The Cemetery


Manchester General Cemetery has also been known as Queen's Park Cemetery and Harpurhey Cemetery and is located on Rochdale Road, a mile or so to the north of Manchester City Centre. It opened on 1st September 1837 and was the first cemetery in Manchester to provide burial space on a large scale. The Cemetery was originally privately owned and is now in the ownership of Manchester City Council.


It was 1833 when discussions and notices in the newspapers were held in regards to establishing a new public cemetery on a large scale in Manchester. Plans were announced for the establishment of a public burial ground to be known as Manchester General Cemetery, in response to the planned removal of burial grounds away from large and densely populated areas due to health considerations and the need for Manchester to have a public burial ground to match the importance and wealth of the City.  Advertisements appeared in the newspaper for shares to be purchased and were soon taken up.  Eleven acres of land was purchased from Mr Jonathan Andrew Esq., next to Hendham Hall in May 1836. An open design competition was won by Doncaster architect,  William Lambie Moffatt, for the design of entrance buildings comprising of a large carriage entrance, pedestrian entrances, a non-conformist mortuary chapel, a registrar's house and administration offices all to be constructed in a neo-classical style. 

chapels bakc man gen cem.JPG
©Britain from Above
chapels back manc gen cem.JPG
©Britain from Above

The entrance from Rochdale Road is the main carriage entrance into the cemetery, passing through a gated archway with pedestrian gated entrances on either side, from which ornamental parapet walls extend right and left to form the front enclosure.  To the left, inside the entrance, is the Chapel and on the right is the Registrar’s house both identical in Grecian design. Each having a portico of four Ionic columns with their bases resting on the parapet walls a simple example of the Temple of Theseus at Athens. Two more porticos of columns on each building stand at the back of the buildings facing the cemetery grounds.

The Chapel stands 61 feet long outside, 41 feet long by 26 feet wide inside

and also in the Grecian style.  Moulding on the panelled ceiling is simple

but effective. Each door and window is framed with simple ornamental

stone similar to the outside.  The pulpit has the same style of simplicity.

Beneath the whole length of the Chapel are catacombs/vaults with

access via the east portico.   The Registrar’s house has very comfortable

accommodation for a family and the lounge has a view of the cemetery.

Leading into the Cemetery the grounds are beautifully laid out with

shrubs and flowers and trees.  One half of the grounds – six acres 

is an oblong square which gently inclines downwards from the entrance,

at the bottom of the slope are sixty-two vaults with birch walls and a

mausoleum in four compartments raised above the level and which

form a sort bridge/pathway to the land which is an oval gradual

incline sloping up to a level surface stretching in width towards the

far end of the Cemetery with a steep drop at the back and

right hand side of the boundary of land. A pond stretches between

the Cemetery and Queens Park. The entire Cemetery is enclosed with high brick walls.

Chapel & Registrar's Back view

Opening Ceremony


The entrance buildings were not completed when the opening ceremony was due to take place and scaffolding had to be removed from the chapel buildings.


On Friday 1st September at 10.15 am the Committee of Management invited many of the shareholders and their friends to assemble at the home of Mr James Frost, the honorary secretary, at number 30 Oldham Street.  Others met at Stevenson’s Square for the procession before making their way to the Cemetery. 


Arriving shortly before 11.00 am at the Cemetery, the first coach contained Mr Frost and two gentlemen of the committee with Mr Moffatt, the Architect. The registrar-elect descended from the second coach Rev. J Wood – Independent Minister from Huddersfield, Rev. Isaac Birt – Baptist Minister – York Street Chapel, Rev. Alexander Bell – Wesleyan Methodist Minister of Oldham Street Chapel Manchester and Rev. Fletcher – Independent Minister of Grosvenor Street Chapel, Manchester. The third coach contained Rev. Mr Howarth – Minster of the New Jerusalem Chapel, Rev. Mr Wheeldon – Independent Minister of Every Street Chapel, Manchester, Rev. Mr Parsons – Independent Minister of Manchester, Rev. Mr Whitworth – Independent Minister of Chorlton-on-Medlock. The following coaches contained other members of the committee and ladies and gentlemen friends.

