Cemetery History

© Friends of North Cemetery

North Cemetery was previously known as the West Hartlepool Cemetery and informally as, Hart Lane, Hart Road or Jesmond Road Cemetery 


The need for a Cemetery came about as a result of the growth in population due to the  development of the docks, the railway expansion and the churchyard  of Stranton that was not coping with the demand for burial space and was in a deplorable and overcrowded condition.

With the introduction of the West Hartlepool Improvement Act 2nd June 1854, which was the Parliamentary Act formalising West Hartlepool as a Town in its own right and within it, it, included the Cemeteries Clauses Act 1847 allowing the development of a Public Cemetery and which included the building of two chapels one to be consecrated for the Burial Service according to the Rites of the Established Church (Church of England) and the other unconsecrated for all others Burial services that differ from the Established Church, to be managed by the Improvement Commissioners-Today’s Council.

The first board of Commissioners with responsibility for the development of the Cemetery were: Ralph Ward Jackson Chairman, Rev. Henry Richard Ridley Vicar of Stranton Church, Thomas Casebourne CE the engineer to the Dock & Harbour Committee, Ralph Walker, Jacob Allison, Cuthbert Emmerson-The Chemist, John Richardson, Christopher Salmon-Confidential Secretary to Ralph Ward Jackson, John Taylor, William Ramsey, John Pile, Robert Baxter and Mr W W Brunton Solicitor-as the Clerk.

The Land

The land set apart for the laying of the Cemetery, being agricultural land, part of old Stranton and about a mile away from West Hartlepool was originally purchased by the Dock Company consisting of  Ralph Ward Jackson. Robinson Watson and Charles Barrett, from the estate of the late Duke of Cleveland then sold it to the improvement Commissioners at a cost of £2250 consisting of approximately 11 ¼ acres.

The land was then used by Ralph Ward Jackson to dispose of the waste from the excavations of the dock to create the mound, we see today.

Establishment of the Cemetery

Its development began in January 1855 when instruction were given to the Works Committee to obtain plans and estimates for the preparation of the grounds and the erection of two chapels.

Works Committee
The first works committee consisted of Emmerson, Casebourne, Ramsey and Davison, whose main role was to oversee the laying out of the cemetery including other works such as drainage, slaughter house, roads and street lighting.

By mid-February plans drawn up by Mr West to build to Chapels and a lodge were agreed.

The West End of the Cemetery was developed first along with the 2 chapels and lodge:(see above Map)

The Cemeteries Clauses, Act LIX stated…That no Part of The Cemetery shall be constructed within Three hundred Yards of any house of the annual value of Fifty Pounds, or having a Plantation or ornamental Garden or Pleasure Ground occupied therewith, except with the Consent of the Owner, Lessee, and Occupier thereof, in Writing…

And Clause LIV stipulated…That every Part of the Cemetery hereby authorised to be made shall be securely enclosed and fenced with Walls or other sufficient Fences of the Height of Seven feet at the least…

We can get an indication of how work progressed on the site:-
• The roofs were on both chapels with seats in one by July 1855
• Erection of paling on the North Slope was undertaken
• Stoves had been installed at the east end of each chapel by Oct 1855
• The contract awarded to build the east end wall-Oct 1855
• Drainage completed-Oct1855
• Coping on the wall almost complete-Nov 1855

…Ramsay complained of want of a Superintendent over the labourers at Cemetery, who  appear to work and not to work as they please...

Cemetery Divisions

Originally it had been decided to divide the cemetery in two halves whereby the south side to be for the consecrated ground and North side as unconsecrated ground.

However after an approach by the Catholics on account of their number, and dialogue between the Bishop and Commissioners it was eventually resolved; that …one-sixth north and south at the West End be apportioned to the Roman Catholics…the remaining split between north and South with the South becoming the consecrated ground…with the Central Road acting as the division on the understanding that boundary stones are placed around the edge to stand 18 inches high.


