The Glasgow Necropolis – A Haunting History

Glasgow Necropolis at Sunset

By Shreyas Raghuram

Built in 1833 and converted from a forest to Victorian style cemetery, the Glasgow Necropolis is one of the largest of its kind. The merchant’s house at the time decided to create a cemetery to reflect the wealth and prosperity of the city. Many famous architects and sculptors were had a say in finalising its design, and today it has expanded from fifteen acres to thirty-seven acres.

The entrance to the Necropolis is through the Bridge of Sighs, built to replicate the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice. It has three modern memorials-for stillborn children, The Korean War, and the memorial to the Glaswegian recipients of the Victoria Cross. There are many theories about the Necropolis.

Hidden in plain sight, symbols of the freemasons linger in many corners of the cemetery and most of the notable patrons of the necropolis were in the freemason society. This leads to much speculation about the conspiracies surrounding the Necropolis’ history and construction. The first person ever buried in the Necropolis was Joseph Levi, a Jewish jeweller.

The cemetery prides itself on being a multi-faith burial ground, with people from most sects of Christianity as well as Jews buried on the property. The body count caps at fifty thousand burials ranging from the 19th to the 21st century. Bizarrely, the first person to have a memorial there isn’t actually buried in the Necropolis. John Knox has a bust dedicated to him at the cemetery but is actually buried in London. Every burial in the necropolis is recorded and all the details of the individuals are stored in the archives of The Mitchell Library.

Originally the Necropolis was supposed to be a series of catacombs within the hill that is now the cemetery itself. This was proposed at the height of the resurrectionist industry where robbers would exhume the bodies of the newly buried dead and sell them to anatomists at a profit. However soon after, the Anatomy Act. of 1832 prevented misuse of dead bodies, hence prompting the architects to abandon the idea of catacombs for the current design that persists today. The current design of the Necropolis was inspired by The Pere Lachaise in Paris.

The most notable mausoleums include a tiered octagonal monument to Major Archibald Douglas Monteath, The Houldsworth Mausoleum and the ornate tomb of Henry Alexander of the Theatre Royal. The Celtic Cross on the grave of Andrew McCall which was designed by renowned sculptor Charles Rennie Mackintosh is also worth a visit. Since its institution, seven former Lord Provosts of Glasgow have been entombed there. The Mausoleum of William Rae Wilson, esteemed explorer is one of the most ornate tombs on site.

Today, the Necropolis serves as a garden and park for recreation and use by the public. It’s also one of Glasgow’s most famous tourist attractions and guided tours are offered by the keepers of the necropolis to those who wish to see this historical and cultural landmark.

If you fancy hunting for ghosts this Halloween, consider the Necropolis’ stories of paranormal activity. Apparently, many have seen a white lady floating around at night, whispers coming from the mausoleums and graves, as well as a strange low-lying mist that sets in at night.

Happy hunting!