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Grange Cemetery

As you stand at this cemetery’s gate, south of the old city of Edinburgh, you are at the ridge of the

ancient Burgh Muir. Here, from the earliest times to the Jacobites, were common grazings and the

haunts of vagrants. Kings hunted over the moor and its forests, and assembled armies there.

By 1513, enclosed by its FloddenWall, Edinburgh could only expand upwards. Overcrowding increased

and so eyes and minds turned to the north and, based on James Craig’s plan, the new town was growing,

across the Nor Loch, by the turn of the 18th Century.

Soon, the richer townsfolk, again seeking even more space—and some perhaps wanting to turn a coin—

built George Square, drained the Burgh Loch (now the Meadows), and longingly looking even further

out from town, thought of developing the south-sloping land of the Burgh Muir. Sir Thomas Dick

Lauder obtained an enabling Act of Parliament (1825) and, under rigorous conditions, planned to arrange

feus on: ‘. . . the lands of Grange, called St Geillie Grange, with the Manor Place of Grange, Houses,

Biggins, Yards, Orcheards, Dovecoats . . . also . . . arable land of Schynes . . . with Houses and Biggins now

waste, and Pertinents thereof, lying betwixt the other land of Saint Geillie Grange on theWest and South

Parts, and the Common Muir of Edinburgh on the East and North Parts . . . ’ At this time, housebuilding

had already started further south-west on the lands of Canaan (areas of present-day Morningside).

In 1753, Edinburgh’s urban population was about 48,000 and this had increased to just over 90,000 by

1801, the year of the first official census. In 1851 the population of Edinburgh exceeded 200,000.

Even at the start of the 19th Century, the city’s old churchyards, all in heavily populated neighbourhoods,

and some having been extended more than once, were more than full. Often bad maintenance,

and tombs with encircling protection against body-snatchers, allowed filth to pile up.

To meet the problems, private companies made cemeteries near the then outer limits of Edinburgh. Five

cemeteries were opened from 1843 to 1846, and the largest, the Southern or Grange Cemetery, owned by

the Edinburgh Southern Cemetery Company, was able to receive its first interment, that of Dr Thomas

Chalmers, in June 1847.

Grange Cemetery, designed by the architect David Bryce, was planned to provide for ordinary burials

and for lodgements in vaults. However, fashions changed quickly. The vaults rapidly became unpopular,

as monuments, easily seen, and for some so readily exhibiting a conspicuous connection to

substantial wealth, became voguish. An intended mortuary chapel was never erected, but there was an

extension westwards in the 1920s.

It is, maybe, interesting to note that cremation became available in Edinburgh in 1929. Nevertheless, the

Grange Cemetery remains open for all who wish to pay respects to forebears and for the use of families

possessing lairs. In 1976 the Grange Cemetery was taken over by the City of Edinburgh District Council.

Gerald H. France – 1999

cemetery

Use this link to see details of who is buried there


8 Comments

  1. I am very fond of the Grange Cemetery and visiting my mother’s grave usually spend some time wandering about, sitting on the bench enjoying the peace and admiring the trees. I am about to write a short story (in German) and wondered if there is any more information available about the use of the catacombs in the early days or will I just leave it to my imagination.

    Thank You,
    Jutta Gaskill

  2. Hello, having just returned home to Cape Town, South Africa after visited your very pretty and tranquil cemetery I must compliment you on the information you provide to the public on “Some Notable Burials’ and “More Notable Burials”. I was very impressed to see this and yours is one of the few cemeteries that does this, and I have visited hundreds of sites. I must register my disappointment however in not finding the Victoria Cross Holder, Major-General William McBean VC, being mentioned in either of your first two booklets. Perhaps next time?
    Many thanks for such an immaculately kept cemetery, a privilege to walk around. The gentleman in charge of the branch and leave clearing was exceptionally helpful to me in finding the grave of Major-General McBean VC.

  3. Sorry for the belated response but I have only just seen your message by chance in a section of our website. McBean may well appear in a future listing of “Yet More” notable graves but, as you can imagine, we have a huge range of potential subjects. I first became aware of the Major-General when I was contacted in 2016 by the grand-daughter of another VC recipient whose family had been assisting a global VC research project. They were seeking help in locating the McBean grave. Fortunately, it was an easy grave to give them directions to find it, which they subsequently did. The lettering on the gravestone is rather worn, I seem to recall, but they were happy with the photographs they took for the project.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to Grange Cemetery.
    Jenny Dawe

  4. Can I visit your cemetery during our lockdown? I was interested in seeing Alexander Duff’s memorial, as I was doing research on this Scottish missionary.

  5. Yes, Grange Cemetery is open from 09:00 – 17:00 seven days a week during lockdown. Alexander Duff’s memorial is easy to find, being on the southern side of the main path between the east and west gates. It is at the top of the 3rd row from the west in the block of graves immediately to the east of the main path through the cemetery in a north-south direction through the catacombs. If you pick up a copy of ‘More Notable Burials’ in the cemetery – or print it from our web pages – Duff’s memorial is approximately opposite Thomas Pitcairn in that booklet.
    The reason I know the location is that Alexander Duff was on my initial long list of potential “notables” for our second booklet. His memorial stone notes him as “the first Church of Scotland missionary to India”, so it sounded as if there might be an interesting story there.
    Hope you enjoy your visit.

  6. Visited the cemetery today, what a peaceful and tranquil place and so interesting. I was a bit puzzled looking at notable burials by the almost total absence of women, surely there must be some among the enormous number of burials in the cemetery? Although I have travelled past the cemetery many times both on the bus and along Lovers Loan in the 30 years I’ve lived nearby, this is the first time I’ve been in and was surprised by how large it is and .

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Doors open days

at Grange Cemetery

Beaufort Road

Saturday 25th September 1pm – 5pm

Sunday 26th September 11am – 5pm

Click here for details