There are a number of burial sites and cemeteries in Manchester which have themselves been buried over the years – whether by layers of history or new structures. Here Michala Hulme gives an account of some of the city's secrets:

St Augustine’s Catholic Burial Ground, Granby Row 1820-1909

Date: 1820-1908

Location: Granby Row. The burial ground has long since been demolished and the land now forms part of the University of Manchester campus.

Directions: If you walk down Sackville Street and then turn left on to Granby Row, the burial ground was situated on the left hand side.

History: The burial ground at St Augustine’s was officially opened in 1820. It was situated on Granby Row and access could also be gained via pump Street. The burial ground had only been open a few years when it became the focus of some unwanted criminal activity. In 1824, two men named William Harrison and William Johnson, went into the cemetery while it was dark and stole a body from one of the freshly interred graves. They were later apprehended and sent to Lancaster Castle.

In 1854, the burial ground was deemed as full and a risk to human health and was officially closed for new burials. That same year, excavations for a new schoolrooms took place in a part of the burial ground near Pump Street. Whilst digging up the earth, the builders discovered that there was 18 layers of coffins packed on top of each other in such a small space, that every time one of the builders sank their spade into the ground, they hit a body. The Manchester Courier described the scene of the excavation as ‘sickening’ with a ‘most noisome smell’ and ‘black unctuous matter’ coming from the excavation pits.

The church of St Augustine’s remained in use until 1908 and a year later the church and the burial ground were sold to the Manchester Corporation. The Corporation wanted the land to build the Manchester Technical College, which later became UMIST and is part of Manchester University’s campus. 

Ardwick Cemetery

Date: 1830-1950

Location: Summer Place (later called Devonshire Street), off Hyde Road

Directions: If you head out of Manchester, past Ardwick Green and onto Hyde Road, keep walking and on the left there is a small road called Ford Street, the cemetery was situated at the top of that road.

History: The next cemetery to make my list is the Ardwick Cemetery. Opened in 1838, Ardwick cemetery was situated in between Summer place, Dryden Street and Hyde Road. The cemetery was a simple rectangular shape, with a Greek style lodge and chapel dominating the entrance.

On the 11th March 1838, seventy-eight-year old-Johanna Naylor was the first person interred in the new cemetery. She was buried in public grave 1286. Over the next eighteen months another 75 coffins would be interred in the same grave.

By the end of the century the cemetery was the final resting place for some of the towns most influential and notable residents, including the chemist and physicist John Dalton (1766-1844).

The funeral of Dalton took place on the 12th August 1844, according to the local papers it was one of the grandest funerals the town had witnessed. The proceeding started just after 1pm and Visitors were allowed to see the coffin all that afternoon, before the vault was closed just after six o’clock in the evening. 

Other notable burials include: Sir John Potter (1773-1845), the first mayor of Manchester and Bugler Robert Hawthorn (1822-1879), who won the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny at Delhi in 1857. The London Gazette 27/04/1858 stated:

"Bugler Hawthorne, who accompanied the explosion party, not only performed the dangerous duty on which he was employed, but previously attached himself to Lieutenant Salkeld, of the Engineers, when dangerously wounded, bound up his wounds under a heavy musketry fire, and had him removed without further injury.”

In 1950, the Ardwick Cemetery was officially closed for further burials. Since its opening in 1837, it was estimated that over 80,000 people had been interred in the cemetery.

Over the next decade, all the headstones were removed and the graves were grassed over. In 1966, the area was opened as a park called Nicholls Fields by Sir Philip Dingle, the Town Clerk of Manchester. The site is now the Nicholls Community Football Centre. All that remains of the cemetery is the former stone gate posts that still mark the entrance.

Quaker’s Burial Ground

Date: 1680 circa - 1847

Location: Jackson’s Row

Directions: If you walk up Deansgate from Peter Street, walk past Bootle Street and the burial ground was situated on the corner of Jackson’s Row and Deansgate.

