Wardsend was opened in the early 1850s, when a nearby churchyard became full. The name Wardsend is a corruption of “Worldsend”, which is reputed to be the site of the second coming of Christ, and is listed in a land agreement in 1161.
The site of the cemetery (see map opposite) occupies 5.5 acres and once included a small chapel, office and a sexton’s house. The railway line runs through the cemetery, dividing it into a western half which is wooded and an eastern half which is open (see pictures).
The first burial was in 1857 and was of Mary Ann Marsden aged 2 years. By tradition the first body was always given the title of “Guardian of the Cemetery”. By 1900 the number of burials totalled 20,000 and the site was extended.
There used to be a chapel and a sexton’s cottage at Wardsend Cemetery. The cottage was burned down by rioters on 3rd June 1862 when a crowd tried to get hold of a gravedigger suspected of selling bodies for dissection. The gravedigger was later sentenced to 3 months – not for selling bodies but for selling the same graves over and over.