Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
NS 60464 65511
260464, 665511

Set on a prominent hill above Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis is one of Scotland's first planned garden cemeteries created in Victorian times and contains outstanding tombs and architectural features by eminent designers such as Alexander 'Greek' Thomson.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The Necropolis was widely regarded as an outstanding Work of Art in the mid-19th century and the many architects involved in its design give it outstanding value in this category.


Level of interest

The Necropolis has great Historical value as it is an outstanding example of a Victorian cemetery which was designed to provide style and status as a 'City of the Dead'.


Level of interest

The Necropolis has no Horticultural value.


Level of interest

The Necropolis has outstanding Architectural value as it provides the setting for features of exceptional architectural interest.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The Necropolis has outstanding Scenic value by virtue of its prominent setting and contrast with the surrounding landscape.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The Necropolis has no Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

The Necropolis is situated approximately .05 mile (1km) east of the centre of Glasgow. The Cathedral and Royal Infirmary lie to the west, separated by Wishart Street which forms the western boundary of the site. Firpark Street forms the eastern boundary and the two converge at Alexandra Parade on the north edge of the Necropolis. John Knox Street (formerly Ladywell Street) marks the southern boundary. The Bridge of Sighs crosses Wishart Street and extends west along the southern boundary of Glasgow Cathedral cemetery to link the site with Cathedral Square. The Necropolis was deliberately sited on its prominent hill-top setting previously known as Fir Park. It was thought that an ornamental cemetery would harmonise with the surrounding scenery and constitute 'a solemn and appropriate appendage to the Cathedral'.

Since its establishment, the surrounding landscape has changed considerably; the Molendinar Burn which once ran along the western boundary was piped underground in 1877. The urban and industrial extensions of the east end of Glasgow are now prominent from the site. The panoramic views from the hill on which the site stands are retained although their content has changed. The addition of multi-storey buildings in the area has lowered the significance of the Necropolis in the broad landscape but the tombs on the skyline and the verdant nature of the site render it highly significant from the surrounding roads and the M8 motorway which lies to the north.

The Necropolis was set out on terraces on the slopes of the former Fir Park which was previously dominated by the John Knox Monument. The original site was extended to the north and south-east in 1877 and again in 1892, to its present 37 acre (15ha) size. A quarry remains at the south-east corner of the site. A steep escarpment separates the original site from the extension areas to the south.

Site History

The site was developed as a pleasure ground in the early 19th century. The Necropolis was largely created between 1828-1900. Several eminent designers of the Victorian period including Alexander 'Greek' Thomson were involved in the design of the tombs which are set on terraces around the hill.

The Necropolis was the first planned cemetery in Glasgow and was begun in 1828. Prior to this, burial outwith a churchyard had been reserved for the unbaptised or lunatics. Death from typhoid, cholera and fever was becoming increasingly common and there was a concern that epidemics would be spread by unhygienic burial practices. The middle classes wanted to protect themselves against these risks. The Merchants' House, founded in 1605, was a powerful organisation representing those holders who had progressed during the time when Glasgow was indeed the Second City of the Empire. They commissioned the Necropolis, partly to serve the additional purpose of providing a monument to the wealth and standing in society which had been achieved by the members. The land on which the Necropolis was built was originally part of the Wester Craig estate and had been purchased by the Merchants' House in 1650 from Stewart of Mynto. The Merchants' House quarried much of its land in the 18th century but the western slopes of the lands of Fir Park were incapable of being quarried and it was so called as the banks were planted with fir trees. In the early 19th century, the fir trees began to die back and were removed. The area had become a pleasure ground after new planting of mainly elm and willow was carried out, the construction of a walled enclosure around the premises, and the appointment of a Keeper.

In 1828 it was agreed that a Necropolis would be formed on the site consisting of around 1800 plots. Design entries were invited in newspapers and sixteen proposals were submitted. The proposals of the winner, David Bryce, and four other entrants were combined by the judges and 'improved as one'. A landscape gardener was ultimately appointed to carry out the work.

By the mid-19th century, the Necropolis was much admired, 'all the monuments in the Glasgow cemetery' conveying the 'dignified idea of being built' (Loudon). George Blair in his 'Biographic and Descriptive Sketches of the Glasgow Necropolis' in 1854 regarded the Necropolis as the Westminster Abbey of Glasgow. Nearly every eminent Glaswegian who died between 1832-1867 was either interred within the Necropolis or was represented by a cenotaph and it was 'a favourite resort of our citizens as well as a principal attraction to strangers visiting Glasgow'. When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Glasgow in 1849, the beautiful view of the Necropolis was greatly admired (James Stevens Curl, A Celebration of Death).

The Necropolis was to be non-denominational. The first interment was made in 1832. Since then, some 50,000 people have been buried in 3,500 tombs. Necessary extensions were made in 1877 and 1892 but these areas were never as popular as the main site. After 1900 the use of the Necropolis declined. Only one tomb, for the Blackie family, was created after this time. In 1966 the Merchants' House gave the site, with an endowment, to the City of Glasgow Corporation.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The monuments of the Necropolis are collectively listed (LB33890). The entrance gates were designed by D. & J. Hamilton in 1838, who also designed Cemetery Lodge between 1839-40. It was built by the west side of the Bridge of Sighs, designed in 1833, again by D. & J. Hamilton, to span Wishart Street. The Superintendent's House built in 1848 stands between the gates and the Bridge.

Monuments of particular note include the John Knox Monument, designed by Thomas Hamilton and sculpted by Robert Forrest in 1825; the Facade to the Jews' Enclosure, designed by John Bryce c.1836; the A.O. Beattie Monument, designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson in 1858; the William Motherwell Monument, designed by James Fillans c.1851; the Buchanans of Bellfield Mausoleum, designed c.1850 by Mossman; the W. Rae Wilson Monument, designed by J.A. Bell c.1849; the John Houldsworth Mausoleum, designed in 1854 by John Thomas; the Archibald Douglas Monteith Mausoleum, designed 1842 by David Cousin. J.T. Rochead designed the Dunn of Duntocher Mausoleum in 1848 and the James Davidson of Ruchill Mausoleum in 1851; and James Hamilton designed the John Henry Alexander Monument in 1851 and the Aikens of Dalmoak Mausoleum in c.1875.

Landscape Components - Architectural Features updated 2018.




Printed Sources

James Steven Curl, 1980, 'A Celebration of Death', Constable

Constitution, regulations etc. of the original southern Necropolis

J. Garden History, Vol 4, No.3, Sept 1984, p233-4

GM 1842

City of Glasgow District Council,

The Glasgow Necropolis

George Blair, Biographic & Descriptive sketches of The Glasgow Necropolis 1857

J.C. Loudon, 1824


About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

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Printed: 21/05/2024 02:47