Access information: Take Metro 10A-H, 12A-B or 57 from Belfast city centre. There is no car parking available at the cemetery, which contains a good network of paths and level ground throughout for those with disabilities.
About the cemetery
It contains the graves of many notable families, including the Dunvilles, the Sinclairs and the McCrackens, and its history provides an important insight into the social development of the city.
Key features include a mausoleum belonging to the Dunville family, which once contained ceramic 'photographs' of the family. The Dunvilles, who produced whiskey from their distillery on Grosvenor Road, presented a large portion of land on Falls Road to Belfast in 1891. The land later became Dunville Park.
There is also a memorial to George C Hyndman, a member of the Belfast Botanical and Horticultural Society which helped establish Botanic Gardens in 1828. It is easy to spot thanks to the statue of Hyndman's pet dog which sits on top of the memorial.
Another unusual grave belongs to Thomas Ash - its corners are marked by three ash trees (the fourth has been removed).
Clifton Street Graveyard opened in 1797 and was managed by the Belfast Charitable Society. Burials no longer take place in the cemetery, which is now a recognised historical site, and has been managed by us since 1984.
To combat the risk from bodysnatchers, a wall was built around the graveyard. It failed to stop the practice however and it became common for relatives to stand guard beside new graves every night until the risk of snatching had decreased.
Families also built cages of stout iron (known as coffin guards) around coffins to deter the snatchers and the society was eventually forced to employ watchmen to guard the cemetery.
In 1799, the society agreed to set aside a portion of land for those who could not pay for burials. The area became known as the ‘poor grave’. The cemetery also contains a large unmarked plot which served as a mass grave for the victims of the 1832 cholera epidemic.
The original Clifton Street Graveyard was full by 1819 and a second area, known as the lower ground, was opened. By 1854, all the plots in this area had been sold.
The video below shows the layout of Clifton Street 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.
You need to have Flash enabled to view this Flickr gallery. If you can’t see this gallery, visit www.flickr.com/belfastcitycouncil to view the photos.
Amongst those buried in Clifton Street Graveyard are:
- Dr William Drennan (1754-1820) - United Irishman said to be the first person to describe Ireland as ‘the Emerald Isle'
- Valentine Jones (1712-1806) - West Indian merchant and founding member of the Belfast Charitable Society
- Robert Joy (1722-1785) and Henry Joy (1720-1789) - owners of the Belfast News Letter and General Advertiser (now the News Letter) and Cromac Paper Mill
- Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866) - niece of Robert and Henry Joy and sister of the Henry Joy McCracken. McCracken was an anti-slavery campaigner who worked with the Belfast Charitable Society, owners of the Poor House
- Henry Joy McCracken (1767-1798) - founding member of the United Irishmen. McCracken was hanged on
17 July 1798 for his part in the United Irish Rebellion. He was buried in the Parish Church of Saint George, located on High Street, but his remains were later moved to Clifton Street alongside his sister
- William Ritchie (1756-1834) - Scottish shipbuilder who established his shipyard at what is now Corporation Square
- John Templeton (1766-1825) - local naturalist who helped establish Botanic Gardens.
Further information about Clifton Street Graveyard is available from the following websites: