Hélène Bradley-Davies 2015

Department of Geography, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick City, Republic of Ireland

The spatial and temporal development of a cemetery landscape: the municipal cemetery of Mount Saint Lawrence, Limerick City

The municipal cemetery of Mount Saint Lawrence opened on the 29th of March 1849. Located on the periphery of the then city, the fourteen-acre site initially proved unattractive and the ‘new’ cemetery had to wait until 1855 for its first burial. Burials gradually increased over the ensuing decades, averaging at about 600 per year from the 1880s to the 1950s. The cemetery eventually became the key burial place for all classes of society in Limerick and as such mirrors the social geography of the city over the last 150 years. This paper aims to firstly, reconstruct the spatial and temporal development of the surface geography of the cemetery, through a mapped analysis of the first inscriptions on the 7,805 extant grave memorials. Secondly, the degree to which social class and status determined the cemetery’s geography will be investigated.  In order to explore this, an examination of the cemetery’s burial register will also be made, as many of those interred left no permanent marker above ground. This is particularly prevalent in the ‘Poor Square’ and the ‘Angle’ where numerous former residents of the city’s public and religious institutions are buried. Despite the high density of burials at these locations (in particular in the latter decades of the 19th century) there appears to have been a clear systematic plan for burial in place. The analysis contained in this paper has been facilitated by an extensive survey of both field and documentary evidence by staff and students of the Departments of Geography and History at Mary Immaculate College and by staff of Limerick Museum and Archives and the IT Division of Limerick City and County Council.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract