12 Things You Didn't Know About Glasgow's Necropolis
Glasgow’s Necropolis is revered the world over and considered a feat of architectural brilliance. With more than 50,000 people interred in its hallowed grounds, its unbelievable to imagine the Necropolis’ humble beginnings featuring one person being buried next to the Molendinar Burn.
Here are 12 things you probably didn’t know about Glasgow’s City of The Dead.
12. John Knox
Bizarrely, the first person to have a memorial built in their honour doesn’t have a grave there. Robert Stevenson McGill a Professor of Theology at Glasgow Uni suggested a statue be built of John Knox, leader of the Scottish Reformation. This memorial became the foundation stone of the Glasgow Necropolis. It was also the first statue built for John Knox throughout Scotland.
11. Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most famous architect is actually buried in London but his name is still synonymous with Necropolis heritage after designing a Celtic Cross for the grave of Andrew McCall. A high ranking member of the Glasgow Police Force and close personal friend of Mackintosh’s father. Literally the first individual creation of Mackintosh, who would later become one of the most famous artists in history.
10. Mitchell Library
Every single one of the 50,000 plus interred members of Glasgow’s City Of The Dead details were recorded. Every name, date, gender, cause of death, date of death and profession is available in the Mitchell Library’s archives.
The Glasgow Necropolis is multi-faith, the 50,000 residents are made up of Catholics, Protestants, Quakers, Jews, Lutherans and everybody else. Due to their beliefs the Jewish people buried in the Necropolis had to be buried in a separate plot.
8. First In
The first person to be buried in the newly developed Necropolis at the start of the 18th century, was jeweller Joseph Levi, who was in fact Jewish.
7. Wee Willie Winkie
One of the more random memorials in the Necropolis is the man responsible for the children’s nursery rhyme Wee Willie Winkie. William Miller, known as the “Laureate of the Nursery” was a poet who due to ill health gave up a career as a surgeon, instead becoming a cabinet maker and woodturning. During this time he began to write poetry usually in the Scottish language. They were published multiple times and in a variety of languages, gaining Miller fame during his lifetime.
6. Variety of Influences
Taking inspiration from Paris’ Pere Lachaise which was the largest cemetery in the city of Paris, and the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Members of the Merchants House, a wealthy group of individuals based in Glasgow, decided to create a Necropolis reflecting the wealth and brilliance of Glasgow at the time. After much deliberation it was decided that a landscape gardener rather than an architect would be better suited to create the ambitious burial ground.
5. Steal A Grave As Quick
Originally the Necropolis was supposed to be designed with catacombs running deep into the enormous hill looking onto Glasgow Cathedral. This was decided necessary because of the morbid but highly profitable “ressurectionist” industry. Where grave robbers would exhume the bodies of freshly deceased individuals and sell them to anatomists. The Anatomy Act of 1832 ensured that corpse robbing would no longer be a profitable industry and thus the need for an extensive winding set of catacombs ceased to be.
4. Charles Tennant
Arguably one of the world’s greatest businessmen, chemists and industrialists, Charles Tennant is buried in the Necropolis. Helping to transform the weaving industry, one of the most profitable industries of the time. Charles Tennant at the helm of his industrial company, St Rollox helped it expand into the largest chemical works in the world. He was also integral in the pursuit of liberal reforms for the people of Glasgow and without his influence the Scottish Reform Bill of 1832 might never have been passed.
3. Go The Distance
The Necropolis was expanded in 1860, 1877 and again in 1892/93 meaning by the end of the extension the City of The Dead covered more than 37 acres. (Nearly a quarter square mile.)
2. In Memorium
Of the 50,000 people buried in the Glasgow Necropolis, less than 5000 of them have a memorial erected in their memory. Less than 5% per cent of the total occupants of the Victorian site.
1. Conspiracy Theories
A fan of the Da Vinci code? The Necropolis has been called a 37 acre landscaped metaphor of Freemasonry. “Hidden in plain sight” as the old saying goes. With the majority of people involved in its creation well known Freemasons. The most well known members buried in the Necropolis were Freemasons and there are multiple Freemason symbols scattered throughout the site. The Pere Lachaise of which Glasgow’s main influence? Originally designed by the Freemason, Alexandre Theodore Brongniart.