Burial plots were priced according to wealth and class of the deceased; propriety graves in prime locations could be purchased by individuals at a cost of ten shillings whereas graves for paupers, including infants from the nearby workhouses, were owned by the Belfast Corporation and were left unmarked.
Over 225,000 people have been buried in the 44 acre cemetery. The architecture reflects a mix of styles, from the Victorian and Edwardian era when it was established, seen in the older headstones, monuments and statues, to the influences of the Celtic Revival from the end of the 19th century and more modern influences from the 20th century.
Many of Belfast’s wealthiest families are buried in City Cemetery, including Sir Edward Harland (1895) of Harland and Wolff, the infamous ship-building company and Thomas Gallagher (1927) the ‘Tobacco King’. In 1871 sections were set aside for the city’s Jewish community and in 1914 a section was reserved for the burial of sailors and soldiers who died during World War I.
For further information see Written in Stone: The History of Belfast City Cemetery by Tom Hartley.
A nine-foot deep underground wall was built to keep consecrated and non-consecrated ground separate, essentially dividing the Catholic and Protestant sections. In reality, from 1869 to the 1970s only a few Catholics were buried there, with most of the Catholic population using Milltown Cemetery as their burial ground. This changed in 1979 as Milltown also drew near to capacity.
The first 'Blanket Man' protester at the Maze Long Kesh, Kieran Nugent, is buried in City Cemetery (2000).