warstone lane cemetery jewellery quarter
The catacombs of Warstone Lane Cemetery in the Jewellery Quarter

The Cemeteries

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is home to two, Grade II listed cemeteries – Warstone Lane Cemetery and Key Hill Cemetery.

Warstone Lane Cemetery

Warstone Lane Cemetery was established in 1848 as a solution to the overcrowding in the existing burial grounds in the town centre. Originally, it was strictly reserved for Anglicans as the nearby Key Hill Cemetery catered to non-conformists.

One of the features of the cemetery that makes it worth a visit are the catacombs. The catacombs were built because of a sandpit problem on the site, providing added capacity by creating a sort of tiered burial ground. The catacombs had been open to the public – daring those who were brave enough to venture into them. Unfortunately, they were sealed with lead and pitch as part of the regulations arising from the Birmingham Cemeteries Act and due to the emission of unhealthy vapours. However, there are suggestions of plans to regenerate the cemetery and re-enable access to the ancient catacombs.

Among the occupants of the catacombs, is John Baskerville, a world-renowned typographer and printer who died in 1775. Being a confirmed atheist, he left strict instructions in his will that on no account should he be buried on consecrated ground. In line with his will, his ashes were carried out and buried in a small mausoleum that he had built in the grounds of his house. After resting for several decades, his coffin was discovered by workmen and was then deposited to the warehouse of Thomas Gibson who owned the land Baskerville’s house occupied. Eight years later, Baskerville was moved again and after a series of events of being unable to be buried, the last resort was to move him to the Warstone Lane catacombs where he remains till this day, in the consecrated ground he despised.

Aside from John Baskerville, other notable people buried in the cemetery include:

  • James Cooper VC
  • Dr Pye Chavasse – Medical Author
  • John Postgate – Food Safety Campaigner
  • Clement Ingleby – Solicitor & Poet
  • Joseph Allday – Radical Politician
  • Harry Gem – Lawn Tennis Pioneer
  • Thomas Scarrott – Fought at the Battle of Waterloo

Warstone Lane Cemetery is Grade II listed on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, and is lovingly preserved and protected by the Friends of Key Hill & Warstone Lane Cemeteries.

Key Hill Cemetery

Key Hill Cemetery, originally named Birmingham General Cemetery, is the second cemetery located in the Quarter. It is the oldest cemetery – that isn’t a churchyard – in Birmingham, and was opened in May 1836.

Like Warstone Lane Cemetery, Key Hill Cemetery also has Grade II listed features, such as the entrance gates and railings that have particular architectural and artistic merit. As may be expected due to the cemetery’s age, it is no longer available for new burials.

Notable members of society buried there include:

  • Marie Bethell Beauclerc – First female reporter
  • Alfred Bird – Inventor of baking powder and egg-free custard
  • Joseph Chamberlain Snr – Father of the politician Joseph Chamberlain
  • Joseph Chamberlain – Former MP & Mayor