A History of Walton Park Cemetery

Walton Park Cemetery in Liverpool, sometimes know as Rice Lane Cemetery, opened in 1856 but has now been closed to new burials for nearly seventy years.

A parochial cemetery, it was opened by the Liverpool Parish for the interment of bodies at the expense of the church. Liverpool was growing at a rapid place and with the authorities not wanting burials in residential areas, the parochial cemetery at St Martins in the Fields (between Silvester and Blenheim Streets in Vauxhall) was no longer suitable.

Being a parochial cemetery, those interred tended to be from some of Liverpool’s poorest backgrounds. Burial registers make for heartbreaking reading. Of the nine people interred on 3rd June 1866, for instance, five had died in the workhouse and another in an industrial school.

The most notable person buried in Walton Park Cemetery is Robert Tressell, author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. A signwriter, he completed the book whilst living in Sussex in 1910 but after being rejected by three publishers, decided to emigrate to Canada. However before being able to sail from Liverpool he contracted tuberculosis and died at the Royal Liverpool Infirmary on 3rd February 1911.

Tressell’s real name was Robert Noonan and he was buried along with twelve others in a paupers grave in Walton Park Cemetery. Thanks to the efforts of his daughter Kathleen, the book was finally published in 1914 but the grave remained undiscovered until 1970. A memorial stone was placed there in 1977 following fundraising by trade union councils in Liverpool and Hastings.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has identified 24 soldiers who have been buried there; eighteen from World War I and six from World War II. In November 2016 new headstones were added to the graves of eleven seamen who were killed in World War II whilst serving with the Dutch Merchant Navy, along with one of a British Merchant Navy sailor. The men were all Indonesian Muslims and their graves were rededicated with new headstones in a ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor and representatives from the Dutch Embassy and Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Walton Park Cemetery continues to be owned by the Parish of Liverpool, although the Rice Lane Community Association leases the site and part of it is now an urban farm. The cemetery remains open to the public and history trail leaflets are available for anyone who visits.

Although the cemetery has long closed to burials, it is still possible to renovate headstones or erect new ones on existing grave plots. There are size limits though for paupers graves. If you have any loved ones buried in this cemetery and are considering any renewing or erecting a memorial there, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.