Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Leicester (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 59153 03063


A cemetery opened in 1849, three years before the first of the Burials Act of 1852-7. It was designed by J R Hamilton and J M Medland. The core of the site contains many fine C19 monuments.


The Cemetery was established by the Leicester General Cemetery Company, formed in 1845, and financed by a joint stock company. Representatives of the Company included the radical Liberal MP John Biggs who was instrumental in securing the land for the Cemetery. The layout and buildings were designed by J R Hamilton and J M Medland who had previously designed the buildings for the Anglican Warstone Lane cemetery in Birmingham, 1848, and had won the competition for Plymouth cemetery, also in 1848.

The Loudon-inspired design of Welford Road Cemetery, also intended to encourage its use as a place of resort, may have influenced the Cemetery's registrar William Gay who later designed the Undercliff Cemetery in Bradford.

Although intended as a private burial ground for dissenters, provision was made for Anglicans in response to public pressure. The 17 acre (c 7ha) cemetery was opened on 19 June 1849. In 1870 the brickyards and plaster pits to the north were purchased to enable the creation of a 13 acre (c 5.5ha) extension in 1894. Many of those who in the C19 significantly contributed to the growth and development of Leicester such as leading industrialists, philanthropists, members of the local council, architects and religious leaders lie buried here. The site, now owned by Leicester City Council, is still used occasionally for burials.

DESCRIPTION LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING The Cemetery is situated on the south side of Leicester, less than half a mile from the city centre in an area known as Southfields. It lies about 250m west of Victoria Park (qv) to which it is connected by Mayor's Walk. The topography of the 12.45ha site gives elevated views west across the city, the highest point being located at the junction of Welford Road and University Road. The site falls away to the west to the railway cutting and more gently north from the site of the former chapels, before levelling out into the extended area.

The boundaries are formed by Welford Road to the south, University Road to the east and the railway cutting to the west. On the north side the boundary is marked by a chain-link fence, on the east side by a white wooden fence and on the west side by cast-iron railings. On the south side there is a random stone wall with railings east of the gate and hairpin fencing west of the gate.


There are two main entrances, one on the south side of the Cemetery, on Welford Road, where ornamental carriage gates, hung between stone gate piers, are arranged in a concave plan set back from the line of the boundary. The original gothic-style lodge was replaced by a mess room, and this in turn by a Visitor Centre which opened in 2006. The main approach is a circular route formed by a broad promenade running north from the Welford Road entrance and two curved carriageways connecting the promenade with the chapel site. The main approach is connected with the other parts of the site and the second entrance by a system of curving paths.

The second entrance is on the east side of the site, on University Road. Here the gothic-style lodge, designed by J R Hamilton and J M Medland, has been retained. Now known as the Gatehouse it has been extended and is currently (1997) the home of the Leicester University Chaplaincy. From the entrance a broad way runs west forming the northern part of a pre-1894 extension perimeter walk.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING The principal buildings of the Cemetery were two gothic-style chapels (demolished c 1958) which stood in the centre of the original Cemetery looking west over the falling ground and the city beyond. Plaques were installed in the early C21 recording notable citizens buried in the cemetery. A grand stairway with stone balusters rises up from the level of the promenade to the site of the twin chapels.

OTHER LAND Between the promenade, which is lined with fine C19 monuments, and the site of the former chapels at the centre of the original ground lies a formal symmetrical area with quartering paths. A line dividing the original Cemetery into two equal parts, consecrated (north) and unconsecrated (south), runs from east to west through the middle of this area. Bushes and trees along the carriageways from the promenade to the chapel site divide the more expensive plots inside that area from the cheaper ones outside. The other attractive burial site for dissenters was the area around the highest point at the junction of Welford Road/University Road south-east of the central area. Most of the important tombs are to be found within these two areas. The burial fields in the eastern and northern parts of the original Cemetery are filled with smaller tombs.

In the north-east area of the Cemetery is a memorial to the people who died in Leicester in the First World War. This includes a memorial to some Belgian soldiers, one of whom is recorded simply as inconnu. It also incorporates one of Blomfield's standard Imperial War Graves Commission monuments. The large number of Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones reflects the proximity of a First World War base hospital (now the University of Leicester).

The broad way from the University Road entrance separates the original Cemetery from the fields added in 1894. The walk is lined with high quality gravestones and some rose beds near the lodge.

In the extended part the meandering paths, linked by some straight paths, show a more open design. Only the north-west part of this area is consecrated and this is surrounded by tree-bordered walks. The attractive tombs near the lodge are divided from the burial fields in the rest of the extended area by a beech walk.

With the addition of the fields the perimeter walk was extended too. It is formed by straight walks running along the east and north sides of the Cemetery and informal paths along the west and south sides. The path running along the west boundary provides views over Leicester city and the lower parts of the Cemetery. On the south side where the meandering paths meet the promenade, flowering bushes frame the entrance area. The modern flat-roofed building is serviced by a ramped concrete footpath.

The original informal planting includes groups of mature trees along the broad way from the University Road entrance and around the chapel site and the bushes in the south-east corner. The fine avenues are also still intact. There are large numbers of ash, beech, lime, horse chestnut, cedar and evergreen bushes.

REFERENCES The Victoria History of the County of Leicestershire 4, (1958) Brown A E, The Growth of Leicester (1970) Temple Patterson A , Radical Leicester: A History of Leicester 1780-1850 (1975) Pevsner n, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland (1989) Lee j, Who's Buried Where in Leicestershire (Leicestershire County Council 1991) Wade-Matthews M, Grave-Matters - A Walk through Welford Road Cemetery (1992) Report on Welford Road Cemetery, (Victorian Society 1997)

Maps Fowler J, Plan of Leicester, 1828 Leicester in 1857 [reproduced in Brown (1970)] Aston C E J, Welford Road Cemetery map, 1:2200, 1987

OS 25'' to 1 mile: 1930 edition OS 1:10 000: 1991 edition

Archival items Aerial photo No 146, Line 17, 1:10 000 scale, 1991

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION Welford Road Cemetery is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * A good example of an early 19th century garden cemetery laid out for a provincial town. * The cemetery was designed by the noted cemetery designers Hamilton and Medland. * The design of the cemetery was influential on the noted and prolific cemetery designer William Gay, who was its first Registrar. * The design survives relatively intact with some original planting, but with the loss of both chapels and one lodge. * The monuments reflect the social, political and economic development of Leicester during the 19th century.

Description written: March 1998 Register Inspector: FD Edited: December 2009

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 31 January 2018.


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 31 January 2018 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/173023
War Memorials Register, accessed 16 March 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/37739
War Memorials Register, accessed 16 March 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/37740


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

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