WORK BEGINS

John Dobson was appointed architect. Work began in 1835 when land was drained, three-metre walls erected to enclose the triangular site, and construction got under way. During the following year a sexton-gardener was appointed at 18 shillings a week, with free accommodation and coal, and he assisted the architect in the laying out of the serpentine paths and the planting of trees and shrubs.

John Dobsonís achievement is impressive. The main entrance from Cemetery Road (now Jesmond Road) has a huge arch surmounted by two square towers. On either side were the two chapels, Church of England to the west, and non-conformist to the east, in local sandstone ash-lar, built in the classical Grecian style. The imposing entrance leaves no doubt that this is the gateway to a solemn place, no public park or country house. The buildings also contained accommodation for the resident cemetery superintendent and his office for books and registers. Beneath the buildings were the catacombs, 22 large shelved enclosures identified by Roman numerals. They were, like vaults, below churches, designed for the permanent storage of compulsory lead-lined (air-tight) coffins. However, there seems to be no evidence that they were used as such and they probably functioned as mortuary vaults to store the coffins before burial at a time when funeral parlours were much rarer than today. It may be that the catacombs were used during World War Two as a temporary accommodation for victims of a local air raid.

Today the Archaeology Department of Tyne and Wear Museums and the County Archaeologist occupy the buildings and store equipment in the catacombs.

At the south side of the cemetery on Benton Lane (now Sandyford Road) was a single storey lodge (now disused) for the sexton, standing beside massive square sandstone pillars, again in the Grecian style, with iron gates.

The high wall surrounding the cemetery was built to deter bodysnatchers and is very different from the railings and low wall of All Saints Cemetery opposite, built some 20 years later. By that time the 1832 Anatomy Act, which stated that medical schools could use any unclaimed corpses (not just criminals) once 48 hours as elapsed, had put most bodysnatchers out of work.

Read More: Open For Burials

 
  Site Map