A cemetery opened by the Church of England Cemetery Company in 1848, with a landscape possibly designed by R H Vertegans and buildings by James R Hamilton of the Gloucester firm of Hamilton and Medland.
Warstone Lane Cemetery in the Jewellery Quarter of Birminghan belonged to the Church of England Cemetery Company. The Company was founded in 1845 to establish a burial ground for members of the Anglican church, following the opening in 1836 of the nearby Key Hill Cemetery (qv) which was used predominantly by Nonconformists. With the approval of the Bishop of Worcester, in whose diocese Birmingham then was, the Cemetery Company looked for a suitable site. Finally a piece of land on Warstone Lane partly occupied by a disused sand quarry was chosen. The site belonged to Sir Thomas Cooch and Colonel Howard Vyse. The Company bought the c 7ha property for £9630. It was originally intended that land on the north side of Pitsford Street should be reached through a tunnel but this area was sold to the Birmingham to Dudley and Wolverhampton Railway Company, whose line was opened in 1854.
The cemetery buildings were designed by James R Hamilton of the Gloucester firm of Hamilton and Medland while the grounds around the chapel and catacombs may have been laid out by the Birmingham nurseyman and landscape gardener Richard H Vertegans (BCC Information leaflet).
Both the nearby Key Hill Cemetery and Warstone Lane Cemetery were compulsorily purchased by Birmingham City Council in 1952 and closed for burial in 1982. Warstone Lane Cemetery continues (2000) to be owned by Birmingham City Council and is managed by Birmingham City Council.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Warstone Lane Cemetery is situated in Hockley, c 1.3km north-west of Birmingham city centre. The setting is a commercial area called the Jewellery Quarter combined with residential housing. The c 4ha former sand quarry site lies north of Warstone Lane, sloping down to Icknield Street to the west. Streets and houses mark the boundaries of the cemetery to the south on Warstone Lane, to the west on Icknield Street, to the north on Pitsford Street, and to the east on Vyse Street. The Birmingham Mint manufactory is situated to the south-west of the cemetery. The original cast-iron railings which once topped the low stone boundary walls have long been removed although some piers still survive on Icknield Street. Today (2000) the boundary is marked by a wooden fence to the east, a brick wall to the west, and elsewhere by the remains of the low stone walls. The boundaries were originally planted with a row of trees which have either been lost or replaced by more hardy species.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The main entrance was formerly that situated north of Warstone Lane at the Cemetery Lodge (listed grade II) at the south-east corner of the cemetery. The Lodge is built in the Tudor Gothic style of blue brick with stone dressings and formerly contained apartments for the cemetery secretary, offices, and a boardroom. No longer used as a cemetery lodge, it has recently been restored and converted to commercial office use. The area around the Lodge is now separated from the cemetery ground by iron railings, and the formal approach through the carriage arch has been lost. The main entrance, which gave access to a tree-lined drive, consisted of the gabled central carriageway of the cemetery lodge which was closed by doors and gates. The front gates (now gone) were decorated with wrought-iron grilles in open panels and wrought-iron hinges and cresting. The present (2000) main entrance to this end of the site lies to the west of the Lodge and consists of a small path with some steps. After c 10m the path rejoins the original main approach. The main approach (planted with poplars) leads north from the Lodge to the site of the former mortuary chapel, and to the catacombs beneath (to the west), continuing on to terminate at the north entrance on Pitsford Street.
There are three further entrances: two in the low boundary wall on Vyse Street to the east, and a third to the north-west on Icknield Street. The latter is marked by a pair of gate piers relocated here from elsewhere in the cemetery. The Icknield Street entrance is now the principal entrance to the site and from here a path runs uphill towards the catacombs.
The former transeptal chapel designed by James R Hamilton in the Perpendicular Gothic style provided the centrepiece of the cemetery design. The chapel, with its nearly 37m high octagonal spire, served as the parish church of St Michael from 1854 to 1878. It suffered bomb damage during the Second World War and was eventually demolished in 1958. The chapel stood on the highest point of the site, above the sandstone catacombs which still survive (2000), facing west towards Icknield Street.
Warstone Lane Cemetery, which retains its original area and design, is laid out in an informal style with a perimeter walk and winding paths around the central chapel and the catacombs. A local landscape gardener, R H Vertegans, may have been responsible for laying out the area of the cemetery ground around the chapel, with the main paths lined by avenues or rows of trees. The dominant feature was formerly the chapel, placed on the highest point of the site with its catacombs beneath. Serpentine paths from which the chapel could be seen still wind across and around the burial ground.
Since 1958, when the chapel was demolished, the main focus of the cemetery has been the catacombs. The terraced sandstone catacombs, constructed of rock-faced masonry, were built into the sides of the old sand quarry and were not completed until 1880. The structure is arranged in a semicircle of two tiers, each level supporting a narrow walkway. Twin flights of steps descend from the platform of the former chapel to the upper walk around the catacombs. The middle level can be approached from within the semicircle while a third walk follows the inner circle at ground level. The catacombs comprise round-arched openings which give access to vaults. The openings were once closed with inscribed memorial stones although most of these have been replaced by plain concrete. Graves are arranged in a grid pattern on the circular lawn enclosed by the catacombs and a group of C20 trees mark its centre. In front (to the west) of the catacomb circle the ground falls steeply away towards Icknield Street.
To the west of the Lodge at the Warstone Lane entrance stands the War-Stone on a stone plinth. The War-Stone, which gives its name to both the street and the cemetery, is a large glacial boulder. About 3m north of the Lodge is a Cross of Sacrifice commemorating those who lost their lives in the First World War.
Within the cemetery the graves are arranged predominantly in a grid-pattern facing the chapel site. Some areas have been cleared of memorials, but many old monuments survive.
Brooks, Mortal Remains (1989)
Brooks C, English Historic Cemeteries, English Heritage theme study (1994)
The Church of England Cemetery, Warstone Lane, Information leaflet, Birmingham City Council, Department of Planning and Architecture, nd
Key Hill Conservation Area, Guide leaflet, Birmingham City Council, Department of Planning and Architecture, nd
Smith J Piggott, Map of Birmingham ... from a ...survey made in the years 1824 and 1825, published 1828, Local Studies Collection, Birmingham Central Library
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1888
2nd edition published 1904
OS 25" to 1 mile 3rd edition published 1918
RESONS FOR DESIGNATION
Warstone Lane Cemetery is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* The cemetery is an example of a mid-C19 joint stock cemetery laid out to serve the Anglican community of a provincial town.
* The cemetery is a good example of the work of the noted cemetery designers J R Hamilton and J M Medland.
* The cemetery retains a significant range of catacombs which form a key element of the design.
* The original planting is attributed to Richard H Vertegans, a local nurseryman of note.
Description written: July 2000
Amended: October 2001
Register Inspector: PS
Edited: December 2009