History: This burial ground is one of the oldest in Manchester. It was opened for burials in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and was in use until 1847. Like the burial ground on Granby Row, this burial ground also fell victim to the grave snatchers. In 1828, a local man named John Massey entered the burial ground and stole the body of Mary Howcroft. He was later apprehended and sentenced to three months in prison, with more of the story available here.

Thirty years after the final body was interred in the cemetery, the bodies were excavated from the site and in 1878 the land was redeveloped. The former burial ground now lies underneath the building of 201 Deansgate.

Rusholme Road Cemetery

Date: 1821 - 1954

Location: Rusholme Road, off Upper Brook Street

Directions: If you head out of Manchester on Upper Brook Street, turn left down Grosvenor Street and then take your first right and walk down Kincardine Road. The former cemetery is now a garden called Gartside Gardens.

History: The Dissenters’ cemetery on Rusholme Road opened on 16 May 1821. It was founded by William Gatsby, Minister of Rochdale Road Baptist Chapel. The cemetery proved extremely popular amongst the Manchester middle and upper classes attracting some high-profile burials, such as that of John Edward Taylor, founder of the Manchester Guardian was buried at the cemetery in 1844.

In 1837, the cemetery came under particular strain when there was a severe influenza outbreak that had swept through the country arrived in Manchester. According to local reports the disease had ‘affected nearly every family in the town’ with the ‘mortality being exceedingly great’. On the worst day of the influenza outbreak, the number of burials in the cemetery reached thirty-six.

As the century progressed the number of burials deceased due to the Burial Act 1853, which prohibited the opening of new graves – only existing family graves or vaults were allowed to take new interments. Also, new cemeteries were opening up which gave the residents more of a choice as to where they would like to be buried.

In 1954, the cemetery came under control of the Manchester Corporation.

The following year, the Corporation informed anyone who had relatives in the cemetery that if they did not claim any of their memorials or headstones, they would be removed and disposed of. Furthermore, they would have to fund the removal themselves. Once the headstones and memorials were gone, the graves were grassed over and the cemetery opened as a park called Gartside Gardens – named after John Henry Gartside who left £33,000 to fund the new municipal venture. The bodies of those buried at the Rusholme Road Cemetery (estimated to be over 66,000) remain undisturbed under the park.

New Jerusalem Church

Date: 1793 - 1854

Location: Peter Street, off Deansgate

Directions: If you walk down Peter Street from Manchester Library heading towards Deansgate, just before you get to the traffic lights on Deansgate, on the right hand side there is a building called Albert Hall, which is on the site of the old burial ground.

History: Before the building opened as Albert Hall in 1909, the site was the home of the New Jerusalem Church. The Church opened in 1793, on what was then called Yates Street, later named Peter Street. The burial ground ran at the side of the Church. It is unclear exactly how many burials were there, however, in 1854 the burial ground was closed and the Peter Street School was built on the land. In 1901 the building was obtained by the Manchester Corporation and the building was demolished. The Corporation then began an excavation process began to remove some of the bodies that still lay under the school. After this process has finished the Methodist Mission built a new building called the Albert Hall, which still stands today.

St Andrew’s Churchyard

Date: 1831 - 1855

Location: Travis Street, Ancoats

Directions: If you walk down Fairfield Street past Piccadilly Station, turn left onto St Andrew’s Street and the churchyard was situated at the top of the road. 

History: The first burial took place at the churchyard on 14 October 1831 and by 1855 the number of interments had reached over 1000. The churchyard seems to have attracted a mixture of classes, from mill owners to mill workers. However, as the century progressed the wealthy has moved to the suburbs and the workers had lost their homes due to the expansion of the railway. By 1968, the headstones had been removed and the graves were left undisturbed under the ground. The site is now a carpark.

The New Burial Ground 

Date: 1789 - 1815

Location: Ashley Lane (now Aspin Lane), Angel Meadow

Directions: If you out of Manchester and onto Rochdale Road, turn onto Angel Street and then onto Old Mount Street. The cemetery was situated on the left hand side of the road. 

