LONDON ROAD CEMETERY, COVENTRY
- Heritage Category:
- Park and Garden
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Coventry (Metropolitan Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SP 34180 78079
An urban cemetery designed in 1845 by Joseph Paxton.
In October 1843 the Board of Health stated that Coventry's high mortality rate was much aggravated by the inadequate size of the city centre burial grounds, little enlarged during a period when the city's population rose from under 6000 to over 30,000. In October 1845, the year after the city acquired an enabling bill to purchase the site, Joseph Paxton (1803-65) was commissioned to design and lay out a new public cemetery on Barnes Field and Quarry Close, former Lammas lands on the edge of Coventry. Part of the site was a former stone quarry, and the resultant landscape of hillocks and hollows, surrounded by rows of mature elms, was incorporated as one of the main features of the cemetery's design. A Terrace Walk formed part of Paxton's original design for the site, seats were installed in 1849, and by 1867 the cemetery was 'resorted to' by a large number of visitors, a contemporary account describing it as having 'more the air of a gentlemen's park than a city of the dead' (London Road Cemetery 1994, ). Work began on the two chapels (one Anglican, the other for Nonconformists), boundary wall and lodge in early 1847; the first interments, in the northern, Anglican part of the site, took place in December 1847. The high proportion of Anglican burials caused a further piece of land to be consecrated in 1853, and in the following year a scheme was drawn up to close all other burial grounds in the city. In 1863 an area of 500 square yards adjoining the railway line was purchased for a Jewish burial ground. In 1866 the Paxton Memorial Committee obtained permission to erect a monument in the cemetery to Paxton.
In 1886 the cemetery was extended beyond the London & North Western railway line which formed the southern boundary of the site, the two parts of the cemetery being linked by an iron bridge over the railway. A further extension was made in 1929.
Interment continued in 1997; c 6500 burials had been made by that time.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING The cemetery lies c 1km south-east of the centre of Coventry. It is bounded to the east by London Road, a busy dual carriageway, to the west and north by Quarryfield Lane (formerly Green Lane), and to the south by the main London to Birmingham railway line. Beyond the railway is the extension to the cemetery (not here registered) opened in 1887 on a part of Whitley Common. Adjoining London Road to the east is housing with, to its south, a playing field. Along the west side of Quarryfield Lane is a former industrial site, under clearance in 1997. The registered area is c 7ha.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The cemetery is entered via a lodge and gates complex of 1847 at its northern apex, believed to have been designed by John Robertson, one of Paxton's assistants. Outside (north of) the gates is a small triangular area mainly given over to parking places. Like most structures in the cemetery the lodge and gates are built of reddish Hartshill stone. The lodge (listed grade II) is a two-storey Italianate building with a hipped roof and, on its north-west corner, a slightly taller square tower. Immediately to the east is a late C20 brick garage and service building for the cemetery's maintenance staff. To the east of the lodge is a screen with gates (listed grade II), the arcaded screen walls, again Italianate in style, being interrupted by piers carrying shrouded urns. The screen adjoins the Prospect Tower, an octagonal gazebo (listed grade II), which stands on the corner of the cemetery overlooking London Road. Originally this would have given extensive prospects over the Charterhouse and Sowe valley to the east. The wall on which the gazebo lies runs south down London Road as the boundary wall. An inwardly splayed arched carriage entrance 200m south of the gazebo, wherein the cortege would enter the cemetery, has been bricked up since c 1939 when it was converted to an air raid shelter, although it still functions as a pedestrian access point. Where the cemetery adjoins Quarryfield Lane the boundary wall is only c 0.5m high but is surmounted with outward-curving spiked railings.
OTHER LAND Access within the cemetery is provided by a network of paths and drives which loops and curves around the hillocks and dells which give the site its topographical distinctiveness, the northern half of the site being markedly more hilly than the southern. This topography, combined with the large numbers of mature coniferous trees and shrubs, serves to create a series of quite discrete areas within the cemetery and to give a feeling of intimacy. From the outset it was intended that the cemetery should contain a wide range of exotic forest trees; evergreens, for instance, were planted around the Classical, Nonconformist chapel, whereas the Romanesque Anglican chapel was complemented by rounded deciduous trees. The planting remains an important element of the landscape.
