A Brief History of Woodvale

From 1857 to Present

Woodvale chapels circa 1890

Woodvale was originally provided as the parochial cemetery for Brighton and opened in 1857.  The Brighton Burial Board was appointed on 7 May 1856 at the meeting of the Vestry of the Parish, when the Marquis of Bristol presented 20 acres of land to establish a cemetery.  The powers, duties and responsibilities of the Burial Board for the Parish of Brighton were transferred to the Brighton Corporation on 1 April 1902. 

Victorian hearse circa 1900

The Parochial Cemetery then became known as the Borough Cemetery, Lewes Road.  The grounds were developed in a deep natural valley and planted with many fine specimen trees.  In recent years, hundreds of flowering trees and shrubs have been added - set amongst the green slopes of the valley, they give colour and interest in every season of the year.

entrance gate prior to demloition in 1948

Woodvale cemetery is listed in the National Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England as a Grade II site.The register is compiled by English Heritage with the aim of identifying important historic designed landscapes in order to increase aweareness of the existence of these sites, and to encourage their protection and conservation. The Register contains over 1,600 sites, 106 of which are cemeteries.  

The original cemetery chapels, built in traditional Sussex flint, were adapted for cremation purposes in 1930 and Woodvale became the first crematorium to be established in Sussex and continues to be proudly owned and managed by Brighton & Hove City Council.

Woodvale cemetery is designated as a Grade II site for the following principal reasons:

  • It is a good example of an early High Victorian (1856) public cemetery for a provincial town in informal picturesque style by R Wheeler of London.
  • The conjoined Gothic chapels form a focal point in the design, which makes the best use of a narrow valley in the South Downs.
  • Social interest is expressed in an artistic variety of C19 monuments including many Brighton worthies.
  • The cemetery layout and most structures survive intact.

Have a look at Woodvale Crematorium today.