Thursday, June 4, 2015

Glasgow Necropolis

The Necropolis in Glasgow, Scotland, has been described as a ‘unique representation of Victorian Glasgow, built when this city was the second city of the Empire. It reflects the feeling of confidence and wealth and security of that time.’
It is a memorial to the merchant patriarchs of the city and contains the remains of almost every eminent Glaswegian of its day. Monuments designed by leading Glaswegian architects including Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, Bryce, Hamilton and Mackintosh adorn it. Their designs are executed by expert masons and sculptors who contributed ornate and sculptural detail of the finest quality.

The early 1800’s saw Glasgow grow as a major industrial city. With it came a new class of merchants and entrepreneurs who had made vast fortunes in tobacco, spices, coffee and cotton. By 1831 Glasgow’s population had trebled from 70.000 to more than 200.000. Flooded by immigrants, most notably Irish and Highlanders, the existing urban structure was inadequate and could not cope with such an influx.

The working classes suffered considerable conditions of deprivation, exacerbated by inadequate housing, dire poverty, poor sanitation and contaminated water supplies. This sudden dramatic increase in Glasgow’s population directly affected cemeteries since the poverty and squalor resulted in fierce epidemics of cholera and typhus. In the 1830’s over 5.000 people were dying each year and were being buried in unhygienic churchyards. Previous burials in the 1800’s outside of a churchyard had been reserved for the unbaptised and lunatics. Growing concerns with hygiene and sanitation led to the opinion that this policy of burial in urban churchyards had now to be avoided.

The Necropolis remains one of the most significant cemeteries in Europe, exceptional in its townscape, its symbolic relationship to Glasgow Cathedral and the medieval heart of the city. In common with other major Victorian cemeteries, it was designed as a botanic and sculpture garden to improve the morals and tastes of Glaswegians and act as an historical record of past greatness. 

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