The churchyard of St John’s Church Knotty Ash contains a number of notable graves. It is said to have more former mayors of Liverpool buried there than any other church in the city.
The church opened in 1836 but by 1890 the graveyard was full. A local resident, Miss A M Thompson, purchased an adjoining field and donated it to the church, allowing more burials to take place from 1895 onwards. There are now over 4,000 people buried there, a quarter of them children.
One of the vaults in the graveyard was owned by the Gladstone family of Court Hey. Among those interred in the vault is Robertson Gladstone, who was Mayor in 1842-43. Robertson was the older brother of William Gladstone, who was Prime Minister on four occasions in the latter part of the 19th Century. Although Robertson attended Eton like his brother, he had no desire to go into politics on a national level and instead became a successful merchant and property developer in Liverpool.
Thomas Littledale was only 32 years old when he became Mayor in 1851.His father, also Thomas, had been one of the founders of the church and was Mayor in 1826-27. Thomas junior was Chairman of the Dock Committee and in his spare time was enthusiastic about watersports. It was whilst following this passion that he died unexpectedly in 1861 at the age of 42. The cause of his death was a ruptured blood vessel and it occurred while he was in London to watch the University Boat Race. He is also interred in a family vault at the church.
One of the most difficult to pronounce graves is that of Ferdinand Schwerdtfeger, who died in 1875 at the age of 53. He was the headmaster of a small school in Haymans Green in West Derby and his memorial was erected by former pupils.
A crew member from the Titanic, whose body was never knowingly recovered, has his name on a memorial in the churchyard. Norman Harrison was a second engineer who lived at Baden Road in Old Swan. He was 38 years old when he died and left a widow but no children.
There are nine war graves at the churchyard maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission;six soldiers, one airman and two sailors.
Finally, one of the most prominent memorials that can be seen clearly from the road is a late 19th Century Celtic cross. This marks the grave of John Bencke, a hemp and flax trader who lived in West Derby. Originally from Germany, he died at the age of 79 in 1894.