In 1833 the Mayor of Newcastle, Henry Bell, was requested by many of the town’s leading citizens including John Dobson, architect, and Richard Grainger, property developer, to call a meeting ‘to form and establish, for the use of town, a General Cemetery a measure for which the crowded state of the church yards has long rendered necessary’.
The meeting was held in the Guildhall early in 1834 and it was agreed to form a private company to carry out the scheme with a share capital of £8000 (400 shares of £20) which was considered enough to cover purchase of the ground plus the necessary building and landscaping work. A Prospectus was issued inviting subscribers for shares and adding that the proposed cemetery would be on 11 acres in Jesmond Fields, owned by the Corporation, surrounded by cornfields and meadows. The cemetery would be open to all religious denominations, roughly one half as consecrated ground to ministered by the curate of St Andrew’s, in whose parish the cemetery would lie, and the other half as unconsecrated ground for all non-conformists.
Investors would be attracted by the fact that a freehold plot could be sold without the buyers fearing disturbance, and the added revenue from sales of family vaults and catacombs meant that a healthy dividends return would be likely. These family vaults were to be brick-lined with stone shelves supported on corbels to carry the lead-lined coffins. They could be as deep as six metres and were popular because coffins survived longer when not in contact with soil. Another incentive to shareholders was their automatic entitlement to a County vote at the elections.