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Cemeteries

Shankill Graveyard

  • Location and opening hours

    Location

    Shankill Road
    Belfast
    BT13 3AE 

    Enter from Shankill Road.

    Opening hours

    From 7.30am to dusk daily. 

  • Getting to the cemetery

    Take Metro 11A, B, C, or D from Belfast city centre. There is no car parking available at the cemetery.

  • Accessibility

    The cemetery is fully accessible to those with disabilities. 

  • About the cemetery

    Shankill 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. One of the oldest legible stones belongs to George McAuley who died in 1685.

    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.

    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 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.

  • History

    The earliest church on this 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 body snatchers from stealing 'fresh' remains for use in medical research.

    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.

  • Famous burials

    Amongst those buried in the cemetery is William S Baird JP (1824-1886), founder of the Belfast Evening Telegraph (now the Belfast Telegraph). Reverend Isaac Nelson (died 1885), an Irish patriot, nationalist MP and former minister of Donegall Street Presbyterian Church, is also buried in Shankill Graveyard.

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