The Birmingham General Cemetery at Key Hill was formed by a group of nonconformist businessmen concerned that free-church ministers were prevented from officiating at burial ceremonies in C. of. E. churches and to meet the much needed requirement for burial space.
The site was chosen as it was a sand quarry and this would mean more land would become available as quarrying continued. This quarry belonged to the guardians of the poor and lay in the rural outskirts of the town.
The site was provided with entrance gates and railings and a mortuary chapel designed by Charles Edge the noted Birmingham architect and the cemetery opened in 1836 with the first interment being that of a Mary Maullin who died aged 3 years, of ‘hoping cough‘. Catacombs were built at the base of a sandstone cliff which was originally arranged with walks and vantage points for use by visitors, but was quarried for the casting sand into the 1930’s.
Some of the notable burials are:
- Joseph Chamberlain MP – 3 times Lord Mayor
- Joseph Gillott – Pen Maker
- Harriett Martineau – Author & Philosopher
- Alfred Bird – Chemist and Eggless Custard Inventor
- Joseph Tangye – IndustrialistGeorge Dawson – Leading figure and Preacher of the Civic Gospel movement
- William Murphy – Protestant Preacher and the protagonist of the “Murphy Riots”
- John Skirrow Wright – Creator of the Postal Order