A Place to Rest – in Peace

The two main cemeteries in Nottingham during the 1800’s were the General Cemetery and the Church Cemetery, locally known as the Rock Cemetery. Both were conceived either side of the 1845 Enclosure Act and both benefited from the Act.

The cemeteries were built on lands known as the Sand Fields around Nottingham. Today we would describe them as ‘Brown Field’ sites.

During the early to mid-1800’s many of the smaller cemeteries associated with churches in Nottingham were overcrowded to an extent where they would be deemed ‘full’. Therefore, there was a need for larger public cemeteries to be built on the outskirts of an ever expanding Nottingham.

General Cemetery 2015 image: K Powell

General Cemetery 2015
image: K Powell

The General Cemetery

The General Cemetery was created by the General Cemetery Company in 1836. Its creation required a special Act of Parliament and once passed, it was given Royal Assent on the 19th May 1836.

The Trustees of the Company purchased land adjacent to Derby Road, what we now refer to as Canning Circus. Initially, twelve acres of land were purchased for the sum of £6000 with the intention of creating a ‘Church of England’ cemetery. Once completed, the Cemetery was consecrated. The first interment took place on the 9th February 1837.


General Cemetery: Almshouses 2016 image: K Powell

General Cemetery: Almshouses 2016
image: K Powell

By 1841, the ‘Almshouses’ which we see today at Canning Circus and also a ‘Mortuary Chapel’, resembling a Greek Temple, had been built by the Company, who employed the architect Samuel S. Rawlinson.

The cemetery’s initial twelve acres were increased with the coming of the 1845 Enclosure Act, adding a further four acres and later incorporating another four acres for the burial of non-conformist and dissenters. The cemetery now covered an area of 20 acres and extended from Canning Circus down to Waverley Street, and was located opposite the Arboretum.

By 1865, an additional Mortuary Chapel for use by non-conformists and also a cottage known as ‘Ivy Cottage’ had been built in the lower part of the cemetery. Both of the Mortuary Chapels and the cottage would be demolished in 1958 by Nottingham City Council.

By 1923, over 150,000 bodies had been buried in the cemetery.

The Church (Rock) Cemetery

With the coming of the 1845 Enclosure Act, land was provided for the purpose of recreation and also, a new cemetery, and so the Church Cemetery came into being.

The land designated for the cemetery was part of the Sand Fields and had previously been used for the extraction of sand and it was this that gave the site its distinctive shape.

The concept for the Church Cemetery began on June 6th 1850, with a meeting in the Exchange Hall on Thurland Street. The meeting was presided over by the Bishop of Lincoln, as Nottingham fell within the Lincoln diocese at that time.

Initially, the area for the Cemetery was to be four acres; however, once the Church Cemetery Company was formed on the 16th April 1851, the company added a further nine acres to the site making a total of thirteen acres.

The Cemetery’s proposed layout was overseen by Edwin Patchitt, a local solicitor and clerk to the Church Cemetery Company. The boundaries of the cemetery comprise Forest Road, Mansfield Road and to its northern edge The Forest Recreation Ground. Within the site are the various caves and, more importantly, the St. Ann’s Valley, a large deep man-made valley, which is accessed by a steep walled pathway.

Post card of Church Cemetery, Rock Valley c.1900

Post card of Church Cemetery, Rock Valley c.1900

Church Cemetery, Rock Valley 2016 image: K Powell

Church Cemetery, Rock Valley 2016
image: K Powell










The sandstone caves and sections of the St Ann’s Valley were conceived to be suitable as catacombs for the burial of those with sufficient means to purchase one. However, although partially built, the idea of catacombs never really came to fruition.

Construction of the cemetery began between 1851 and 1852 and was completed by 1856. The majority of the windmills that dominated the top part of the site along Forest Road were relocated.

The cemetery was consecrated and officially opened on the 18th June 1856. The first burial, which took place two days later, was of a ten-month old baby boy named Taylor Cuckson.

In 1865, a Lodge House was built adjacent to the main entrance gate.

What the cemetery did not have was a mortuary chapel, but this was remedied. Between 1878 and 1879, a Mortuary Chapel was built, designed by the architect Edward William Godwin.

The Chapel opened in 1879 and dominated the centre of the site. Sadly the Chapel fell into a state of disrepair and was demolished in 1965 after Nottingham City Council took over the running of the cemetery.

Today the Cemetery has some 43,000 bodies buried there.


And so both the General Cemetery and the Church Cemetery flourished into the 20th century, providing a final resting place for loved ones.

However, not all things were ‘rosy’. Whereas the Church Cemetery Company seemed to be run on an even keel, the General Cemetery Company had started to founder. In 1923, the then Medical Officer for Health in Nottingham, Dr. Philip Boobbyer, expressed concerns over the burial plots. It was found that the graves in the General Cemetery were being sited too close together and bodies were not buried at a sufficient depth; that is, less than three feet from the surface and closer than the two feet required between graves. These findings broke Home Office guidelines and, therefore Dr. Boobbyer sought to have the cemetery closed.

In 1927, the cemetery was closed by Act of Parliament. Later, due to financial problems, the cemetery became Crown Property and ownership was transferred to Nottingham City Council in 1956.


Both of the cemeteries are deemed ‘historical’ and today burials are only permitted if a member of your family is interred there.

They stand as a testament to the great and the good and show the skill of the monumental masons who created the majestic tombs and statues that adorn some of the graves.

For decades the people of Nottingham have utilised these cemeteries for the burial of their loved ones, they have become places to wander through, to reflect and remember treasured moments.

They truly are a Place to Rest – in Peace.




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