Warriston Cemetery

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City of Edinburgh Council notice board installed February 12, 2018
Warriston Cemetery
Central vaults, Warriston Cemetery
The railway bridge, Warriston Cemetery
Warriston Cemetery looking down the south-west path to the war memorial

Warriston Cemetery is a cemetery in Edinburgh. It lies in Warriston, one of the northern suburbs of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was built by the then newly-formed Edinburgh Cemetery Company, and occupies around 14 acres (5.7 ha) of land on a slightly sloping site. It contains many tens of thousands of graves, including notable Victorian and Edwardian figures, the most eminent being the physician Sir James Young Simpson.

It is located on the north side of the Water of Leith, and has an impressive landscape; partly planned, partly unplanned due to recent neglect. It lies in the Inverleith Conservation Area and is also a designated Local Nature Conservation Site.[1] The cemetery is protected as a Category A listed building.[2]

In July 2013 the Friends of Warriston Cemetery was inaugurated to reveal the heritage and to encourage appropriate biodiversity.


The 8m high granite cross to Robertson McLean (1822–1871) by McGlashan (1807–1873), Warriston Cemetery
The Gothic memorial to Laura Eustace in Warriston Cemetery
The large monument to Revs. William and James Peddie, Warriston Cemetery
Group of Celtic crosses by McGlashen, Warriston Cemetery

Designed in 1842 by Edinburgh architect David Cousin, the cemetery opened in 1843: the directors included Cousin and James Peddie (father of John Dick Peddie).[3]

The first interment was towards the east, Margaret Parker, who was buried on 3 June 1843.

It was the first garden cemetery in Edinburgh, allowing the simplistic original title of The Edinburgh Cemetery,[4] and provided a model for several other Scottish cemeteries. In its own right it was broadly based on ideas first introduced at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Designed elements include a neo-Tudor line of catacombs. Their length was doubled in 1862 by architect John Dick Peddie.[5] The chapel that once stood on top of the catacombs was demolished by 1930.

Soon after instigation (in 1845) the cemetery was divided by the Edinburgh Leith and Newhaven Railway which was built east to west through its southern half. A tunnel was added, with Gothic archways at its mouths, to link the north and south sections, but the south being smaller, was the inferior area from this date onwards. The embankments of the railway have been partly removed following its closure in the 1950s, and the line is now a public walkway.

In 1929 the Edinburgh Cemetery Company expanded their business into the new field of cremation, converting East Warriston House (1818) into Warriston Crematorium on an adjacent site to the east. The architect was Sir Robert Lorimer, hence the title Lorimer Chapel for the main chapel. The crematorium was extended to the west in 1967 by the architect Esme Gordon.[6] The cemetery lodge to the north-west dates from 1931 and was designed by architect J.R.McKay.

The cemetery was in private ownership until 1994, when it was compulsorily purchased by the City of Edinburgh Council.[7] The long task of restoring the heavily overgrown and vandalised cemetery has begun, but still has far to go. Currently, only the upper (westmost) section is maintained. Many sections are now so densely overgrown that the stones are no longer visible and are simply bumps in the green undergrowth.

Arguably, the overgrown nature of the cemetery is its most attractive quality. There is something enchanting about wandering in amongst the head- and tomb-stones covered in ivy with a rich canopy of deciduous trees above, forming a natural mausoleum.

Monuments of architectural note[edit]

The Robertson mortuary chapel was erected in 1865 for Mary Ann Robertson (1826–1858), daughter of Brigadier-General Manson of the Bombay Artillery. The white marble shrine contained a sculpture of a reclining female figure, and was topped by a red glass roof, leading to the local nickname, the Tomb of the Red Lady. The monument was heavily vandalised and had to be demolished in the late 1980s.

Sir James Young Simpson's grave remains visible but the lower section has been infilled with earth to provide space for further burial.

Several eminent sculptors' work is found in the cemetery, including a fine portrait of William Young, horticulturist (1816–1896) by William Birnie Rhind, a monument to Robert Bryson by Thomas Stuart Burnett,[8] and a wealth of fine ornate Celtic crosses by the McGlashens. A sizeable arched pedestal to the Rev James Peddie (d. 1845) by John Dick Peddie is also of note.

Notable persons interred and cremated[edit]


19th-century tomb of Sir William Taylour Thomson and his wife


Warriston Crematorium, Edinburgh

The crematorium is on a separate site, east of the main cemetery. It has several areas of remembrance, the oldest being the oak-panelled rooms in the basement. To the north, there is both a Rose Garden and Water Garden holding memorials. The Book of Remembrance is opened to the date each day, for those marking the anniversary of a death. A computerised version of the Book of Remembrance is also available, enabling other dates to be viewed.

War graves[edit]

Warriston Cemetery contains 100 graves of Commonwealth service personnel, 72 from World War I and 27 from World War II, besides a grave of a Belgian soldier.[14] The cemetery also contains a CWGC memorial, at the end of the columbarium, in the form of panels listing 142 Commonwealth service personnel of World War II who were cremated here.[15]


Among trees of note in Warriston Cemetery are two purple-leaved elms and a concave-leaved elm, both among the rarer of pre-Dutch Elm Disease cultivars.


  1. ^ Edinburgh City Local Plan, Jan 2010
  2. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Warriston Road, Warriston Cemetery, with all monuments, catacombs, bridge, boundary walls, gates and gatepiers (Category A Listed Building) (LB27937)". Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  3. ^ National Library of Scotland: foundation papers
  4. ^ "View: Plan of Edinburgh, Leith & Suburbs / by W. & A.K. Johnston (showing the division... - Town Plans / Views, 1580-1919". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  5. ^ Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh by Colin McWilliam
  6. ^ Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh, by Gifford McWilliam and Walker
  7. ^ "Overview of Warriston Cemetery". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  8. ^ "The Character Statues". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  9. ^ Clarke, DV (2002). "The foremost figure in all matters relating to Scottish archaeology': aspects of the work of Joseph Anderson" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 132: 1–18. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  10. ^ Alfred Adlers Asche nach 74 Jahren entdeckt orf.at, 2011-04-10
  11. ^ Asche von Adler kommt nach 74 Jahren zurück, wien.orf.at, 2011-04-11
  12. ^ a b c d e "SCOTLAND EDINBURGH". www.victoriacross.org.uk.
  13. ^ Burial Location VC holders Staffordshire (headstone in St Mary's Churchyard, Aldridge). At time of writing he is not entered on the page for Edinburgh.
  14. ^ "CWGC Cemetery Report".
  15. ^ "CWGC Cemetery Report".

External links[edit]