Key Hill Cemetery - A Jewellery Quarter Gem!

Key Hill Cemetery is located in Hockley, Birmingham (now within the Jewellery Quarter), between Icknield Street, Key Hill and Key Hill Drive. Many famous Birmingham people are buried here.


Where is Key Hill Cemetery?

Key Hill Cemetery is situated on Key Hill, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 5AH.

 

In brief

The Birmingham General Cemetery (now called Key Hill Cemetery), is in Hockley (now within the Jewellery Quarter), Birmingham. It opened in 1836 as a nondenominational cemetery (nonconformist) and is the oldest cemetery in Birmingham. It is no longer available for new burials.

Key Hill CemeteryKey Hill Cemetery (November 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Key Hill Cemetery - history

Originally called the Birmingham General Cemetery, now known as Key Hill Cemetery. Key Hill gets it's name origins from Kaye Hill - named after the husband of Ann Morrow (co-heiress to the Manor of Birmingham) Arthur Kaye.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries the population of the Town of Birmingham grew from 78,000 to 150,000. This led to overcrowding of the local church graveyards such as at St Philip's Church (now St Philip's Cathedral).

As a result, the General Cemetery Company was formed in 1832, and Birmingham's first public cemetery opened 4 years later in 1836.

It was built on land between Icknield Street, Key Hill and Key Hill Drive, of what was formerly a sand quarry.

The cemetery was designed by local architect Charles Edge.

There used to be a Greek Doric Temple by Edge, but this has been demolished.

Key Hill CemeteryKey Hill Cemetery (November 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Gate piers and railings

The railings and gate piers around the cemetery are Grade II listed.

Key Hill CemeteryGate piers and railings from Key Hill at Key Hill Cemetery (January 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Site of a Sand Quarry

The cemetery was built on the site of a sand quarry. It was chosen for it's sandy sub soil and high cliff, which eventually provided the catacombs for the Victorian gentry. The Company envisioned that the cemetery would be open to all creeds and denominations, although in practice only non-conformists mainly used it.

The cemetery served the public for 146 years, with the quarry providing a regular income for the cemetery until the 1930s.

Key Hill CemeteryCatacombs at Key Hill Cemetery (November 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Cemetery design

Charles Edge was responsible for the design of the Cemetery, along with the Mortuary Chapel, which was made of Weoley Castle sandstone (it dominated the entrance on Icknield Street before it was demolished in 1966). He also designed the catacombs as well as all the landscaping. The only alteration was to make way for the Jewellery Line in 1995 where land was taken, a memorial has been erected at the back of the cemetery.

Key Hill CemeteryKey Hill Cemetery seen from Jewellery Quarter Station, next to Jewellery Quarter Tram Stop (December 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Residents

Some of the most famous people from Birmingham were buried here in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is a list of some of them.

  • Marie Bethell Beauclerc (1845–1897) - first female reporter in England
  • Alfred Bird(1811–1878) - inventor of egg-free custard
  • John Henry Chamberlain (1831–1883) - architect
  • Joseph Chamberlain (1836–1914) - politician and statesman
  • George Dawson (1821–1876) - nonconformist preacher and reformer
  • Joseph Gillott (1799–1872) - pen manufacturer
  • Samuel Timmins (1826–1902) - Shakespearian scholar and antiquarian
  • John Skirrow Wright (1822–1880) - reformer and MP

Key Hill CemeteryMemorial obelisk at Key Hill Cemetery (November 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

War graves

There is 46 Commonwealth service war graves in the cemetery, including 38 from the First World War and 8 from the Second World War.

Key Hill CemeteryCommonwealth War Graves at Key Hill Cemetery (January 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Project dates

19 Jan 2022 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Civic pride, Classic Architecture

You might like

Contact

Your Place Your Space

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ yourplaceyourspace.com