Responsibility of burials in keeping with the Church of England within West Hartlepool Cemetery according to the Cemetery Clauses Act befell to the ecclesiastical district of Christ Church and its Minister. But in doing so the Churchyard at Stranton had to close.

The area and Chapel recommended for consecration had to be agreed and consecrated, by the Bishop, but according to his agent, it was to be June(1856) before he could come and perform the act of Consecration and as it stands, whilst the cemetery remains closed, the Improvement Commissioners would be losing approximately £5 a week. With the cost of Consecration being between £10 and £12.          Read Consecration

Because of the delay in consecration, it was necessary to acquire a license from the Bishop, so they could bury in the cemetery, but only in unconsecrated ground. This inevitably threw up other dilemas such as would a member of the Church of England want burying in unconsecrated ground!

What compounded the issue of consecration by the commissioners even further especially Ralph Ward Jackson was that thirteen of the fourteen documents making a district for Christ Church were found to be void and being there was no ecclesiastical district (Parish) attached to Christ Church as a result, there consequently could be no minister for a district that had no existence!

The bishop and Commissioners appears to have forgotten that Powers which had enabled them to create a Parish was taken away from them and that only her Majesty’s Church Building Commissioners could designate a parish to a church.

Therefore the appointment of Mr Burges as vicar to Christ Church, having previously taken place wasn’t valid and meant that he could not conduct burials at the cemetery, at the same time burials could not be undertaken at the Cemetery whilst the Churchyard at Stranton remained open. It also meant there could be no Solemnised Marriages, Churchings and Baptisms within Christ Church.

And led to a dispute between the Commissioners, the Bishop and the Rev Burges, who continued to perform Burials Services with the help of the sexton, against the wishes of the commissioners, eventually leading to the incident in the Cemetery and the refusal by Mr Cromwell deputising for the Rev Ridley to perform Burial Services till the problem was resolved.

Responsibility therefore for arranging the Consecration service according to the Cemetery Clauses Act, meant it was down to the vicar of the local Parish Church, in this case it was the Rev Henry Ridley Vicar of Stranton Church. Thus enabling Rev Ridley to bring in any bishop of the Church of England to consecrate the Cemetery with the Consecration of the cemetery eventually conducted by the Bishop of Manchester on 23rd June 1856 the same day as Hartlepool Cemetery (Spion Cop).

…The Bishop of Durham repeatedly urged Mr Burges for his own happiness, for the good of the church and for the peace of his parish, to retire from West Hartlepool, and has he not, in defiance of those reiterated suggestions absolutely refused… Even after being offered £150 per year… he was staying put…

He eventually left for a post in Birmingham 1857  and it would be 1859 before Christ Church got its own ecclesiastical district.

© Friends of North Cemetery


Purchase of land £2250
Construction of Chapels £565.15s.0d
Cartage £11.19s.6d
Stamps for conveyance of cemetery ground £11.13s
Grass seeds £3.13s.11d
Books £5.0s.6d

Others costs
• Laying a tile floor in the central room of the lodge
• For coping on the cemetery walls at 1s.3d per yard rising to 1s.6d
• For paling on the slope of the north side at 3s.6d per yard
• Surveyor report to the Cemetery Committee…called attention to the necessity of providing some railing on top of the South West wall at the cemetery over which lads were in the habit of climbing and doing great mischief…

By August 1856 financial outlay stood at £3817.4s.6d but the Commissioners found it necessary to acquire a further loan to cover an overspend.

Paths and roads to the cemetery were also being laid and improved to make it more accessible

West Hartlepool Cemetery eventually opened 26th April 1856 with the first burial taking place on 14th May according to documents in consecrated ground, even though and consecration of the piece of land surrounded by fencing on the above plan (See OS map 1857 at top of page) only took place  on 23rd June of the same year.

Dec 1856-Cemetery Laid…manure to assist the growth of the grass seed which had been sown on account of the poverty of the soil...

 then expanded twice more to the size of 12.5 hectares and shape which is so familiar.


The Burial in Woollen Acts 1666 was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1863.

