Red tulips surround the foot of a tree
A commemorative plaque in grey granite with yellow daffodils

Extracted from Bobbysimpson.org.uk

In a secluded enclosure within the grounds of Hartwood Hospital, there is a cemetery where there are interred 1,255 bodies, all but three of whom were patients of Hartwood Hospital. Some were private patients, but the overwhelming majority are recorded as being pauper lunatics. 

Each grave tells its own tragic story.

Some people think graveyard and cemetery mean the same, I did, but, if we want to be a little nitpicky, we should say that a graveyard is a type of cemetery, but a cemetery is usually not a graveyard. Confused?

To understand the difference, we need a little bit of history.

From about the 7th century C.E., the process of burial was firmly in the hands of the Church and burying the dead was only allowed on the lands near a church (now referring to the building), the so-called churchyard. The part of the churchyard used for burial was called graveyard.

As the population of Europe started to grow, the capacity of graveyards was no longer sufficient (the population of modern Europe is almost 40 times higher than it was in the 7th century). By the end of the 18th century, the unsustainability of church burials became apparent and completely new places for burying people, independent of graveyards, appeared and these were called cemeteries.

The etymology of the two words is also quite intriguing. The origin of “graveyard” is rather obvious: it is a yard filled with graves. However, you might be surprised to hear that “grave” comes from Proto-Germanic *graban, meaning “to dig”, and it is related to “groove” but not to “gravel”.

Of course, the word “cemetery” did not appear out of the blue when graveyards started to burst at the seams. It comes from the Old French cimetière, which meant, well, graveyard. Nevertheless, the French word originally comes from the Greek koimeterion, meaning “a sleeping place”.

So going by that, we have a cemetery, but I prefer koimeterion as I often refer to these souls as resting or sleeping.

Bobby Simpson

History of the Cemetery


The Lanarkshire Lunatic Asylum opened its doors on 14th May, 1895, in Hartwood and the same year, the cemetery received its first soul on 24th August.


There are 1255 identified souls interned within 634 graves, with ages ranging from 6 days to a reported 115 years old, according to records.


Each lair is 5 feet deep, males and females were never interred together, a reflection on Victorian values and buried in twos, but there are a few of which contain 3 souls.


Most of the graves are only marked with a cast iron marker denoting the lair number, of which a few are still visible.


The last burial was on 11th April, 1952, as the cemetery had reached capacity after being in operational use for only 56 years.


Contrary to various legends, the funeral service in the early days, although basic, was dignified, the coffin was of plain deal pine and the burial service brief, more often than not with only the grave digger and clergy in attendance.


There are many reasons to justify why families did not collect their relatives' remains after death, among them poverty, the stigma of having a relative in the asylum and sadly, the patient had quite literally been forgotten by family through the sheer passage of time.