Christ’s Church – A


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CEM 277_cem277

Other Known Names: York Street Cemetery, Burlington Cemetery

Street Address: 777 York Boulevard

 Type of Cemetery: Municipal

Responsible Agency: City of Hamilton

Status for Burials: Open for burials Plot Plan: Exists

Size: Large, 21500 monuments

Fencing: Iron railings and hedgerow

Monument Types:      Flat, upright, columns vaults and mausoleum Monuments of: Marble, granite, metal and wood

Christs Church Cemetery

Date Built: 1837

“Between 1837 and 1853 approximately 763 bodies were buried in the cemetery located at the rear of Christ Church Cathedral in Hamilton. With the cemetery already approaching capacity in 1847, the church Trustees purchased land on York Boulevard from Sir Allan McNab to use as a new burial ground.

When the purchase was completed, many of the bodies were removed from the Christ Church grounds and re-interred in the York Boulevard property. All that remains of the original burial site are 18 monuments in a raised area located behind the church building.

The monuments surround a column inscribed to Richard Beasley as “first settler at the Head of the Lake”.

The earliest interment still known to be at this site dates to 1839.” 1

Date of Opening: 1847


Heritage Designation of Cemetery Gatehouse By-Law # 99-167, Part IV The Ontario Heritage Act


During the War of 1812 the British Army required a secure and easily defendable position at the Head-of-the-Lake to prevent any American advancement. Selecting the Burlington Heights strip of land as a defensible site, the British constructed a series of earthworks and an outpost. During July 1814, the 8 traitors convicted at the Ancaster “Bloody Assizes” were hung here and buried along the Heights. The earthworks were left intact at the end of the war and can be seen within the cemetery property.

In January 1847, Trustees of Christ Church Cathedral purchased land for a cemetery from Sir Allan Napier McNab along the Burlington Heights. The first burial here, for George Pennington, took place that year. The next year, Christ Church sold much of its Burlington Heights property to the City of Hamilton for use as a municipal cemetery. The first interment was William Hetherington in 1850.

This marked the start of the first municipally owned and operated cemetery in Canada. The original site had a wooden fence and gates, but by 1857 they had become more elaborate, later joined by an iron railing fence. In 1865 the cemetery lodge and chapel were built, which housed the cemetery caretaker, and now the City’s cemetery office. In 1872, the Church of the Ascension purchased 3 acres from Christ Church on adjoining land for $3000, to create their own cemetery.

For the first 50 years, the three cemeteries (Municipal, Christ Church and Ascension) operated independently, but by the 1890s, the churches were finding it difficult to afford the maintenance. In 1892 an agreement was reached between the interested parties to transfer all responsibility to the City of Hamilton, creating one entity out of the three cemeteries, unified under Hamilton Cemetery. In 1899 a system of perpetual care was created, which charged lot owners $0.50 per grave per year.

While the cemetery was heavily used until the end of the 19th century, by the first decades of the 20th century there was little vacant burial space. New municipal cemeteries were needed and ultimately created at Woodland and Eastlawn. Hamilton Cemetery is still open for burials for those who own deeds to unused plots.

Over the years, a number of bodies have been reinterred here from other smaller cemeteries. These include bodies from St. Paul’s Presbyterian, Christ Church Cathedral, and small family plots like the Hamilton family. The cemetery also contains 2 vaults built into the 1812 earthworks: Tuckett and Watkins, with the Sandford Mausoleum nearby. The Hamilton vault is situated in another section of the cemetery.

Hamilton Cemetery on York Boulevard in Hamilton, Ontario is the oldest, public burial ground in the city of Hamilton. It is located on Burlington Heights, a high sand- and gravel isthmus that separates Hamilton’s harbor on the east from Cootes Paradise on the west.

Historically, the cemetery consists of three, separate burial grounds over 100 acres: Burlington Heights Cemetery, the Christ Church Grounds, and the Church of Ascension Grounds. From 1850 until 1892, each burial ground was administered separately, but by the beginning of the 1890s, the church wardens were encountering difficulty paying for the maintenance-and upkeep of their areas of the grounds. In 1892, an agreement with the City of Hamilton who assumed responsibility for all the grounds, which were renamed “Hamilton Cemetery”.