The burial in “Woolen Act” required the dead, except plague victims and the destitute to be buried in pure English woolen shrouds to the exclusion of foreign textiles. ENFORCEMENT: It was the requirement that an affidavit be sworn in front of the justice of the peace (usually by a relative of the deceased), confirming burial in wool with the punishment of a £5 fee for noncompliance. Burial entries in Parish Registers were marked with ” Affidavit” or its equivalent to confirm that affidavit had been sworn; it would be marked” Naked” for those to poor to afford a woolen shroud. The legislation was in force till 1814 but generally ignored since 1770.

Consecration 1865

Consecration 1876

OS Map 1876

© Friends of North Cemetery

An eastern portion of the West Hartlepool Cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Durham 20th Oct 1865.  It also shows a proposed lodge at the east end which never came to fruition (See image above) and in 1876 another portion of the Eastern part of the cemetery was consecrated (See image above)

In 1873 the Cemetery became the subject of blame along with the Slaughter houses, Cholera Hospital and California for the state of the drains which was flowing into a small stream which emptied into the pond close to the Water works.

In 1874 a further three acres of land were acquired for the cemetery at the north-west corner, becoming additional burial plots for the Roman Catholics.


The picture above shows a view of the Central  Lodge & Nonconformist Chapel  and some burials approx 1886  and believe we have been able to identify a small number visible in the picture.Today the photograph below shows where the Nonconformist Chapel once stood

  Click on  name below  for inscription  

    Catherine Lauder                                                                        William Airey

     Tiplady Brown                                                                             Agnes Irvine

Courtesy Edwin Jeffries

Consecration 1892

Consecration 1892 Courtesy of Durham Repository 

Such was the town growth and need for the cemetery. The site was further expanded with the purchase of an additional nineteen acres of land on 9th February 1889 with Consecration of two sections taking place on 18th October 1892(See image above). Leading to the original Cemetery becoming known as the “Old Cemetery”1892 also saw the introduction of new burial charges which were dependent on where one was to be buried.

• For an earth grave for an adult £3.00 down to 15s
• Child under 12 yrs £2.00 down to 10s
• Earth grave in perpetuity each space £5.5s down to £4.4s
• Brick grave vault space each £6.6s down to £5.5s
• Ministers fees 7s.6d down to 2s.6d
• Stillborn 3s.6d

courtesy of Hartlepool Museum

 Courtesy of Hartlepool Library Service

Courtesy of Hartlepool Library Service

It was agreed in 1892 that a Rockery of Limestone be placed along each side of the main roadway(Central Road) from the entrance to the chapels (See Stereographic image above) and 500 trees were purchased to replace those that had died. And a New Lodge in Jesmond Road was built, now in private ownership.

In August The Town Clerk reported that …two baskets of grapes from the greenhouses have been pulled during the month, one of which was sent to the Hartlepool’s Hospital, and the other to the Nursing Association. Letters of acknowledging their receipt are submitted…

January 1893 The Borough Surveyor reported upon the wretched condition of the carriageway in the Cemetery from the entrance to the Chapels and recommend it be constructed with Tar Macadam. It would be April 1895 before the North of England Ashphalte Co. would be appointed to do the work, who then went on to demand 3s.4d per yard because of the would be additional wear and tear.

In July it was resolved by the Property and Lighting Committee…that one half of the usual charge be made for wooden memorial erecting in the case of infant grave spaces…

Between October & November a number of complaints were made regarding the steepness and dangerous condition of the banks leading from the “Old Cemetery” to the “New Cemetery”. Agreed to reduce the size of  the Banks

In November 1893…it was reported by the Borough Surveyor that there had been a difficulty in getting turf for the New Cemetery, and there was an opportunity of obtaining some from the Lynnfield Estate, he was authorised to purchase about 500 or 600 yards…The later being eventually purchased and used for the tiding of graves.

1895 New Greenhouse, Tool House & Open Shed constructed to replace the earlier dilapidated Greenhouses. The Tender won by Mr W.T. Atkinson, with the Old Greenhouses purchased by Messrs Kent & Anson.

