Southern Cemetery, Manchester

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An area of the cemetery containing some of the graves of notable people

Southern Cemetery is a large municipal cemetery in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, (originally in Withington), Manchester, England, three miles south of the city centre, which opened in 1879 and is owned and administered by Manchester City Council. It is the largest cemetery in the United Kingdom and second largest in Europe.[1]

Manchester Southern Cemetery originally occupied 40 hectare plot of land that cost Manchester Corporation £38,340 in 1872. Its cemetery buildings were designed by architect H J Paull and its layout attributed to the city surveyor, James Gascoigne Lynde. The cemetery opened on 9 October 1879 and had mortuary chapels for Anglicans, Nonconformists, and Roman Catholics linked by an elliptical drive and a Jewish chapel at the west corner of the site. The original cemetery is registered by English Heritage in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens for its historic interest and the mortuary chapels and other structures are listed buildings. The site was expanded by the purchase of 36 hectares on the opposite side of Nell Lane in 1926, the first section of which opened in 1943. Some of the 1926 purchase has been developed for housing and some is occupied by allotments.[2]

The main area of the cemetery is located to the north of Barlow Moor Road and to the west of the A5103 Princess Road; its northwards extension is on Nell Lane bought by the council in 1926. Its layout complements the original cemetery.[2] A war memorial commemorates Allied servicemen who died in the World Wars.[3]

In 2009, in what was described as a racially motivated attack, up to 20 Muslim graves were vandalised.[4]


The grade II listed registrar's office near the entrance gateway was built in 1879 in the neo-Gothic style in sandstone with slate roofs.[5] Three service chapels are located in Southern Cemetery, only one of which is currently used for funeral services. The remaining two chapels are semi-derelict.

A remembrance lodge was created in the cemetery, opened on 1 October 2008. It is situated at the main entrance on Barlow Moor Road and is for the use of families and friends wishing to pay their respects and remember loved ones.[6]

Immediately adjacent to the northwest corner of the cemetery on Barlow Moor Road is Manchester Crematorium which opened in 1892, the second in the United Kingdom.[7]

Notable burials and monuments[edit]

A monument in the cemetery

Manchester's first multi-millionaire, industrialist and philanthropist John Rylands, is buried there.[2][8][9] The Rylands memorial is the grandest in the cemetery, although a considerable part of the original structure was removed circa 1927 and the bronze railings were stolen circa 1967: his widow Enriqueta's ashes lie in the vault below. The graves of some of those associated with the firm of Rylands are nearby, including those of Reuben Spencer and William Carnelley.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) register and maintain the war graves of 803 Commonwealth service personnel (including one unidentified) of the First World War and 475 (including 3 unidentified) of the Second. Many graves are scattered around the cemetery but there are also two separate war grave plots, one of each war, whose graves are not headstoned but have Screen Wall Memorials on which those buried within are listed. The cemetery's Second World War war graves plot also holds the graves of 17 Polish service personnel, besides memorials of British service personnel of both World Wars who were buried in other cemeteries and churchyards in Manchester where their graves could no longer be maintained.[10]

Near the entrance to its grounds the CWGC erected a memorial stone to 14 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War who were cremated here, while 177 servicemen and women who were cremated during the Second World War are listed on the screen wall at the cemetery's Second World War war graves plot.[11]

Two holders of the Victoria Cross - Major Henry Kelly (VC) (World War I award, died 1960) and Colour Sergeant John Prettyjohns (Crimean War award and the first to a Royal Marine, died 1887) - are buried in the cemetery.[2][12]

A Grade II listed monument in the form of a white marble Celtic cross in the centre of the cemetery commemorates Sir John Alcock who piloted the first non-stop trans-Atlantic aircraft flight[13] from Newfoundland to Clifden Ireland in June 1919.[14]

Memorial to victims of Flight 1008

Sir Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United F.C. is buried in the cemetery, alongside his wife Lady Jean Busby who died in December 1988 just over five years before him.[2] Billy Meredith (1874-1958), who played for Manchester City and Manchester United, is buried in the cemetery as is Willie Satinoff, a racecourse owner who died in the Munich air disaster in February 1958 in which Busby was badly injured but survived.

Stretford-born artist L. S. Lowry was buried next to his parents in 1976.[2]

Factory Records founder Tony Wilson is also buried in Southern Cemetery; his coffin carries the catalogue number FAC501; a headstone designed by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly was installed in October 2010.[15] The graves of two men closely associated with Wilson are also here; Rob Gretton (manager of Joy Division and New Order) and record producer Martin Hannett.

A memorial in the cemetery commemorates the victims of the 1980 Tenerife Air Disaster, when a Dan-Air charter flight flew into a hillside in Tenerife, killing all 146 on board. Their names are inscribed on a series of slate tablets within a small grassed enclosure.

A memorial to the victims of the Katyn massacre (the killing of 22,000 Polish nationals by the Soviet NKVD in 1940) is located next to Princess Parkway, in an area in which there are many Polish graves.

Also buried in the cemetery are the remains of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans; two of five victims of the Moors murders in the early 1960s.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Can city cemeteries be nature reserves?". BBC. 24 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18. But Manchester City Council plans to give Southern Cemetery in south Manchester, which is the largest cemetery in the UK, that official title. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Historic England. "Manchester Southern Cemetery (1001656)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Manchester Southern Cemetery, Manchester, England". British Cemeteries Memorials. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "Muslim graves targeted in hate attack". Manchester Evening News. October 2, 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  5. ^ Historic England. "Registrar's Office at Manchester Southern Cemetery (1197803)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Remembrance Lodge". Manchester City Council. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  7. ^ Davies, Douglas J. (ed.) (2005), "Encyclopedia of cremation (extract)", Encyclopedia of cremation: 18, ISBN 978-0-7546-3773-8, retrieved 2009-06-06 
  8. ^ Farnie, D. A. (2004), "Rylands, John (1801–1888)", Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, retrieved 10 November 2008 
  9. ^ Farnie, D. A. (1993) John Rylands of Manchester. Manchester: John Rylands University Library; sect. 9-14
  10. ^ [1] CWGC Cemetery Details Manchester Southern Cemetery.
  11. ^ [cite web|url=]CWGC Cemetery Details Manchester Crematorium
  12. ^ [2] Burial locations of VC holders, city of Manchester.
  13. ^ Scholefield 2004, p. 217
  14. ^ Historic England. "Alcock monument in centre of Manchester Southern Cemetery (1197802)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  15. ^ Dorian Lynskey (2010-10-26). "A fitting headstone for Tony Wilson's grave". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  • Scholefield, R. A. (2004), Manchester's Early Airfields, Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society 'Moving Manchester', ISSN 0950-4699 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°25′43″N 2°15′30″W / 53.4286°N 2.2582°W / 53.4286; -2.2582