Extract from ‘The Liver’ 1830


Great progress has been made in executing the grand design of converting the site of the old stone quarry, at the top of Duke Street, into a depository for the dead. For upwards of 20 years this ground has been useless presenting a huge and unsightly ravine to the eye of the spectator, neither partaking of the wild and romantic in nature, nor yet of a more agreeable, but less inspiring work of art. Which is now under the spell of modern improvement consists of about 14 acres of ground which for the most part a deep and irregular excavation, which ought to be venerated as the birth place of Liverpool's greatness.

From this spot the material was procured to construct, what has not unaptly been styled 'the cradle of Liverpool commerce’, the old dock, which was opened on 8 June 1699, now nearly 130 years ago. From this quarry stone was also taken for the building of St Peter and St. Paul's churches, as well as many other public works connected with the corporation and dock estates for the period of a century.

The north, or principal entrance into it, formally lay through a tunnel, which was entered from the top of Duke Street, A little to the left of the steps leading up to St James’ walk, lighted by only one opening to the surface of the ground, rendering the subterranean passage sufficiently sombre and frightful to inspire the legendary muse with many a rich Fireside tail of fairies sprits and hobgoblins, which, according to the Chronicles of those 'gone by times’ performed their nightly vigils near, or on this spot, to the great terror of every schoolboy and nursery maid who had the temerity to venture through this darksome way.

The first burst of daylight was obtained about 80 yards from the commencement, on the margin of a steep descent to the left, which embraced a few of the entire length of the Quarry, presenting on the opposite side a long vertical face of yellow rock, covered with diluvial strats of blue and brownish shale, and nearer the Summit with a bed of black soil, Which, from its loose nature, had fallen down in places, giving an irregular and broken line, with here and there A patch of herbage and wild foliage. A railing of wood, A few feet from the terrific margin, was the only sense to protect the unwary passenger in the field above from the dangerous precipice.

The road continued on and inclined plane through the middle of the self, then winding to the south Past a Crystal Spring of water, said to be possessed of properties highly chalebeate. A basin, as a receptacle for the water, was scooped out, And an iron ladle, fastened into the rock by a chain, late for the accommodation of all who chose to avail themselves of its use. This spring was formally resorted to by many of the inhabitants of the town, who took the health inspiring draught, with the additional advantage of a country walk.

“When rosy morn first opes the gates of Heaven”

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We are not aware that any very curious geological discoveries have been made in the process of forming this gigantic excavation : but abundance proof has been afforded here, As well as in many other places in the same neighbourhood, of the mighty changes which have taken place on the surface of the Earth, when a considerable portion of the substance which now encompasses it’s upper stratum must have been held in partial solution, and join a period of some general convulsion of nature : hence we find substances of various kinds, marine, animal and mineral, embedded in a material altogether of a different nature. Shells and fish bones in the centre of a marble slab; animal bones in a fossil state, In rocks of limestone, calcareous and siliceous pebbles are not infrequently found deep hidden in the masses of freestone, Of various degrees of compactness and specific gravity; here there is found nothing soft earthly strata for 20 or 30 yards deep.

Near this spot, separated only by a strong seam in nature, Maybe found soft stone, which yields readily to the edge of a knife or the chisel of workmen, whilst within a few yards, A material of a hard texture and more durable substance is found: but in all of these instances stated, One general principle is applicable: the dip of the rock all lies towards the east, And nowhere is this singular circumstance more clearly demonstrated in the piece of land which forms the subject of this article.

The rock on the western side of the excavation must have been, near the surface probably not more than six or 7 feet deep, while on the east inside the depth of the alluvial matter is not less than from 20 to 30 feet thick; this consists for the most part of a blue unctuous shaly substance, Lying in bed is parallel with the under strata of rock, Resting in laminated layers of various thickness, Mixed with thin beds of marle under a thin head of soil. Inferiority of the stone which has been taken out of this delf, At the expense of removing the heavy feigh from eastern side, must have made it, when compared with the material used for the docs and other public establishments in the present day, and most expensive undertaking, and it is almost as strange that our ancestors should have scooped out of this antediluvian sand bed upwards of 4 million tons, As it is that such an inferior material should have been thrown together so capriciously in that particular spot, by the singular phenomena of nature, Whilst the same neighborhood yielded a superior material, and of which the Exchange buildings were constructed.

