Ronnie Scott 2009

Independent researcher

Exhuming St Mungo’s, Glasgow’s forgotten pioneer cemetery

The pioneering St Mungo’s Burying Ground, which was established by Glasgow Town Council in 1832, introduced a number of modern and rational improvements over the crowded churchyards of the city. The three drivers of the cemetery were a rapidly rising population, a cholera epidemic and a changing set of beliefs around burial and commemoration. The cemetery was remarkable in a number of ways: it was lit by gas, drained by sewers, planted with shrubs and had wide carriage roads round and through it. The publicity material placed an emphasis on amenity, security, hygiene, greenery, high-quality materials and designs, property rights and creating a space that would be pleasant for visitors. In many ways it was similar to the much larger Glasgow Necropolis, which was developed by the Merchants House of Glasgow and which opened the following year, but it proved far less fashionable, and was soon overshadowed by its nearby rival. After an initial flurry of sales, trade dropped off, and part of the property was sold in 1859. The ground was closed under the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1867, and the site was finally cleared in 1902. This paper explores how an emergency provision for disposing of the victims of cholera became a pioneering cemetery, through the actions of James Cleland (1770-1840), the energetic and prolific Superintendent of Public Works of the town council.


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