Warriston Cemetery is a fascinating place to explore and while staying with friends in Edinburgh who live close to the cemetery we took a walk inside. The older part of the cemetery is completely overgrown and abandoned so this really adds to the atmosphere of the place with gravestones sticking out from the ground at odd angles as you make your way through the thick trees and undergrowth.
Warriston Cemetery lies in Warriston, one of the northern suburbs of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was built by the then newly-formed Edinburgh Cemetery Company, and occupies around 14 acres (5.7 ha) of land on a slightly sloping site. It contains many tens of thousands of graves, including notable Victorian and Edwardian figures, the most eminent being the physician Sir James Young Simpson.
It is located on the north side of the Water of Leith, and has an impressive landscape; partly planned, partly unplanned due to recent neglect. It lies in the Inverleith Conservation Area and is also a designated Local Nature Conservation Site. The cemetery is protected as a Category A listed building.
In July 2013 the Friends of Warriston Cemetery was inaugurated to reveal the heritage and to encourage appropriate biodiversity.
Designed in 1842 by Edinburgh architect David Cousin, the cemetery opened in 1843: the first interment was towards the east, Margaret Barker, who was buried on 3 June 1843.
It was the first garden cemetery in Edinburgh, allowing the simplistic original title of The Edinburgh Cemetery, and provided a model for several other Scottish cemeteries. In its own right it was broadly based on ideas first introduced at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Designed elements include a neo-Tudor line of catacombs. Their length was doubled in 1862 by architect John Dick Peddie. The chapel that once stood on top of the catacombs was removed in the 1980s.
Soon after instigation (in 1845) the cemetery was divided by the Edinburgh Leith and Newhaven Railway which was built east to west through its southern half. A tunnel was added, with Gothic archways at its mouths, to link the north and south sections, but the south being smaller, was the inferior area from this date onwards. The embankments of the railway have been partly removed following its closure in the 1950s, and the line is now a public walkway.
In 1929 the Edinburgh Cemetery Company expanded their business into the new field of cremation, converting East Warriston House (1818) into Warriston Crematorium on an adjacent site to the east. The architect was Sir Robert Lorimer, hence the title Lorimer Chapel for the main chapel. The crematorium was extended to the west in 1967 by the architect Esme Gordon. The cemetery lodge to the north-west dates from 1931 and was designed by architect J.R.McKay.
The cemetery was in private ownership until 1994, when it was compulsorily purchased by the City of Edinburgh Council. The long task of restoring the heavily overgrown and vandalised cemetery has begun, but still has far to go. Currently only the upper (westmost) section is maintained. Many sections are now so densely overgrown that the stones are no longer visible and are simply bumps in the green undergrowth.
The Robertson mortuary chapel was erected in 1865 for Mary Ann Robertson (1826–1858), daughter of Brigadier-General Manson of the Bombay Artillery. The white marble shrine contained a sculpture of a reclining female figure, and was topped by a red glass roof, leading to the local nickname, the Tomb of the Red Lady. The monument was heavily vandalised and had to be demolished in the late 1980s.
Sir James Young Simpson’s grave remains visible but the lower section has been infilled with earth to provide space for further burial.
Several eminent sculptors work is found in the cemetery, including a fine portrait of William Young, horticulturist (1816–1896) by William Birnie Rhind, a monument to Robert Bryson by Thomas Stuart Burnett, and a wealth of fine ornate Celtic crosses by the McGlashens. A sizeable arched pedestal to the Rev James Peddie (died 1845) by John Dick Peddie is also of note.
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