The intended cemetery has been compared with the celebrated cemetery of Pere la Chaise, in Paris. The fact is, that no two establishments, intended for the same purpose, can differ more in regard to situation and appearance done these two sacred repositories of the dead when the Liverpool one is completed. The one in Paris is situated on an eminence on the eastern side of the city commanding an extensive view of the rich and glowing landscape; it comprises nearly 100 acres of ground, which is formed into various compartments, planted with shrubs and forest trees, agreeably to the nature of the ground, and the prospect which it embraces.

Sometimes you wind along a Serpentine Path over home with foliage as rich, various, and wild, as judicious planting and the growth of half a century can render it, meeting as you pass along, with every variety of monuments, in the form of pyramids, altars, urns, obelisks, funeral vaults, sepulchral chapels, plain slabs and tombs of every variety, many of them of large dimentions and exquisite architectural beauty and elegance.

We recollect accounting in one part of these interesting grounds, Without stirring from spot, upwards of 100 tombs, including those of Marshals, Kellerman, Davoust, Massena, MacDonald and a galaxy of celebrated warriors and statesman, And a splendid one which encloses the remains of the Countess Demisdoff Bonaparte. A Russian princess, who lost her life at a route given by Bonaparte, when first Consul. There was one square tomb, surrounded with an iron railing, which attracted our attention, because it was without an inscription. Our guide pointed to a rude scratching on the ironwork, Which had been effected with the point of a penknife, And, with some difficulty, the name of Marshall Ney could be deciphered!

There were also others of every variety and beauty surrounded with flowers, shrubs, weeping willows, cypress; And fresh wreaths of flowers were to be seen on the tombs of departed friends, Although dead for years.

A supply of water is brought into the grounds by subterranean passage, to preserve the flowers in perpetual verdure. A regular stipend is allowed to the Gardner, to attend to the flowers and shrubs upon the graves of the departed. After wandering amongst this picturesque assemblage of tombs and Forest walks, you suddenly burst upon the extensive prospect in the Vista, embracing, on the right, the heights of Montmartre: on the left, a few of the Chateau de Vincennes, and a luxuriant background of rich forest scenery: I’m striking through another avenue of umbrageous foliage, which excludes the rays of the sun, accepts now and then, in snatches, Your progress seems to be disputed by the intervention of monumental erections, Which appear to block up the path, when, perhaps, turning to the pedestal of a large and classical marble urn, You suddenly obtain an uninterrupted view of the entire outline of Paris, which presents itself to the eye of an Englishman with more than ordinary surprise, all clear, all defined, without smoke, which so much obscure walls all our English towns from the gaze of the stranger and the eye of the curious. This view is enchanting when the retiring orb of day sheds its lustre on the numerous public buildings, Cathedrals, churches and the burnished domes of that celebrated Capital.

From this slight digression it will appear obvious, that they can be little or no resemblance betwixt the two establishments in regard to appearance; the one is in a hollow, the other on an eminence; St James Cemetery will have catacombs, The cemetery of Pere la Chaise has none. Nor can there ever be much similarity without two things are accomplished: The first will be important as it respects the enlargement and variety of the grounds which would be given to the cemetery by uniting St James Walk with it.

This, we hope, corporation will consent to. The other circumstances to which we have alluded is the endless variety of tombs, urns, obelisks, and the like of the Parisian one, which if adopted in the intended cemetery in this town, Will afford a fine scope for the genius of the artist as well as employment, and will give an interest and variety to the coup d’aeil which nothing else could effect

Mike Faulkner 2016