HOUGHTON HILLSIDE CEMETERY
Affectionately known to locals as the 'Old Cem', Houghton's Hillside Cemetery was originally known as the 'New Cemetery' when it opened in 1854 following a cholera outbreak the year before.
St Michael & All Angels' churchyard in the centre of Houghton had become full and a new burial ground was needed. The Rector, Rev John Grey, proposed that the new church cemetery be situated on glebe land next to Houghton Cut at the top of Sunderland Street. A public outcry followed as the proposed site had once been a quarry!
Houghton Hillside Cemetery was consecrated on September 4th 1854 by the Bishop of Exeter and over 7,000 burials took place there. Burials dwindled over the years with the last on record being in 1971.
The Cemetery was officially closed for new interments in 2005 by Order of the Privy Council.
THE CEMETERY QUESTION 1853
An introduction and overview of Hillside Cemetery's controversial history plus a first look at some of the noteworthy interments including a noble man, a general, an MP, and the Cemetery Objector himself!
[CEMETERY ORIGINS 1853]
CEMETERY GUIDE BOOK & MAP
Click to download your free copy of the Houghton Hillside Cemetery Guide Book & Map, currently in its 6th edition. This free downloadable is fully illustrated with colour images and looks great on glossy paper.
[GUIDE BOOK & MAP]
CEMETERY TIME LINE
This time line of events looks at the significant events in the history of the Old Cemetery on Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring, including dates of its extension, interesting burials and acts of desecration.
BURIAL RECORDS 1854 - 1971
Names of those people listed in Hillside Cemetery's numerous burial registers and grave registers. The lists can be searched for your ancestors and, in exchange for a small donation, details of the grave be sent to you.
[BURIAL RECORDS 1854 - 1971]
Many of the remaining headstones and memorials at Hillside Cemetery have been logged and a transcription of the memorial inscriptions made. The link below leads to a list of the names found on those memorials.
A digital-tracing has been made of high-res photographs of Hillside Cemetery's burial plans. This printable document is a handy guide to help you plot graves of interest when you visit the Cemetery.
REV & HON JOHN GREY MD, DD
The Rev & Hon John Grey MD, DD was Rector of Houghton-le-Spring between 1847 and 1895. He made the proposal that the 'church cemetery' be situated on the old quarry - land the Church owned!
[REV & HON JOHN GREY]
THOMAS W. U. ROBINSON
Thomas William Usherwood Robinson, son of the local brewer, was an affluent resident who happened to be Churchwarden during the Cemetery controversy - he also (bravely) opposed the Rector's plans!
[THOMAS WILLIAM USHERWOOD ROBINSON]
SIR GEORGE ELLIOT
Sir George Elliot, Bart, MP, lived at Houghton Hall. He was an advisor to the Egyptian Khedive. He is buried in the large rock vault at Hillside Cemetery with his daughter Elizabeth, son and grandson (both George).
[SIR GEORGE ELLIOT] | [HOUGHTON HALL]
WILLIAM STANDISH STANDISH
William Standish Standish, formerly known as William Standish Carr, was a noble man of Duxbury Park and Cocken Hall, Durham. His Hillside Cemetery vault has desecrated dozens of times over the years.
[WILLIAM STANDISH STANDISH]
George Wheatley, Crimean War veteran and local confectioner, died in 1906 and was buried at the Cemetery. An impressive memorial marks his grave. Other Wheatleys in the Cemetery are not related.
[GEORGE WHEATLEY] | [OTHER WHEATLEYS]
Priscilla Maria Beckwith and her husband, General William Beckwith, are commemorated on the rock face with a large raised memorial. The General's brother, John Beckwith of Calcutta, is interred with them.
JOSEPH BLAND PEARSON
The memorial of Joseph Bland Pearson was one of the first you would come across upon entering the Cemetery. His unusual middle-named helped us discover his story - he was decapitated!
[JOSEPH BLAND PEARSON]
William Shanks, a thirty-five year old amateur mathematician from Corsenside, came to settle in Houghton-le-Spring in 1847. William is famous for calculating the value of Pi to 707 places.
Four casualties of the Great War are buried at Hillside Cemetery. They were commemorated with CWGC headstones until 1962 when alternative commemorations were erected at Houghton Cemetery.
[FORGOTTEN WAR GRAVES] | [HOUGHTON AT WAR]
Around 10% of burials at Houghton Hillside Cemetery were inmates from Houghton's Workhouse and Poor Law Union. This article looks at the history of the building which was located on nearby William Street.
This article looks at other noteworthy and unusual burials at Houghton Hillside Cemetery, including local business founders, murder victims, a lesser-prophet and those who met their fate in grisly ways!
Seven printable fact sheets about Hillside Cemetery, covering: flora and fauna, William Standish Standish, Sir George Elliot, The Beckwiths, George Wheatley, lych gate and lodge and the burial grounds' layout.
LYCH GATE RESTORATION
The lych gate archway and wall at the entrance to Hillside Cemetery was restored in 2006 at a cost of £30,000. An illustrated blog was written at the time detailing the ups and downs of the project.
[LYCH GATE RESTORATION]
When the Cemetery's headstones were flattened in 1974, the large memorial in the north-eastern corner was pulled down and left to become an impromptu seat. In 2009 a replacement was erected on the exact spot.
CEMETERY: THEN & NOW
Comparitive views showing how the Hillside Cemetery used to look and how it looks now. The most contrasting views are those showing how the headstones vanished (later discovered to have been bulldozed in the 1970s).
[THEN & NOW]
A look at the people who have lived in the Sexton's Lodge (aka Cemetery Keeper's Lodge) at the entrance to Hillside Cemetery. This was the last house on the right when travelling up the steep Sunderland Street.
AIR RAID SHELTER
During the air raid shelter building programme of the 1940s, a brick built shelter was erected in the Cemetery for the residents of the Lodge and those visiting graves, if caught outside during an air raid during the War.
[AIR RAID SHELTER] | [MEASUREMENTS]
A Victorian time capsule was found inside the stonework of the lych gate during its restoration in 2006. This led to two modern time capsules being sealed inside before the work was completed. Full details of contents below.
Houghton Heritage Society has many old documents relating to the Hillside Cemetey, including: bills and posters, funeral cards, headstone receipts, and receipts for graves and funeral services at the Cemetery.
PASSION OF THE CHRIST PLAY
During Easter 2012, on Good Friday, April 6th 2012, a Passion Play was staged outdoors at Houghton Hillside Cemetery. The audience was encouraged to get involved and jostle for a view of 'Jesus'.
[PASSION OF THE CHRIST]
Is Houghton Hillside Cemetery haunted? Or is the tale of the 'headless horseman' just a rumour? Just a coincidence that he rode over a cliff into a cemetery where he would be buried? Find out in this article.
[GHOSTS OF HILLSIDE CEMETERY]
You can join Houghton Heritage Society by becoming a member on Facebook - or Fyass Byuk as we call it. We have almost 1,500 members and the group is very popular with residents, descendants and ex-pats.
VIDEOS OF HOUGHTON
Houghton Heritage Society's YouTube Channel features exclusive videos of Houghton-le-Spring as well as footage from our heritage events throughout the year - and of course Houghton Hillside Cemetery!
Houghton Heritage Society has over 5,000 images in its collections. Many can be found on our Flickr page while our Facebook group has thousands of exclusive photographs as uploaded by our many members.
[FLICKR] | [ARCHIVE CATALOGUE]