In 1872 40 hectares of land were purchased by Manchester Corporation for £38340. The City Surveyor J. G. Lynde was responsible for designing the layout and manchester architect H. J. Paull designed the chapels and other buildings. Roman Catholics, Nonconformists Jewish and Anglican denominations each had their own chapels and designated burial areas. In 1926 a further 36 hectares was purchased making this the largest cemetery in Britain and second largest in Europe.
There are now separate areas designated for Muslim burials, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and for the Polish community. The latter includes a large memorial to Katyn massacre in 1940 when 22000 prisoners were executed by the Soviet authorities.
L. S. Lowry died in 1976 and shares his parent's grave. Lowry never married and left his estate to Carol Ann Lowry, a fan who had written to him because she shared his name.
Perhaps only the older generation will remember Wilfred Pickles who was buried in Chorlton in 1978. Pickles born in 1904 spent his life in show business appearing in films, on T.V. and as a wartime newsreader. The BBC received numerous complaints about his Yorkshire accent but supported him stating that should therebe a German invasion and a take over of Broadcasting House, it would be easy for the voices of most announcers to be mimicked. No German however would be able to imitate Wilfred's voice. Once the threat of invasion receded, he was no longer needed. He became in 1946, the presenter of the radion programme "Have a Go" together with his wife Mabel. It was for this show which ran for 21 years that he is best known.
Sir John Alcock, born in Stretford was an R.A.F captain. He had learned to fly in 1912 and joined the Sunbeam Car Company as a racing pilot. When war broke out, he first enlisted with the Royal Naval Air Service. Whilst stationed in the Greek island of Lemnos, he built his own aircraft the "Alcock Scout" from remnants of several different aircraft. He earned a Distinguished Service Cross in 1917 for attacking three enemy aircraft. When piloting a bomber on a raid to Constantinople, he was forced to ditch in the sea. Unable to attract a British Destroyer he swam ashore and was taken captive by the Turkish forces and not released until the Armistice. Attracted by a £10000 prize offered by the Daily Mail, he joined Arthur Whitten Brown in an attempt to cross the Atlantic non stop. Taking off from St.John's Newfoundland in a Vickers Vimy bomber, they struggled against bad weather as well as instrument failure and icing. 16 hours later on 15th June 1919, they landed at Clifden in County Galway, after the first non stop flight across the Atlantic. A few days later they were received at Windsor Castle and knighted by King George V. In December 1919, Alcock was piloting a new aircraft to the Paris Air Show when he crashed in fog near Rouen suffering a fractured scull from which he died.
The grave of a survivor of the Charge of the Heavy Brigade is to be found as well as two recipients of the Victoria Cross, Major Henry Kelly (WWI) and Colour Sergeant John Prettyjohns (Crimea).
The firm of McDougall Brothers of Manchester became the first of Britain's large flour companies opearting mills throughout the country. Established in 1864 they had pioneered self raising flour as early as 1869. A member of the family Sir. R. McDougall is buried at Chorlton.
The grandest memorial is to John Rylands whose widow Enriqueta's ashes are in the vault below. Rylands was an industrialist and philanthropist and Manchester's first multi millionaire. His was the largest cotton manufacturing company in Britain. He died in 1888 at his home Longford Hall leaving hius estate of over £2.5 million to his wife. It was she who built the John Rylands Library in his memory.
Jerome Caminada was born in Deansgate in 1844 to an Italian father and Irish mother. Deansgate at the time was a street of pubs and brothels and a hotbed of crime. Having first worked as an engineer, Jerome joined the police force in 1868. Within four years he had been promoted to sergeant and transferred to the detective department. He was to become the first C.I.D. superintendent in Manchester. His methods were unconventional. He often wore disguises, used handwriting recognition and keen observation. He often met with his large network of informers in St Mary's Church. His life was threatened on a number of occasions and Caminada often carried a pistol which he used several times. His reputation for success became known nationally for he imprisoned over 1200 criminals and closed down 400 illegal drinking houses.
Anthony H. Wilson was buried at Southern Cemetery as recently as 2007. He is known as a broadcaster, a journalist and imressario. Wilson founded Factory records and opened the Hacienda nightclub, at the time probably the best known club in the World. He was a manager of a number of successful bands including Happy Mondays, New Order and Joy Division. He will be remembered as one of Manchester's greatest ambassadors.
There are regular guided tours of Southern Cemetery details of which are on the internet. It would be difficult to explore this vast site alone without missing much of its' fascinating history.