Friends of Warriston Cemetery



The History

In the 19th century, kirkyards were over-crowded, had become somewhat unpleasant, and concerns were raised about matters of public hygiene.  Out of this grew the Garden Cemetery Movement, which promoted the establishment of grounds in which to inter family members, in which suitable monuments might be erected and in which the public might perambulate, respect the ancestors and acquire some edification in the process.  These Victorian cemeteries and the monuments therein are a 19th century phenomenon and we will never see their like again.

Edinburgh already had some cemeteries which were not attached to kirks, most notably Old Calton and New Calton Burial Grounds, opened in 1718 and 1820 respectively.  But when the garden cemetery vogue arrived, several joint-stock companies were launched as profit-making business concerns. 

The Edinburgh Cemetery Company was instigated in 1840, and Warriston Cemetery, the first of its garden cemeteries, was designed by David Cousin (1809 – 1878).  Cousin later designed also Dean, Dalry, Rosebank and Newington Cemeteries, all in Edinburgh.  Burials at Warriston commenced on 3rd June 1843, the first funeral being of 66-year-old Margaret Parker, relict of James Castle.

Edinburgh’s population soon put this new ground to good use, and many fine monuments – to the delight, no doubt, of masons and sculptors – were erected to mark the final resting-places of families and historical figures, for example, businessmen, artists, scientists, doctors and politicians.  One of the most renowned of Warriston’s occupants is Sir James Young Simpson, the pioneer of anaesthesia.

Present State

In time, as the cemetery filled up and profits fell, the ground became neglected and, alas, vandalised.  After long negotiations, the City of Edinburgh acquired the property in the 1990s under a Compulsory Purchase Order.  The City Council tested the gravestones for stability and found many to be wanting.  These stones were lowered for safety reasons, unfortunately face-down.  The older parts of Warriston, bordering the Water of Leith, have been designated an Urban Wildlife Site, and the City Council is delighted that so many species have set up home there, particularly the colony of sparrowhawks.  However, this means that parts of the cemetery are now so overgrown that gravestones are no longer readable and visitors are deterred from venturing in to explore the rich history or their own family histories.

The Project

We intend to strike a balance between the historical aspects of this unique site and the needs of the Urban Wildlife Site.  Over a few seasons we aim to pick up litter, to clear excess and undesirable vegetation and to introduce instead appropriate and native low-growing plants, so that gravestones may be read, Cousin’s original design discerned, with all its curving and inviting paths, and the history enjoyed.  In time we will conduct guided tours so that visitors may appreciate the cemetery even more.  The City of Edinburgh Council has endorsed the Project and intends to offer some co-operation.  It may eventually find a way to have the fallen, toppled or lowered gravestones repaired and re-erected.

The gravestone inscriptions have been recorded by The Scottish Genealogy Society and published on a CD. 



The Journey Begins

Welcome to the website for “Friends of Warriston Cemetery”. This page was created to facilitate the process of building a community action group that will grow into a dedicated Friends organization interested in rebuilding this endangered historic site. With the cooperation of the City of Edinburgh Council and the neighboring communities, we are looking to help stabilize this historic garden cemetery. Our goal is to find interested individuals or groups that will help us create connections within the community. Through social media sites, like this internet webpage and Facebook, we can begin to network with each other and set up a line of communication and resources that will fit together to form this Friends group. Our dream is to bring back Warriston Cemetery to a state where it can once again become a source of history, culture and a safe place for public leisure. Please join us on our journey to rescue this wonderful historic cemetery. We invite you to contact us with comments, photos, and resources so that can help build and expand our organization.  It all starts with the small seed of intent that  can flourish with the stewardship of an involved and dedicated community!

Inaugural Meeting:

7.30pm, Thursday 4th July 2013 - St Serf’s Church Hall, 1a Clark Road EH5 3BD (just off Ferry Road)                                                                                                         Our first Public Meeting will form the Friends group, gather general support and membership, plus recruit volunteers willing to be in work-parties.

Annual membership: £6

Contact us at:                              

Follow us on Facebook:

Friends of Warriston Constitution: Friends Constitution

New photos by Fraser Paterson:

The “Wear and Tear” on Warriston Cemetery: Wear and Tear

Video by Degs Gunn:




Recent News: Warriston News Updates

Emails & Maps: Contact Information

Photo Portfolio: Friends of Warriston Photos

                                         The new “Friends of Warriston Cemetery” begin our Saturday and weekday cleanups. Click here for additional cleanup photos: Cleanup Days

     Before and After photos: Before and After Photos

   Cleanup Day Maps: Cleanup Day Maps

                     Videos: Videos of Warriston

Spring At Warriston

Before and After 2015

The Other Residents of Warriston-Looking at the Details

                                                                                                             Photos by Graham Jones