Ronnie Scott 2006

Independent researcher

The cemetery and the city: the origins of the Glasgow Necropolis, 1825-1857

The Glasgow Necropolis, the first garden or ornamental cemetery in Scotland, opened in spring 1833 on what had been a private park, on a hill opposite the city’s medieval cathedral. The cemetery was developed by the Merchants’ House, one of the two burgess institutions in the city, as both a civic amenity and a way of turning an unproductive asset into a profitable concern. The Necropolis soon became a significant cultural enterprise, attracting the custom of the emerging middle classes and the attention of visitors to the city. This paper outlines the development of the cemetery, and examines how its proponents gave the site and its structures meanings that contributed to the commercial and cultural success of the project. The paper also summarises how the public, visitors and other commentators responded to the cemetery and to these intended meanings. Père Lachaise was an important cultural reference point for the Necropolis and its developers, featuring in the first informal and formal proposals for a garden cemetery in Glasgow. This paper discusses to what extent the French pioneering cemetery was used as a blueprint or as a validation for the proposal, which created a significantly different landscape and symbolic institution from the Parisian exemplar. Finally, the paper explores the early funerals and monuments that were enacted and constructed in the Necropolis, demonstrating that the people of Glasgow not only embraced but extended the meanings given to this important symbolic space by its promoters.


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