County Antrim Northern Ireland
Postal Code: BT13 1AD
Phone: 028 9027 0296
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
This burial is on private property or is otherwise inaccessible
Details: Clifton Street burial ground is kept locked, surrounded by a high wall with broken glass or barbed wire on the top. Understandable because of vandalism (no recent burials there, so unattended).
Clifton Street Graveyard opened in 1797 and was full by 1819. A second area, known as the lower ground was opened and all plots were sold by 1854. It is now a registered historical site and is managed by Belfast City Council.
Clifton Street Cemetery offers a window on Belfast's history since it opened in 1797 as 'a new burying ground worthy of the citizens of Belfast an alternative to the burying ground at the end of High Street, which then had to be closed in 1798 because of flooding.
Created largely as a way of raising money for the Belfast Charitable Society, Clifton Street provided a final resting place for the town's elite. By 1819 it had generated over £2,000, but graves were also provided for paupers. Although extended in 1828, space had largely run out by 1884, though some people retained the right to bury. The last funeral was in 1984.
With no revenue, maintenance became an issue. The British Army secured the site in 1970, but they left in 1973, vandalism and destruction followed. Almost too late, the City Council took responsibility in 1984.
There are nearly as many intriguing stories as there are graves here. The trial of Burke and Hare in Edinburgh for murder and body-snatching in 1828 brought panic and armed watchman to the site - and their carelessness with guns brought the nearby army barracks under fire. Families worried that recently buried relatives might be dug up and sold so that medical students could practice dissection. Another precaution was using an iron guard - which can be seen in Clifton House's exhibition. Legalizing the supply of bodies for dissection ended the problem in 1832.
Some burials are closely associated with the 1798 Rebellion, most notably Henry Joy McCracken, whose body was moved here and interred beside his sister Mary Ann. Their relative, Henry Joy, is also buried here. A member of the famous family that started the Belfast Newsletter and introduced cotton-spinning, he was both author of Belfast's first history and had a paper mill. The Simms family also have graves here. Now nearly forgotten, their invention of cheap-edition books made literature available across the classes in the nineteenth century.
The Ritchie family is another that lies in Clifton Street. They revived shipbuilding in Belfast and set it on the path to become a globally important industry.