History Walks: Dean Cemetery

Just up the path from Dean Village, on the site of the old Manor House, is the Dean Cemetery. It was founded in 1846, one year after Dean House had been demolished, and rapidly became one of the most fashionable places to be buried in Edinburgh. The victorians were a bit odd like that. Today, the cemetery consists of three ‘sections’, if you like: the original 1846 plot, the 1871 northern extension, and the 20th century addition across the road. Despite the extensions, the cemetery is still set out as it was intended, with organised rows and well-established trees.

dean house the castellated and domestic architecture of scotland vol 4 ed 1892
                         A sketch of what Dean House looked like before it was demolished         Source: The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol 4 (Edinburgh: 1892). http://stravaiging.com/history/castle/dean-house

Part of the reason Dean Cemetery was so fashionable in the 1800s was its security. Although the age of the “Resurrection Men” (let me know if you want a post on this) had drawn to a close over a decade earlier, many people in Edinburgh still feared their body would fall foul of grave robbers. The location of the cemetery (being away from the city centre), and the tall gates made it an unlikely location for any “resurrectionists”, and therefore a safe place for the well-to-do of Edinburgh to be laid to rest.

The large gate off Dean Path leading to the cemetery

Now, I LOVE cemeteries (weird, I know). To me, they represent decades, if not centuries, of history, all just waiting to be delved into. It would take months to fully explore all the stories the graves of Dean Cemetery hold, so I’ve just picked three that stood out to me. The cemetery’s Wikipedia page has a pretty thorough list of notable interments, so if you’re interested you can have a look there yourself!


Captain David Reginald Younger, VC. (17 March 1871 – 11 July 1900).

Cpt David Younger VC
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr$GRid=11300196

I deliberately organised for this post to go up today because I wanted to visit the cemetery on David Reginald Younger’s birthday (He would be 146). Alex and I stumbled across his memorial the first time we visited the cemetery quite by accident. Although there is a memorial to him beneath the gravestone of his family members, David Reginald Younger is actually buried in Krugersdorp, South Africa. This is because he died whilst serving in the Second Boer War as a result of wounds sustained whilst recovering Royal Artillery weapons during the Battle of Dwarsvlei. He was 29 when he died, and received a Victoria Cross posthumously  for his bravery.

I don’t really know much more about him, sadly. His efforts that resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross are well documented, as his is promotion to captain in the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. Aside from that, he seems to have slipped into obscurity somewhat. I did manage to find out  that he was a prefect at Malvern College, which he attended between 1885 and 1890.



Sir John Ritchie Findlay (21 October 1824 – 16 October 1898)


If you’ve been paying attention in other blog posts about Dean Village, this name will be annoyingly familiar to you. I’ve already mentions countless times that Findlay was responsible for funding the creation of Well Court in Dean Village in the 1880s, but this was hardly his most notable achievement. Findlay moved to Edinburgh in 1842 from Arbroath to work in the publishing office of The Scotsman, which was at the time run by his great-uncle, John Ritchie. Our John would eventually become a partner in the business in 1868, before inheriting the majority of the business in 1870.

As a direct result of this, Findlay became a rather wealthy man. For the remaining 28 years of his life, he would use this wealth to improve the conditions of Edinburgh and those who lived there. Findlay donated the building now used as the National Portrait Gallery to the state in 1889, and contributed significantly to the collections in this, and other, Edinburgh galleries. He was committed to improving the condition of Edinburgh’s poorer residents, founding the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and leading the refurbishment of much of Dean Village (including Well Court) to provide better accommodation for workers. Interestingly, Findlay was also part of long-lasting efforts (dating back to the 1600s) to allow women to attend the University of Edinburgh Medical School. As part of this campaign, Findlay was the president for the Association for the Medical Education of Women, which supported the creation of the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women in 1886 (set up by Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake, Scotland’s first practicing female doctor).

Findlay is buried alongside his great-uncle in Dean Cemetery, with memorials to him scattered around Edinburgh.


Dr. Elsie Inglis (16 August 1864 – 26 November 1917)

Source: diggingin.co.uk/great-war-stories/elsie-inglis-surgeon-activist/


The final person I wanted to mention in this blog post is Elsie Inglis. At a time when female doctors were still unusual, and women’s political rights were largely non-existent, Elsie Inglis was undoubtedly a pioneer. After training to be a doctor in both Glasgow and Edinburgh (at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, mentioned above), Elsie quickly developed an interest in the care of female patients and the importance of having female docotors. In 1904, she founded an entirely women-run maternity hospital dedicated to providing care for poor women. Unsurprisingly, Inglis was also an outspoken suffragette, who launched the Scottish Women’s Suffragette Federation in 1906.

Upon the outbreak of war, Inglis campaigned the War Office to established women-run medical units to aid and care for British Forces. Although the War Office, the Red Cross, and the Royal Army Medical Corps all rejected this idea, Inglis ignored them and founded the Scottish Women’s Hospital Committee. Her idea was embraced by the French, and by December 1914 the first all-female medical unit was established at the Abbaye de Royaumont Hospital. In 1915, Inglis herself travelled to Serbia, where she was captured by Austrian forces and then released after intervention from the United States. Following her release in 1916, Inglis raised funds for hospitals in Russia, before travelling to Russia to provide medical assistance to Serbian troops stationed there.

Inglis was forced to return to Britain in November 1917 due to illness, and she died in Newcastle the day after her ship had arrived. Her legacy continued after her death, with the Scottish Women’s Hospital Committee sending over 1,000 female medical professionals to war zones throughout Europe, and overseeing the creation of four Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

Also, fun fact, Dr Elsie Inglis is featured on the Clydesdale Bank £50 note.


Sorry this post was SO long, but I had such a good response to my other History Walks post I thought I could indulge a little. Let me know if there’s any part of Edinburgh you’d really like me to talk about, I’d be more than happy to oblige!



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