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Tyne and Wear HER(6052): Houghton-le-Spring, Hillside Cemetery - Details

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Houghton-le-Spring, Hillside Cemetery



Religious Ritual and Funerary

Funerary Site


Early Modern



Shown on Ordnance Survey first edition map. The cemetery (detached burial ground of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, opened when the churchyard became full during the cholera outbreak of 1853) was consecrated on September 4th 1854. Local residents complained about the cemetery being located in a former quarry (HER 3170). The original entrance was through the adjacent farm, but a new entrance from Sunderland Street was added in 1873. The former Sexton's Lodge is derelict, but the stone lych gate survives, although in need of sympathetic restoration. The cemetery was extended to the east in 1894. The last recorded burial was in 1924, but infrequent burials took place in the 1940s and the last burial may been in 1965. Over 6800 burials took place between 1854 and 1924. The cemetery itself is on two levels, a higher level which is a large enigmatic green open space within the quarry walls, with vaults cut into the cliff face and still retaining some gravestones, and a lower level with many surviving monuments and headstones, which is very atmospheric but overgrown and more difficult to access. There are many notable monuments in Hillside Cemetery - the vault of William Standish (d.1856), the Elliot family vault (Sir George Elliot MP d. 1893), the vault of General William Beckwith (d. 1871) and his wife Priscilla Maria Beckwith (d.1877), Thomas William Usherwood Robinson (d. 1888) a memorial to the Wheatley family and others who fought in the Crimean War. The cemetery is very unusual in having vaults cut into the quarry rock face. Worthy of consideration for adding to the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery formed in December 2003 to further the historical, cultural and recreational aspects of the burial ground. The group meets regularly and are actively involved in promoting appreciation of the burial ground. They are carrying out research into those who are buried within the cemetery, and can therefore assist people with family tree/genealogical research. In August 2004 the Friends group organised an open day where they dressed in period costume, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the cemetery. The Friends have restored the lychgate, reinstated the dwarf wall and railings. A Victorian time capsule was found in the foundations of the lychgate. In 2010 they unveiled the restored the celtic cross monument, which is dedicated to those who lost their lives at Houghton Colliery and those in unmarked graves. For more information see




1st edition Ordnance Survey map 1850; Friends of Hillside Cemetery website; P. Lanagan, 2004, Houghton Hillside Cemetery - Guide Map and Notes; Paul Lanagan, 2003-2013, The Burial Ground,; Paul Lanagan, 2010, Memorial Replacement,; Paul Lanagan, 23 April 2009, Joseph Bland Pearson, article in Sunderland Echo; Paul Lanagan, 2012, Remembered with Honour, and 2008 in Sign Post magazine

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