A History of Allerton Cemetery

Allerton Cemetery EntranceAllerton Cemetery is the newest of the six cemeteries administered by Liverpool City Council and one of two in the city which have been listed by English Heritage.

At the beginning of the 20th Century it was clear that more cemetery space in the south of the city was needed. There had already been over 100,000 internments at Toxteth Cemetery since it opened in 1856 and the city’s suburbs were expanding southwards. With this in mind the city council purchased a large part of the Allerton Hall estate from the Clarke family in 1906 for £50,000, equivalent to over £5 million today.

The following year members of the Burials Committee visited the International Congress of Hygiene and Demography in Berlin. They noted that cemeteries there had a wide central avenue and graves were set back from the walks. They also observed that to please the eye and give the impression of a park, there were planted borders and a large proportion of the trees were evergreen.

City Engineer John A. Brodie was then instructed to submit plans for a new cemetery taking the committee’s report from Berlin into account. Four options were submitted in 1908 and after approval was given for one of them work began with the cemetery being consecrated in September 1909 by the Bishop of Liverpool. The first burial, that of Thomas Walsh, took place on 29th December that year.

Notable internmVc Ratcliffe grave Allerton cemeteryents in the cemetery include two recipients of the Victoria Cross, George Edward Nurse and William Ratcliffe, for bravery in the Boer War and 1st World War respectively. They both survived the campaigns in which they were involved, but the cemetery contains the remains of 399 servicemen from the two world wars who were killed performing their duty.

The cemetery has been extended three times over the years and covers a total sixty hectares. Either side of the main entrance on Woolton Road are two lodges, one of which is now a private residence while the other contains the city council’s cemetery offices. There are three chapels, one Church of England, one Roman Catholic and one Non-Conformist.

A humbling memorial in section CH2G is a stark reminder of the horrors and tragedies of war. This marks the grave of 21 year old Joseph Quinn, who died in April 1917 from an illness contracted whilst on duty with the Royal Naval Reserve. Underneath his name is that of his brother, 20 year old John, who was killed in action in France less than three months later and was interred there.

Grave of George Strong Lord Mayor of Liverpool 1933-34

A number of civic dignitaries are buried at Allerton, including George Alfred Strong, who was Lord Mayor of Liverpool 1933-34 and whose headstone is pictured. Whilst in office he welcomed King George V to Liverpool for the opening of the Queensway Tunnel connecting the city with Birkenhead.

John Lennon’s mothjulia Lennon graveer Julia was buried in Section CH38 after she was tragically knocked down by a car in Menlove Avenue in 1957. For decades the exact location of her grave was unknown and after it was discovered it was then marked by a wooden cross. In 2010 the unusually shaped gravestone pictured was added, simply containing the names of her four children and the word ‘Mummy’.

In 2002 Allerton and Toxteth Cemeteries were given Grade II listed status by English Heritage. It was recorded that Allerton was a good example of an Edwardian cemetery due to its original features remaining largely intact. Unlike in Liverpool’s other cemeteries, there are hardly any gravestones that have been damaged and had to be laid flat for public safety.

There are now over 80,000 people buried in Allerton Cemetery and on 20th August 2015 singer and television personality Cilla Black will be laid to rest there alongside her parents. Cilla’s real name is Priscilla Maria Veronica Willis (nee White) but her headstone will simply say ‘Here Lies Cilla the Singer’ in accordance with her wishes.




George Edward Nurse – Victoria Cross Awardee

George Edward Nurse (14 April 1873 – 25 November 1945) was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland but grew up in Guernsey where his father was a hotel keeper. Aged 18, he signed up with the Royal Artillery at Woolwich, having previously served in the Guernsey Militia. Promoted to Corporal, he was recalled for army service in 1899 as the Second Boer War broke out.

Victoria Cross Awarded

George won his Victoria Cross aged 26 at the Battle of Colenso on 15 December 1899. As a member of the 66th Battery, Royal Field Artillery of the British Army, he and three others made a dash across 500 yards of heavy bullet fire and shelling to replace dead, injured and fleeing comrades displaced from their guns. While Captain Walter Norris Congreve, Captain Harry Norton Schofield and Lieutenant Freddy Roberts helped harness a team of horses to a limber and line up one gun, George single-handedly limbered up a second gun. All four were awarded the VC for their bravery, Roberts posthumously. George escaped with only a minor wound to his hand.

Promoted to Sergeant for his efforts, his medal was presented on 4 March 1900 by Lieutenant-General Sir G Butler at Ladysmith in South Africa.

George went on to complete 22 years’ active service, ending in January 1914. But when the First World War broke out in August that same year, he quickly re-enlisted and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. Successfully surviving the hostilities, he retired to Liverpool with his wife and family in 1919.

George Edward Nurse VC RA, Allerton Cemetery, Liverpool

George Edward Nurse VC RA, Allerton Cemetery, Liverpool

In recognition of the battle in which he won his VC, George gave his son the middle name Colenso. In later years, he worked in the Liverpool Customs House on the cleaning staff. He died in Liverpool in 1945 and is buried in Allerton Cemetery. For many years, there was only a simple grave with no headstone to mark it, but a commemorative memorial headstone was erected in 1989.

His Victoria Cross, along with other medals won during his distinguished military career, is on display at the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, London.


Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.