Matthew Potter 2013

Limerick City Archives, Republic of Ireland

Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery, Limerick in the context of Irish municipal cemeteries

This paper will examine Limerick’s Mount Saint Lawrence in the context of the development of Irish municipal cemeteries. It will examine the circumstances of their establishment, their governance, dimensions, religious affiliation and funerary art. From 1830, garden cemeteries appeared all over Ireland. One of the first and most unusual was St Josephs in Cork which was founded by temperance reformer Fr Theobald Mathew when he purchased the defunct Botanic Gardens there in 1830. Dublin acquired two large cemeteries in the same decade, Glasnevin in 1832 and Mount Jerome in 1836. These were followed by Sligo Cemetery (1847), St Otteran’s Waterford (1848), Derry City Cemetery (1853) and both Balmoral, Belfast and Mount Saint Lawrence, Limerick in1855. In subsequent decades, municipal cemeteries were established in many smaller towns. Irish municipal cemeteries were administered in a number of different ways such as charitable trusts, Boards of Guardians, borough corporations and (very seldom) joint-stock companies. They also varied in size from Glasnevin (1.5 million burials) to St Patrick’s, Clonmel (12,000 burials) and religious affiliation (denominational, theoretically non-denominational, separate Catholic and Protestant sections). Irish funerary art is also of interest as it produced one of the most unique and striking funerary memorials, the Celtic cross, which expanded with the Irish diaspora to achieve a world-wide distribution. A survey of Irish municipal cemeteries has never been undertaken before and is a valuable case-study of the nineteenth cemetery in Britain’s ‘Celtic fringe.’


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