The demolition of the Corporation 12 Slaughter Houses opposite the east side had taken place and moved to the Burn Road area. 1896 then saw the removal of 14,000 cubic yards of soil from a high-point on the slaughter house site and taken to be used to level up the East End of the New Cemetery.

April 1897, 40 gallons of weed killer purchased for the paths in the Cemetery.

OS Map 1897

OS Map 1897

Continued Industrialisation and Commercialisation saw the population of West Hartlepool rise from 28,000 in 1881 to 63,000 in 1900 with housing, according to OS Map of 1897 now reaching the walls of the cemetery (Image above)

You can well imagine standing on the mound and being able to observe all round the boundary of the cemetery – roadways have developed, Chester Road to the North, beyond that open farm land remain, to the West, Jesmond Rd and the South Side of Percy Street is built.

If you were able to see past Melbourne street, the remaining area known as “California” as disappeared and in its place we can see Park Square under construction, Tweed St is under construction and a laundry bordering the North east corner as sprung up.

House building along Hart Road is well advanced, the majority being terraced streets with their now familiar street names whilst others street names would disappear over time, such as Ada Street, Edwin Street and Watson Street off Hart Road later becoming Brook Street, Briar Street and Jobson Street respectively.

Ward Boundaries
Ward Boundaries have appeared 1897, in which the cemetery is shown to be in the North West Ward, then went on, to be situated in West Ward, North Ward, Dyke House Ward and in 2012 Victoria Ward

At the end of the 19th Century evidence shows that apart from the superintendent there were four other members of staff, because in June of 1899…an application was received from the four workmen at the cemetery for an increase in wages. Resolved; that their wages be increased to 25/- … Yet the year previous it stated the Property and Lighting Committee would not entertain it.

July 1900 it was reported…that the girls from the laundry… were in the habit of lunching in the Cemetery and scattering pieces of paper, and other refuse…Resolved; that Mr Paterson, the Manager, be written to, and that proceedings be instituted against them in the case of further complaints


Back in 1892 there was also a post and fence fixed at the Northeast corner to enclose a piece of land purchased for the purpose of forming an additional Roadway to the New Cemetery. In April 1894 it was then… let to Mr E Coates at 15/- per annum…

It wasn’t until February 1902 when…the Borough Engineer submitted modified plans for the construction of the North Road in the Cemetery, that a resolve, was taken, that tenders be advertised for…at the same time the land in Raby Road acquired for widening this road and now not required, be advertised for sale…

At the following meeting, a proposal of purchase was put forward by Mr Paterson the Manager of the Steam Laundry Company for the strip of land abutting upon his property, it was rejected, and the land sale withdrawn.

It was later agreed to sell the strip of land to Mr Paterson now Councillor in September 1905 at a cost of 6/- per yard and on the payment of £80 towards the…reconstructing of the boundary wall, he to have the use of the wall as a party wall…

The tender submitted by Mr J Meredith for the construction of the North Road was agreed. We refer it today as the Jesmond Road /Raby Road through route.

The erection of urinals in the Raby Road wall met with opposition from the residents of Howbeck Terrace requesting their removal, whilst this was referred back to the Borough Engineer, history dictates they remained!

A new gate for the main Raby Road entrance was also purchased in 1906, with records indicating that the Lion Foundry in Glasgow fabricated the iron. (See Below) Works was also undertaken in 1906 to raise the height of the western boundary wall, apparently to prevent straying fowl entering the cemetery.

Courtsey of Hartlepool Cemetery & Cremetoria Dept

Consecration 1908

Consecration 1908 Courtesy of Durham Repository

1908 further piece of land consecrated (above)

In 1911 Mr Eden moved to Stranton Grange Cemetery with control over the old Cemetery, Mr Watson takes charge under the direction of Mr Eden and the use of the house he presently occupies; and that Mr Hodgson takes over the house which Mr Eden occupied and receive a salary of 21/-. With the first telephone installed at both cemeteries.

