This is a sister site of Leicester Research

Welford Road Cemetery

cemetery view

The building of a new cemetery was first mooted in 1843 when the leaders of Leicester's dissenting congregations proposed the establishment of a cemetery for
their own exclusive use. However, it soon became clear that if a new cemetery were
to be built it would have to cater for all religions. An Act of Parliament to establish a cemetery was obtained and on 19 June 1849, in the pouring rain, the cemetery
was opened by the mayor, William Biggs.

It was a much needed addition to the town's burial grounds,
for up until then Leicester's dead had been interred in one of the town's seven churchyards or seventeen chapel burial grounds - a total of about 9 acres.

Since records began in the early 1600s there had been over 83,000 registered burials
in Leicester. However, since the church yards had been in use for hundreds of years before this, there must have been at least 150,000 interments. In the case of
St Margaret's the sexton estimated that some graves were
being used for the 21st time.

cemetery view

Once it was decided to have the cemetery the next question was to consider the site. The main consideration was that it had to be on the outskirts of the town and in this respect the Welford Road site was ideal. William Biggs hoped that the site would become a place of resort for the people of Leicester.

Indeed he said that he had seen cemeteries in many countries, but never one
with a location so superior as that for Leicester. The views, he said, were wonderful - the valley of the Soar and the distant hills of Charnwood Forest -
"one of the grandest views in England".

poem pic
Welford Road Cemetery
Max Wade-Matthews

Ivy covered monuments to the past;
Giving answers to questions never asked.
Iron angels pushing up towards the sky;
As in the ground Victorian Lestrians' lie.
Thomas Cook rests here, trav'ling days now done;
and David Vaughan, his earthly journey run.
Here lies John Biggs, mayor three times, MP too;
His brother Will planned this cemet'ry new.
Champion cyclist Bert Harris sleeps here;
His last ride at Birmingham cost him dear.
William Gardiner lies with his friends;
Beethoven's music with him does ascend.
Wakerley, Goddard, Hames and Barradale;
Their buildings still stand in wind, storm and gale.
John Flower's drawings, they remind us all
How Leicester looked before the old did fall.
Ivy covered monuments to the past;
Giving answers to questions never asked.

cemetery gate
The main gates of the cemetery display the city cinquefoil arms. The gateposts used to be topped with a carved wyvern, but these were stolen in 1990.


The Chapels


The chapels (one for Anglicans and the other for non-conformists) were built by
Hamilton & Medland, a Worcester-based business, which had already built the cemeteries in Plymouth and Birmingham. However, before the completion of the
work Mr Hamilton decamped to the USA leaving his erstwhile partner,
James Medland to complete the work.

By September 1850 the chapels were ready and the Bishop of Peterborough consecrated the area that was to be used for the interment of persons
according to the rites of the Church of England. This covered half the area,
the other half being for members of dissenting congregations,
including Roman Catholics.

In 1958 the chapels were deemed to be unsafe and were demolished.

The Lodge


In 1991 the Lodge, which was in an awful condition, was restored and converted
for use by the University as the Chaplin's Centre.

Index of notable people buried in Welford Road Cemetery

2001 Leicester Research