A brief history of Woodvale

Find out how Woodvale was established in 1857 and why it is a grade 2 listed site.

How Woodvale was established

Woodvale was originally opened as the parish cemetery for Brighton 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. 

"An old sepia photograph of Woodvale burial chapel after its opening in 1857. A building with a central steeple and chapel rooms either side. There are tomb stones in the foreground."

The Borough Cemetery, Lewes Road

The 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.

"An old sepia image of the original 1857 entrance gate to Woodvale cemetery.""

Grade 2 listed site

Woodvale cemetery is listed in the National Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England as a Grade 2 site.

The register is compiled by English Heritage which identifies important historic designed landscapes. The aim of the register is 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 2 site because:

  • 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

"An old sepia photograph of a horse drawn hearse arriving at Woodvale chapel"