In contrast to the informality of the rest of the cemetery is the monumental, straight, Terrace Walk (Paxton's term; walls listed grade II) which runs south from the lodge down the east side of the site for c 100m. This serves two functions: it provides a visual and auditory barrier between the cemetery and London Road, and provides a promenade giving views west across the burial ground. The east wall of the Walk is the main boundary wall down London Road, while that to the west is c 3.5m tall and with rounded bastion-like projections towards either end. A single-vaulted store beneath the northern end of the Walk was for the storage of equipment including a hearse hand-carriage, originally at least all horse-drawn traffic being excluded from the cemetery. Paxton intended that mural tablets be mounted on the face of the latter wall, but in the event only a very few were so placed. The top of the Walk is c 10m wide; there is a tarmac path down the centre with shrubs to the east. On the more northerly of the two bastions is a Great War memorial cross; 50m to the south is another 1914-18 memorial, to employees of the Triumph and Gloria companies.
There are no graves in the northernmost part of the cemetery, which from the outset was designed as a pleasure ground. Instead the visitor is greeted by the monument (listed grade II) to Sir Joseph Paxton c 30m south of the main gate. Of stone, and not unlike an Eleanor Cross with pink granite colonnettes rising up the side, the structure was designed by Joseph Goddard. Rising beyond this, on a pronounced hill on the far side of a grassy dell, is the Anglican mortuary chapel (listed grade II) of 1847. In the Norman style, with nave, chancel, north porch and tower with small spire, the building is believed (Chadwick 1961) to have been designed by Paxton's son-in-law George Henry Stokes. The northernmost graves in the cemetery are clustered around the chapel. The dell or glade immediately south of the chapel is one of the most well defined in the cemetery, with graves cut back into its steep slopes which are well planted with mature evergreens.
The Nonconformist chapel (listed grade II*) stands c 120m south-east of the Anglican chapel on relatively level and open ground, although again with some mature coniferous trees close by. It too is of 1847 and probably by G H Stokes, and is in the form of a Classical temple of two giant storeys with fluted Ionic columns in antis with single-storey, three-bay pavilions to either side. These were intended to house mural tablets. The interior of the building was derelict in the later C20, the chapel having sustained bomb damage during the Second World War.
The Jewish section of the burial ground occupies the south-east corner of the cemetery. A plain, flat-roofed brick chapel was built on its edge in the earlier C20, probably in the inter-war years.
G F Chadwick, The Works of Sir Joseph Paxton (1961) The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire 8, (1969), p 279 G Tyack, Warwickshire Country Houses (1994), pp 241-42 London Road Cemetery, (Study and compendium compiled by Coventry City Council for English Heritage, nd, c 1994) London Road Cemetery, (exhibition catalogue 1996)
Maps OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1889 2nd edition published 1906
Archival items Plan, c 1847, possibly by Paxton (Coventry Record Office)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION London Road Cemetery is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * London Road Cemetery is a good example of an early Victorian garden cemetery (opened 1847). * The cemetery was designed by the internationally renowned designer Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) and is an important example of his work. * The various structures associated with the cemetery are of a high standard and designed by Paxton, possibly with assistance from the notable architects John Robertson and G H Stokes. * The planting within the cemetery is also of a high standard. * The cemetery layout and structures survive substantially intact. * The cemetery contains a good collection of funerary monuments which reflect the social and economic development of Coventry during the 19th and early 20th century
Description written: 1998 Register Inspector: PAS Edited: October 1999 Upgraded: November 2009
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 11 July 2017.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
- Parks and Gardens
War Memorials Online, accessed 11 July 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/204804
War Memorials Register, accessed 11 July 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/17397
War Memorials Register, accessed 11 July 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/17400
This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.
End of official listing