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.