History: The cemetery first opened for burials on 24 July 1789. The cemetery appears to have mostly be made up of common graves – graves that would have contained several coffins of people that were not family. This is not un-unusual. By the 1870s, the common grave was the most popular grave in all of the existing cemeteries in Manchester. By 1815, the cemetery was deemed as full. It is estimated that between 30-40,000 bodies were interred in the site. During the 1860s, the land was flattened and covered in flagstones. The area was later re-named St Michael’s flags – the name was taken from St Michael’s Church, which was adjacent to the burial ground. In the 1890s, the site was grassed over and converted into a public park, which it remains to the present day. The bodies were left in the ground undisturbed. 

Apple Market Burial Ground

Date: 1768 - 1788

Location: Apple Market, off Long Millgate

Directions: If you head out of Manchester Cathedral and head towards Chetham’s College, the burial ground occupied the space in between the College and the Cathedral.

History: The burial ground situated on Apple Market opened on 17 June 1786. The local newspaper reported that the ground would be used for the ‘poor people’ of the parish. The cemetery was open for 22 years and in that time, there was over 6,000 interments. By the end of the century the burial ground was deemed as full and was officially closed. Later the site was grassed over, and the monuments removed. The bodies were left in situ. The ground is now part of Chetham’s College.

All Saints Burial Ground

Date: 1820 - 1881

Location: All Saints Park, off Oxford Road

Directions: Walk down Oxford Road, pass the Palace Theatre heading away from the city centre. After a short walk you will notice All Saints Park which is part of Manchester Metropolitan University campus. The burial ground is hidden under the park.

History: The burial ground officially opened on 19 April 1820. The first interment was that of twenty-one-year-old Fanny Knowles, who lived on London Road. Her funeral was conducted by the founder himself, Charles Burton. It would be another month before the next interment took place. During the first-year burials were slow with only 55 interments, however, by 1851 the number had increased to over 600 per annum.

The number of interments had started to rise rapidly in the 1840s and by 1850 the burial ground, like many other places of burial in Manchester, had become a real concern to the local residents, who were worried that waste matter from the freshly buried corpses was seeping into the water supply and contaminating those living in the town.

On 31 March 1856, All Saints Burial Ground was partly closed under direction of the new Burial Acts. No new graves were allowed to be dug and only interments in private graves and vaults that already been purchased were permitted. However, the part closure of All Saints did not satisfy the local residents, who complained to the Manchester Guardian that graves were remaining open for weeks, thus damaging the health of those that lived in the Oxford Road area. One resident called himself ‘one who objects to being poisoned’. By the end of the Nineteenth-Century the burial ground was in a state of disrepair and neglect with sunken graves, broken headstones, flooding and debris from Oxford Road scattered across the ground. It would take a number of years before anything was done to clean up the area.

Finally, the grounds were sold to the council and in 1935, the All Saints playground officially opened. It was described as one of the ‘brightest places in Manchester, with 30,000 children enjoying the park in the first six weeks’.

During the Blitz the site was badly bombed, and the church was demolished. By the 1980s the playground had been removed and the site has been transformed into a public park.

Walkers Croft Burial Ground

Date: 1815 – 1848

Location: Walkers Croft, off Ducie Street (Under Victoria Railway Station)

Directions: The Station can be reached via Deansgate or from the direction of the Printworks.

History: The first burial took place in 1815. The burial ground was near situated near the Manchester Workhouse and primarily catered for pauper and public grave burials. Like other burial sites of its time, during the 1820s the burial grave came under attack from body snatchers, who were operating at graveyards across the town.

The following decade the burial ground was at the centre of a public scandal, when a young cholera victim named John Brogan was sent for a burial at Walkers Croft without his head, which had been replaced with a brick. The head was later located at the lodging house of Robert Oldham – who worked at the hospital.

The final burial at the site took place in 1848 and ground was sold to make way for the railway. Some of the bodies were removed during various extensions to the line and railway, however in 2010 human remains were still being found at the site. These new remains were carefully excavated and re-interred at Southern Cemetery. 

Michala Hulme is a professional genealogist and social historian at Manchester Metropolitan University, can be found on Twitter at @unearththepast, and is based at the Manchester Centre for Public History & Heritage.