During the bombardment 1914 the Cemetery was hit with two bombs, with little damage reported.

By 1919 the OS Map (Image below) shows that town expansion as almost entirely consumed the Cemetery, there is nowhere for the cemetery to expand. Hart Road has become Hart Lane and later the A179 a major access road into Hartlepool. Howbeck Lane which had run past the east boundary wall had by 1919 now starts from Chester Rd, with Raby Rd now running past the eastern Wall, with a Ward boundary running down its Middle.

OS Map 1919

Everest Street and Jesmond Rd School are present along the Western boundary.

 And by 1919 the OS Map also shows  all the Cemetery’s burial plot areas with its complete network of pathways.


Early view of the North Side

Cemetery Superintendent: 1929 Hart Lane & Jesmond Road J Wallace. Jesmond Rd. J Wharton –Gardener in 1933 became Superintendent

In 1933 The Cemetery Sub-committee reported to the town Council “Empty graves thought empty are full” culminating in grave diggers having to prod about to check if they are full.

The Grave plan implied there appeared to be a section missing containing between 20 and 30 graves, But at the same time there has been no real system of recording burials and implying it had been going on for quite some time “Mrs Brown has been married to Mr Jones in the Grave”   Read More




Demolition of  Chapel & Lodge
1st July 1964 a faculty issued by the Bishop of Durham’s office gave Hartlepool Borough Council permission to demolish the derelict lodge and the Chapel 

Before the Faculty was given, a notice had to be nailed to St Oswald Church door for Ten Days to allow…all persons having or pretending to have, any right, title or interest in the premises, if they of any of them wish to object to such a Faculty or license being granted, to enter an appearance notifying such objection in the Registry of our Diocese…

The request appears to show that Eric Waggot Town Clerk first approached the Bishops Office in February of the same year and questioned whether the chapel was actually consecrated, with an indication there had been some earlier discussions during 1950s

The petition stated that ….in the last three years there had been a total of twenty two burials in said cemetery, ten of which took place in 1963 and that the said chapel has not been in use in the past twenty years…..make good the site…by turfing the site and planting shrubs…Works to be completed within 6 months of the issue of the faculty.


Courtesy of Dougie Ferriday Collection 


In May 1972 Hartlepool Borough Council Major Works took place in North Cemetery, which included. The removal of a large number of trees that were dangerous or to allow development of other trees and therefore healthy Over 1500 headstones where either removed altogether or lined against the Central Road along with their grave kerbstones to create the low level walls we see today A limited number of Monuments were left standing. Paths running North South between grave areas were removed whilst other paths were extended. Ground was graded out and reseeded that would provide for easier maintenance. 

A War Memorial erected on newly prepared land which had been used for the Burial of the Roman Catholics, in  the 1970’s was later removed in March 1996, due to vandalism with another erected in Stranton Cemetery. A new memorial is now in place which has all those name which are interred in the Southern Side.     Read

War Memorial remove about 1996

Second War Memorial removed about 1996

If you compare The OS Map of 1980 and earlier Maps some of the alterations are quite clear, path networks have disappeared as a result of back filling from waste ground, Steps have been added at the North West End. Path networks have since been broken down in the lower area.

© Friends of North Cemetery

© Julie Rudge

Headstone lined Central Road

Headstone lined Upper Main Avenue

Today the upper area of the “Mound” (South Side) almost resembles park land accept for headstone lined main path (Central Road) (See image left) with the odd monument dotted about. The northern half of the site whilst still recognisable as a cemetery, is also in decline as graves have collapse or are vandalised.

We have in excess of fifty three thousand burials, which, includes Eighty-One War Graves, one French mariner, twelve nuns of St Josephs Convent and over 70 identified as “Unknown” interred.

The site is closed for new burials except from those in purchased family plots, there is no Staff, buildings or amenities on the site as the last of the Chapels and lodge were demolished  during the 1970’s including the removal of hundreds of headstones after Hartlepool Borough Council made an application via a faculty to the Durham Diocese in 1964.    Go to headstone inscriptions 

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