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.