The Assemblage and Ministers were greeted at the entrance of the Cemetery by William Chandler, Esq., the president of the institution, Joseph Leese Esq., and the managing committee.  Mrs Walker of Whitehouses, Collyhurst offically opened the Cemetery, forming a procession all partook in a walk around the Cemetery showing admiration before making their way into the Chapel filled with a congregation,  where a platform had been erected for the Ministers.  Rev. John Wood, the Registrar gave an appropriate hymn, Rev. Richard Fletcher, independent minister for Grosvenor St Chapel read the 23rd chapter of Genesis, which narrates the purchase for a burial ground by Abraham, of Lphron the Hittite. Mr Fletcher next offered a prayer and another suitable hymn. The Rev., J. Birt Baptist Minister, addressed the congregation; a hymn sang an address followed by Wesleyan Minister Oldham St Chapel Rev. Alexander Bell closing the ceremony.  The majority of persons present of shareholders and friends then adjourned to the Harpurhey Sunday School for a cold collation provided by the committee.      


Later the same day after the opening, a burial took place of nine year old Marion Segate Watt. (General Records Office has this registered as Marion Legate Wall & FreeBMD has it transcribed as Marion Legatee Watt)

The first burial, of a still born child took place 31st August 1837 before the Cemetery was officially opened.

Manchester General Cemetery
Ariel View 1937
with kind permission of Britain from Above
Church of England Chapel

It was 1847 when the Committee proposed to set aside portion of Cemetery Ground for Church of England with a Chapel.  On 9th June 1848 the House of Lords Royal Assent was given by commission to the Private Bill of consecrating a portion of land in the Cemetery for use by the Church of England. Parliament requires that a Chapel be built within two years of consecrating.

In August 1848 the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend James Price Lee, visited the Cemetery for the purpose of inspecting the grounds, a portion of which would soon be consecrated. The Bishop was accompanied by the Dean, his secretary John Burder Esq., members of the committee, the Chairman and Mr Bell the surveyor. The Bishop returned to the Cemetery on 14th November 1848 to consecrate 23,000 yards of the Cemetery in the North West section for Church of England burials.  

It was the 9th June 1855 before work commenced. The laying of the new corner stone known as St James' Chapel, on consecrated ground by the Lord Bishop of Manchester.  Rev. Charles Marshall, M.A. rector of Cemetery offered up a special prayer.  Cemetery Committee Chairman Mr William Crippen presents the Lord Bishop a handsome silver trowel with appropriate inscription.  The Chapel of a neut structure of Pierpoint and stone dressings, 43 feet by 25 feet accommodating 112 persons, a tower and spire about 60 feet high at the south west angle and costing nearly £700. The Committee commissioned Mr William Newby, Architect to design the Chapel which opened 23 December 1855 for services.

Sadly the Chapel was demolished in the early 1950's.

On Saturday 2nd December 1848 the first burial in Consecrated land

took place, tha of Kate Sweeting, aged 18 months.  The gravestone is inscribed: "The First Interment in this Consecrated Ground" 



St James Church of England Chapel


Manchester General Cemetery

showing the Chapel

which was demolished in 1952.

Yates Memorial Card.jpg

This beautifully intricate memorial card commemorates the deaths and burial of brothers, James and Alfred Yates, who were the sons of Charles and Elizabeth Ann Yates.  They died within weeks of each other.   Both were interred in Manchester General Cemetery but their names do not appear on the Non Conformist burial register so this would indicate that they were buried in one of the Church of England plots as the Church of England burial registers prior to March 1886 have not survived. 

So far the MGCTP team have not located a gravestone so it is not possible to identify the exact location of the grave.

 Right: Consecrated 2324 (circa 1892)
Far Right: Consecrated 2324 (2013)

(Historical photograph donated by Mr Peaker and 

used with his kind permission)

©Mr Peaker

The Cemetery remains in occasional use today however new burials are restricted to existing grave owners only.

There are roughly 96,456 burials recorded in the Burial Registers.  To date we have a total of over 102,000 indexed.  

The Burial Registers for this section prior to this date haven’t survived so the only record of the burials will be the transcriptions recorded from the gravestones. When completed we will add these to the current total.