Witton Cemetery (originally Birmingham City Cemetery) is the largest cemetery in the city opening in 1863 with the ground being consecrated by the Bishop of Worcester1. Originally it was the city's only cemetery and was opened because existing burial grounds were running out of space. Expanding city boundaries in the early 20th century bought more cemeteries into the city however.
Originally the cemetery had 3 chapels (for Anglians, Non-conformists and Catholics) but only the Anglican chapel remains now the others being demolished in 1980. The number of burials performed there now being far less than it used to. Witton Cemetery now includes thousands of graves (including my Great-grandfather incidentally). It contains 459 burials from the First World War and 224 from the Second.
Moor Lane entrance
A rather macabre incident occurred in 1938 when a hearse overturned on the way to the cemetery when the horses hauling it bolted. The coffin contained inside the hearse (of a six-month old child) was hurled onto the pavement injuring some mourners2. Another strange incident occurred in 1988 when an escaped prisoner attending a burial was chased through the cemetery during the burial causing a lot of upset3 with police officers accused of trampling the flowers and heavy handedness, police dogs and a helicopter being used in the chase.
The cemetery also includes a plot to the north-east bought for by Birmingham's Jewish community in 1907 with a chapel built and consecrated in 19374.
1) Berrow's Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, May 30, 1863; pg. 5; Issue 8376. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
2) Correspondent, Our. "Hearse Overturned in Crash." The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959): 10. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003). Nov 03 1938. Web. 7 Feb. 2012 .
3) "Fugitive Hunt Disrupts Burial." The Guardian (1959-2003): 6. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003). Nov 18 1988. Web. 7 Feb. 2012 .
4) 'Religious History: Other Religious Bodies', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964), pp. 483-485. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22982 Date accessed: 07 February 2012.