View larger map Address: Shankill Road, Belfast, BT13 3AE (entry is via Shankill Road).
Contact information: Call the Cemeteries and Crematorium Central Office on 028 9027 0296. It is open from 8.30am until 5pm (Monday to Thursday), 4.30pm (Friday) and 12.30pm (Saturday).
Opening hours: From 7.30am to dusk daily.
Access information: Take Metro 11A/B/C/D from Belfast city centre. There is no car parking available at the cemetery, which is fully accessible to those with disabilities.
About the cemeteryShankill Graveyard is one of the oldest cemeteries in Belfast.
It has been used for burials for more than 1,000 years and, although they no longer take place in the graveyard, it remains an important historical site.
A memorial stone book is located in a special landscaped portion of the cemetery, which includes an area of grass where cremated remains can be scattered. If you have a relative buried in the graveyard, you can purchase a tablet and have the wording of your choice, up to 75 characters, engraved on it.
The plinth for the memorial stone book in Shankill Graveyard was provided and installed by Funeral Services NI.
Many of the earliest headstones in Shankill Graveyard are unreadable or have disappeared. One of the oldest legible stones belongs to George McAuley who died in 1685.
The site's gates and railings are listed due to their historical significance.
Another feature is the sculpture of Queen Victoria by artist John Cassidy, which you can see from the main entrance.
The statue was originally located at the Queen Victoria Royal Jubilee Schools in Durham Street, before being moved to the cemetery in 2003. It was carved from Portland stone in 1897 to celebrate the queen's diamond jubilee and shows her wearing a dress of Nottingham lace.
VideoThe video below shows the layout of Shankill Graveyard and its history. The clip is part of the Belfast iTours project and is available through YouTube. You need to have Adobe Flash Player 10 installed on your computer to watch the video.
Press the 'play' button to view the clip.
HistoryExperts believe Shankill Graveyard has been used for burials for more than 1,000 years. The earliest church on the site, dating back to around 1306, is believed to have been the White Church of the Chapels of the Ford.
Although the name 'Shankill' means 'old church' (from the Irish 'séan chill'), the name did not come into common use until the 17th century.
During the 18th century, most burials were of local people but, during the 19th century, residents from the nearby linen settlements of Glenalina, Ligoniel, Oldpark and Springfield were also buried in the cemetery. During this time, the site changed from a rural community graveyard to a town cemetery.
Many paupers and victims of the plague and other diseases are also buried in Shankill Graveyard, in unmarked graves. In fact, the Black Death sparked such fear, the ground surrounding the victims' graves was ordered to be closed over and never reopened, in case the disease was 'released'.
In 1834, a watchtower was built by William Sayers and Israel Milliken so families could guard new graves for a small fee. The idea was to prevent bodysnatchers from stealing 'fresh' remains for use in medical research.
During the 19th century, a font, known as the Bullawn Stone and used by generations of children to heal warts, was discovered in the cemetery. A pin was stuck in the wart and then dropped into the font and, by the early 1900s, solid layers of rusting pins were said to be lying in the font's stagnant water.
The Bullawn Stone was moved to St Matthew’s Church on Woodvale Road in 1911 where it can still be seen today.
For a short time in the late 1880s, the graveyard's entrance gates became the terminus for the Shankill horse tram line.The line was soon connected with the Ardoyne and Ligoniel routes however and the terminus was no longer used.
Shankill Graveyard was handed over to the public in 1958, after it had fallen into disrepair following the decision to no longer accept new burials. Belfast Corporation (now the council) cleared and renovated the site, turning it into a ‘rest garden’ for local residents to enjoy.
Many gravestones had been vandalised, but some were saved and arranged around the site's perimeter wall, beside existing memorials.
For more information about Shankill Graveyard, visit www.rushlightmagazine.com