Looking forward to Glasgow Necropolis

On Monday I will be visiting for the first time, one of the cemeteries I am using as a case-study for my thesis; Glasgow Necropolis. This beautiful cemetery is an extremely fine example of Victorian funerary art. The Necropolis was the first garden cemetery in Scotland, directly inspired by Pere Lachaise in Paris, and one of the first to be constructed in the whole of the British Isles. The quality of memorials and sculptures in the Necropolis is exceptional, and so the cemetery is B – listed by Historic Scotland, and some of the individual memorials are A – listed. Its importance as a designed landscape also earns it an inclusion in the national gardens inventory (Scott 2005) and soon I shall finally see this wonderful place for myself.

To help me find my way around, I sent off for the Glasgow Necropolis tour guide by Ruth Johnston (2006) from the website of The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis (available here). This full colour guide has a map and photographs of all the monuments included in the tour. The full tour has 60 sites of interest and takes around 2 hours. This guide is a companion to Johnston’s ‘Glasgow Necropolis Afterlives; tales of internments’ (2007) which includes more memorials, more details and other information about the cemetery (also available here). I also have Ronnie Scott’s fabulous pocket-sized book about the Necropolis ‘Death by Design’ (2005) which has line illustrations of some monuments (really useful for making out the detail of carvings and symbolism) and a wealth of information about the history of the Necropolis and the individuals commemorated (appears to be out of print, but some copies available on amazon). Scott’s book takes the form of a walking tour. I have 2 days in the necropolis on this visit so I will be taking both tours!

Scott warns in the introduction to ‘Death by Design’ that the Necropolis can be windy and therefore colder than the city centre (Scott 2005; x), so for my January visit I’ll be wearing thermals and plenty of layers! It also advises caution on slippery grass and to avoid leaning memorials to prevent accidents (Scott 2005; xix) so I’ll be lacing up my trusty steel-toe cap DM’s for extra grip and support; shoes which appear to have been through several world wars, but in fact are merely showing the effects of nearly 6 years of fieldwork.

My sample for recording will be the 58 memorials named in Johnston’s tour guide. The date range is spread fairly evenly across the period studied for my thesis, 1800-1915. The cemetery opened in 1833, but there was already one monument on the site from 1825; a statue commemorating the 16h century cleric, John Knox, which towers above The Necropolis. The latest monument on the tour is from 1910.

memorials at glasgow graph

 This distribution of dates is very fortunate because I have found that locating monuments which are not marked on a reliable map can be very time consuming. When I’m doing fieldwork in places far from home it’s always nice not to worry about a repeat of the ‘Paris incident’, when I almost missed my flight because I couldn’t find the last monument in my sample!

NB: I noticed today that a book called The Glasgow Graveyard Guide is now available. I’ve sent off for a copy, so maybe it will be of use on subsequent visits to The Necropolis!

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