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Physical investment

City Cemetery Heritage Project

  • City Cemetery heritage

    Dating back to the 1860s, Belfast City Cemetery is one of the oldest public cemeteries in the city.  

    It is the final resting place of many notable figures including Edward Harland, co-founder of Harland & Wolff; Margaret Byers, suffragist and founder of Victoria College; and Sir William Pirrie, chairman of Harland & Wolff in the Titanic era, and former Lord Mayor of Belfast.

    The site also contains many points of historical interest, including the poor ground where over 80,000 souls lie in unmarked graves and an underground wall, which was built in Victorian times to separate Protestant and Catholic graves.

    Additionally, City Cemetery has a number of key listed heritage assets including the central steps, Victorian fountain and Jewish Cemetery.

    With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are leading an exciting project to enhance the existing built and natural heritage of City Cemetery and increase people’s ability to access and understand it, while protecting and preserving it for future generations.

    We want City Cemetery to become a much more attractive place to visit. We will work directly with local people as the project develops and introduce a range of measures to ensure the cemetery feels more welcoming and safer for both local residents and visitors.

  • Project plans

    Restoration of key heritage assets

    The cemetery has four B1-listed heritage assets.

    Asset Information
    Central steps and vaults Probably the most visually striking and historically significant monument in the cemetery, the steps were built in 1867. Within the steps there are a number of vaults within which lie the remains of families who dominated life in 19th century Belfast, such as Edward Harland (Harland and Wolff) and Thomas Gallaher (Gallaher Tobacco).
    Victorian drinking fountain A fine example of Victorian cast iron workmanship, installed by George Smith and Co of Sun Foundry, Glasgow, in 1880.
    Victorian fountain Free-standing, three-tiered decorative cast-iron fountain, dating from c.1880 by Glasgow based George Smith & Co. Although no longer in use, this fountain was part of the integral design of Belfast City Cemetery, and is typical of Victorian garden cemeteries.
    Superintendent’s gatehouse Designed by renowned architect John Lanyon the house opened in 1873. It currently houses the cemetery office

    There are also additional assets of significant historical importance and heritage value including the underground wall, built to separate Catholic and Protestant graves; the Jewish Burial Ground, believed to be the only one on the island of Ireland; and the First World War Memorial Wall, erected in 1927 by the Imperial War Graves Commission.

    We will sympathetically restore a number of these assets, including the central steps, Victorian fountains and Jewish Cemetery.

    Creation of new visitor centre

    The centre includes an interpretive exhibition, digital touchscreens, interactive features for children and workstations to help people carry out genealogy searches of the 220,000 people buried within the cemetery. It also features indoor and outdoor educational spaces for schools and youth groups.

    Innovative, interactive and informative interpretative signage

    Extensive interpretative signage will be used throughout the cemetery and within the visitor centre. This signage will tell a selection of stories of the history and heritage of the site, and of the notable figures who are buried there. Its purpose is to aid visitors’ enjoyment of the site. The interactive digital aspect of the signage will allow people to tap into the vast genealogical potential that the cemetery has.

    Enhancement of existing natural heritage and biodiversity

    Our biodiversity plan includes provision for a range of actions such as;

    • improving habitat connectivity through planting of species-rich hedgerows,
    • revision of management practises in designated areas to develop and maintain species-rich wildflower areas and
    • various proposals to enhance the biodiversity in the stream that transacts the site.

    Promotion to encourage more people, both local and tourists, to visit the site

    We want to ensure that as many people as possible visit City Cemetery and take advantage of its rich heritage, be that by using the interactive research stations to find out more about the history of the site or to trace their own family history.  We also want people to use the new visitor centre for a range of purposes.

    We are developing an ongoing activity plan and volunteering plan that will enable local people to be part of the ongoing development of this project in many different areas.

    We will publicise all opportunities on our website and we’ll work with partner organisations to spread the word to local people.

  • Getting to City Cemetery

    The cemetery is accessible by public transport. There is car parking available at the cemetery.

    Public transport

    City Cemetery is a Glider stop on the G1 Glider route from the city centre. Metro buses also stop at City Cemetery on Falls Road. Check Glider and bus timetables on Translink (link opens in new window) website.

    Car parking

    You can park inside the entrance gates at the intersection of Whiterock and Falls Road. Visitors can park on either side of the road in front of the Superintendent's House. There are two disabled parking bays behind the visitor centre. An accessible entrance is facing these parking bays. 

  • Current status

    The construction of the visitor centre has been completed and it is open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday, from 9.30am to 1.30pm. Work to restore the central steps and vaults and the superintendent’s house has also been completed.

    The final elements of the project will see the Victoria fountains restored and new interpretive signage in Irish installed.

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