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Overleigh Cemetery, Chester

This week I look at the history and monuments of a fascinating cemetery in our North West England collection

The Deceased Online database includes the records of Overleigh Old Cemetery and the newer Overleigh Cemetery, both in the beautiful Roman City of Chester, Cheshire. The cemeteries are two of those administered and maintained by Cheshire West and Chester Council Cemeteries & Crematorium Service. 

The original Overleigh Cemetery was opened by the Chester General Cemetery Company on 12 November 1850. The site was laid out between 1848 and 1850 in Overleigh Road in the south-west Handbridge area of the city, close to the River Dee and the stunning Grosvenor Bridge. Its architect was a local man, Thomas Wainwaring Penson (1818-64). The chapels and entrance gate are now listed by English Heritage. Besides two chapels, two lodges and a chaplain's house, the original Victorian cemetery contained an ornamental lake with three small islands. Sadly, none of these survive.

By 1854 many of the parish graveyards in Chester had closed, leaving Overleigh Cemetery's as the only municipal burial ground in the City until Blacon was opened in 1922. Blacon's records can also be found in the Deceased Online database.
The cemetery was initially extended in 1879 and a new chapel was built in 1904. The newer cemetery was built on the other side of Overleigh Road and opened in April 1953. In total, Overleigh records cover 1850-2011 and include more than 80,000 entries. The database includes information on every person buried in the cemetery: name, description, address, age, date of death and burial and grave number. 

Many remarkable people lie buried in Overleigh, not least Mary Jonas (died 1899). Mrs Jonas's demise was announced in the Cheshire Observer of 9 December 1899 under the title, "DEATH OF A CHESTER CELEBRITY". The local furniture broker was famed for giving birth to an eye-watering thirty-three children, including fifteen sets of twins. Amazingly she lived to the age of 87 (or 85 in the burial register).

Burial entry of Mary Jonas, 7 December 1899, Overleigh Old Cemetery
The celebrated "Queen of the Gypsies", Mary Finney (c. 1883-1962) and her husband Guilderoy Finney (died 1932) are both buried in the new extension of Overleigh. Travellers regularly visit the cemetery to leave flowers on their memorial.

Memorial to Mary Finney, the Queen of the Gypsies who was buried in Overleigh Cemetery in 1962

Entry for Mary Finney (bottom line) in the Burial Register of Overleigh Cemetery

Coplestone Memorial, carved in 1934 by Eric Gill as a monument to Frederick Coplestone (died 1932)
Overleigh is home to 127 official graves from the First World War and 69 from the Second World War.

Other Cheshire records in the database are:
  • Parish Church, Middlewich (1807-1892) in The National Archives RG 37 collection
  • St Michael's Church Burial Ground, Chester (1801-1819) in the RG 37 collection
  • Chester Crematorium, Chester (from 1965)
  • Blacon Cemetery, Chester (from 1941)
  • Neston Cemetery, Neston (from 1906)
  • Overpool Cemetery, Ellesmore Port (from 1913)
  • Wharton Cemetery, Winsford (from 1990)
Do let us know if you have found your ancestors in Cheshire. We love to here from you on this blog, and via your Tweets and posts on our Facebook page!

Cheshire Observer (Chester, England), Saturday, December 09, 1899; pg. 8; Issue 2470. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II,_deaths_and_marriage/burials_and_cremations/cemeteries_and_crematoria.aspx

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