Peter Jupp 2011

University of Durham

Mortonhall Cemetery and Crematorium: the search for burial space in south Edinburgh, 1945-1967

In 1945, the City of Edinburgh took up its responsibilities for post-War reconstruction. Allocating sufficient space for needs of housing, schools, agriculture, transport and burials proved increasingly complex. The Victorian solution had been to supplement the old parish churchyards by a reliance on private cemeteries but only three more private cemeteries had been opened between 1898 and 1928. Warriston Crematorium was opened in 1929 and by 1939 was the place of committal for one-sixth of the City’s deaths. Leith Crematorium opened in 1939. However, both these buildings were in the north of the City. Whilst the death rate was declining, the boundaries of the City were expanding again to the south; the need for burial space in the south became pressing as the inter-war process of suburbanisation was about to recommence as soon as the War was over.

From 1945 the City Council sought for solutions to their problem, focussing on extending the churchyards of the old Colinton and Liberton parishes. The eventual result was Mortonhall Cemetery (opened 1960) and Crematorium (opened 1967). The former was Edinburgh’s first in initiative in providing a new cemetery; the latter has proved so successful that the City has not yet needed a successor. The paper traces the successive difficulties and decisions in the project which took twenty-two years to complete.


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