinburgh in 1963. Craven was just 29 years old when he died and his son Robert also went on to become a speedway rider.

Nowadays new grave plots are unable to be bought at West Derby cemetery. However existing graves which are not full can be used for either burials or the interment of cremated remains. If your loved one is buried in West Derby cemetery and you are considering replacing or renovating an existing headstone please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to advise and provide a free no obligation quote.

Heart Shaped Headstones

At Sarsfield Memorials we are often asked to supply heart shaped headstones but before committing there are some factors you have to consider.

Traditionally Roman Cathoheart and roses granite etched and shaped headstonelics have held a devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, believing this shows Christ’s divine love for humanity. This has over time led to the heart being a symbol of love between two people. As such, heart shaped headstones are a tasteful choice when choosing a memorial due to this symbol of love, affection and desire.

Due to the shape of a heart there is less space at the bottom for the inscription, so you can not use as many words as you would do on a conventional rectangular headstone. It is possible to offset this by having a taller heart for your memorial, but you need to be aware that this will increase the overall cost due to the extra material being used. Realistically speaking, heart shaped headstones are most suitable for no more than two names, unless you want to restrict the amount of lettering you use in the inscriptions; if it is a double grave you may wish to think about a double heart memorial.

When it comes to what a heart shaped headstone should be made from, granite is the most practical as it is extremely durable against the elements, polishes well and can be cleanly cut using modern methods into a heart shape tailored to customer needs. Options that people consider when buying a heart memorial include having it stand alone as a simple heart shape, or sometimes sat on a rectangular or square base, or leaning back on an angle, with a support behind.

Alternatively, ornamentation may be added such as angels or hands white heart shaped memorialthat appear to be holding the heart upright. The heart may even be broken signifying the grief cause by loss, sometimes with an angel in between the two sides.

Granite is additionally an ideal material for the lettering and etching images onto a headstone and the heart shaped memorial can be complemented with verses, poetry or symbols that have meaning between you and your loved one. Hearts can also be used for children’s headstones and those for cremated remains, as well as memorial plaques for people or pets, they can also be added as a little something extra to an existing memorial.

Sarsfield Memorials has a range of standard heart shaped headstones and our skilled craftsmen can also make them into any style you wish and add ornamentation if desired. If you would like to discuss you requirements, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to give you a free no obligation quote.




A History of Kirkdale Cemetery

Kirkdale cemetery is situated in the north Liverpool suburb of Fazakerley and is one of six that are administered by Liverpool city council.

In 1878 the Kirkdale burial board purchased 32 acres of the Warbreck estate for a sum of £30,000 which is equivalent to £3.25 million today. There was some criticism that such a large area had been bought, but the board responded by saying it was looking far into the future. KKirkdale Cemeteryirkdale at the time had a population of 50,000 and was not part of Liverpool. Their burial provision at St Mary’s cemetery in Walton was reaching full capacity and the Liverpool burial board were refusing to accommodate any burials in Anfield cemetery from outlying townships.

The cemetery layout was designed by Walton landscaper William Wortley with Church of England, Nonconformist and Roan Catholic denominations each having sections of equal size. The architect for the three chapels was William Duckworth, who sited the Church of England and Nonconformist chapels within one larger building while the Roman Catholic chapel was about thirty yards away. All of these are no longer in existence.

On 22nd March 1881, the Bishop of Liverpool Dr Ryle consecrated the Church of England sections, while the following day the Roman Catholic sections were solemnly blessed by Dr O’Reilly. Local newspapers advertised that the cemetery would be open to interments from the 24th March and enquiries should be made to the registrar’s office next to the gates, or to the burial board at 152 Stanley Road. The cemetery was soon paying for itself and further improvements were made within two years, including additional fencing and a palisade.

There was a tragedy in May 1885 when the body of a marine engineer named Peter Robinson was found lying on a grave. Next to the body was a bottle containing laudanum and carbolic acid. In the the clothing was a note to Peter’s brother saying he had wanted to die at the grave of his daughter, who herself had committed suicide a few months earlier.

In May 1893 a mass burial took place but very little attention was given to it. The reason was that the 66 coffins interred held the remains of prisoners who had been executed at Kirkdale goal. With the gaol facing demolition, all the bodies were exhumed and re-interred at the cemetery.

A total of 478 servicemen from the two world wars are buried in Kirkdale cemetery. Of the 357 interments from the 1st World War, over 100 were for Canadian servicemen who died at the country’s military hospital in Westminster Road. One of the greatest tragedies of this war was the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania, which was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland en route from New York to Liverpool. More than 1,100 lives were lost and some of the crew members are buried in Kirkdale, including chief officer John Piper.

Many of the 2nd World War victims buried there are from the Battle of thKirkdale Cemeterye Atlantic and there are also graves of Belgian and Russian servicemen. A notable victim of the 1941 May Blitz is buried in Kirkdale too. Mary Lawson was a stage and film actress who was once a lover of tennis star Fred Perry. She was staying with a friend in Toxteth when she and her husband were killed in an air raid, having opted against going to a shelter.

In 2015 a memorial stone was placed on the grave of a hero of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. William Connolly was awarded the Victoria Cross after remaining at his post cleaning guns prior to reloading despite being wounded three times by musket balls. He had ignored the orders of his commanding officer to leave the battlefield and it was only when he collapsed due to loss of blood  that he was placed on a wagon and taken away for treatment. Connolly was invalided out of the army and after he died in 1891 was buried in an unmarked public grave. His interment at the cemetery had been marked by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone at the entrance but when the matter was brought to local councillor Joe Hanson’s attention a memorial stone was placed at the grave.

Kirkdale cemetery today does not allow the purchase of new grave plots, although burials can take place in existing graves where space is available. It is possible however to buy a plot for the burial of cremated remains. If you are thinking of renewing or renovating a headstone there please contact us and we will be glad to advise on the city council regulations, as well as provide a free no obligation quote.