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The Chapel, designed by local architect J. B. Pritchett, an important figure in the York Cemetery Company, was placed to straddle the boundary between the Anglican and Nonconformist areas. It faces a straight pathway along that line. The one chapel was used by all denominations. There is one large hall for the service, with catacombs below the hall or under the entrance steps for further burials.
Left: Chapel from the south-east. Right: Chapel from the north-east.
Left: View into the portico, with its Ionic capitals
and coffered ceiling. Right: Blue plaque to the
architect on the façade.
Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave describe the Cemetery Chapel as a “very fine Greek Revival chapel” (97, 180); there are Ionic columns on three sides of it. It was, in fact, designed with the Erectheion in Athens as a model, and this resemblance can be seen in the portico shown on the right, and other externals (see Edward Royle's introduction in Ellerby 3). According to Hugh Murray, it is built of Roche stone, which is a particularly fine grey-white Magnesian Limestone (21). A blue plaque in memory of Pritchett is affixed to the right-hand pilaster of the façade.
Architectural details, left to right. (a) The doorway — rectangular, not Egyptian. (b) One of the Egyptian-style windows. (c) Windows, pilasters, frieze and coffered ceiling.
Although externally so very ‘Greek’, once inside the hall, where the distortions of distance and height cannot confuse, the shape of the windows can be recognised as tapered in the then fashionable ‘Egyptian Revival’ style. These two styles combined in the one building recall the terminal pillars of the boundary railings - sphinx and sarcophagus - also designed by Pritchett.
There was a pulpit at each end of the chapel for the officiating minister according to denomination, and a central resting-place for the coffin. If the body was to be interred in the vaults below the chapel, “the middle part of the sarcophagus could be slowly and solemnly lowered by concealed machinery, possibly of the type invented by Mr Smith, Engineer, of Princes Street, Leicester Square, and installed at Kensal Green Cemetery for £400” (Murray 21). As there were no more interments in the catacombs after 1881, the machinery was removed in 1885 during a refurbishment by another York architect, Edward Taylor (Murray 53).
Left: Lodge from Cemetery Road. Right: Lodge from within the cemetery.
The Lodge was built at the same time as the Chapel and was also by J. P. Pritchett. It was used by the chaplain, who was usually the incumbent or curate of a town parish, and the resident gardener and superintendent. The cemetery also for some time had its own stoneyard; a pattern-book was assembled by William Powell Ruddock, superintendent from 1846-1861, and this survives (Murray 33-35 and passim). The Lodge has been extended at least twice and is largely office space; also now at the main gate is a service block, and a stonemason’s showroom.
Links to related material
- Egypt, Eygyptologists, and Victorian Egyptomania
- History and plan of the cemetery
- Boundaries (gates, railings and walls)
- Selected monuments
- Later history
Ellerby, William, and James Piggott Pritchett. Manuscript edited and introduced by Edward Royle. A History of the Nonconformist churches of York. Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, 1993.
Murray, Hugh. This Garden of Death: The History of York Cemetery 1837-2007. York: Friends of York Cemetery, 2008.
Pevsner, Nikolaus, and David Neave. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.
Created 16 March 2022