The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery
Houghton Hillside Cemetery
Past Events & Group Visits




2004 was the first Open Day held by the Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery.  It was held on 7th August 2004 and over 150 people attended.  The Group also hired a vintage hearse drawn by 2 horses.  Unfortunately when the day dawned and the horses arrived the entrance was not wide enough for the hearse to pass through.  Sadly the horses only attended and the hearse left on the back of its transporter!  The event was the first fund raising event held by the friends.  It was to become an annual event.


Open Day 2005 provide to be as successful as the previous year despite the group not having enough funds in order to hire the hearse and horses.



Open Day 2006 saw the launch of the Back to Life Project.  It was the biggest ever event that the group had hosted and was a huge success.  The group had secured a large sum of money in order to restore the Lych Gate and Railings at the entrance of the site and had also been awarded funds in order to purchase costumes to mark the event.  Once again the hearse and horses were hired but this time the hearse was able to pass through the gateway after several of its parts were removed to aid this!


Open Day 2007 again proved fruitful.  The group had carried out a sponsored Graveyard Gallop earlier in the year in order to raise funds to pay for the hire of the hearse and horses.


In May 2007 the group carried out a sponsored graveyard gallop.  The group visited 15 churchyards/cemeteries throughout Co Durham & Tyne & Wear in one day whilst dressed in Victorian Costume.  At each venue they were photographed to prove the visit.  The group members were sponsored in order to raise funds for the forthcoming open day as unfortunately they had not been able to secure any funding for that year.  The photo above show the group in the Municipal Cemetery on Durham Road, Houghton Le Spring.



Open Day 2008 took place on 19th July 2008.  Over the past 4 years the event had always been held on the first Saturday in August however this year it was decided to bring it forward.  Despite the bad weather forecast the sun did shine until about 2:15pm before the rain came and forced the event to end early.



Heritage Day 2008 took place on Saturday 13th September 2008.  The event consisted of an exhibition in the Houghton Le Spring Library on Newbottle Street followed by a tour of Houghton Le Spring which ended at Hillside.  Although the tour was not as well attended as previous years there was interest shown during the exhibition.  Heritage Day is a national event in which the group have taken part for several years.


The Friends annual litter pick took place on Saturday 7th March 2009.  It was once again supported by Houghton Scouts & Beavers and also Brian Watson of CSV Action, Sunderland and his family.





On Easter Monday, 13th April 2009 the Friends carried out an 18 mile sponsored walk from Durham Cathedral to St Peters in Sunderland.  The event was in order to raise money for the shortfall in the cost of the restoration of the memorial at Hillside.  The group left Durham at 10:15am and reached their destination at 5:25pm.  A distance of 18 miles having been covered.  The walk raised a total of £700.


Pictured above:  Before the walk                            Pictured above:  The End of the walk


In late 2008 the Friends became aware that the National Federation of Cemetery Friends (NFCF) would like the Friends to host their AGM in June 2009.  Initially the Friends thought that this event was to big of an event however after alot of deliberation the Friends agreed and the preparations got underway.  The secretary of the NFCF forwarded a list of guests to be invited and the ball started to roll.  No less than 92 invatations were sent around March 2009 out and soon the acceptances began to arrive. 

Several conservation days were organised to 'spruse' up Hillside ready for its guests, the Kepier Hall was booked for the welcome, lunch and also the AGM business.

Approximately 40 guests attended the event and the day included welcome tea and coffee, a buffet lunch and also a tour of Hillside and St Michael & All Angels Church.  Funding was obtained from the City of Sunderland to assist with the cost.  As an authentic touch several of the Friends dressed in their victorian costumes.

The event was a success, the sun shone throughout the day which made the day even better and also allowed the guests to see Hillside at its best, with the flowers and wildlife.





More pictures can be found in the Image Gallery


On Saturday 18th July 2009 the Friends hosted their 6th Annual Open Day.   Preparations for the event began just after the conclusion of the NFCF AGM.  Over 3000 leaflets had been delivered by the group and other advertising had taken place via various other sources including the Sunderland Echo.   It was debateble whether or not the event would take place as it had rained non stop the day before.  As the day dawned the group decided to carry out a 'pitch' inspection at 9am and make a decision then as to whether or not the event should take place.  On arrival at the site the Friends were surprised to discover that although Hillside was still damp from the rain the day before it was not water logged as expected.  At 9:30am, after a full inspection the Friends decided that the event would take place and it was all systems go.  The tables were collected, gazeebo's errected and stalls set up. With only minutes to spare everything was set up by 12 noon!!!!

Open Day included a tombolla stall, raffle, tours, refreshments, talks by Dr Andy Lane and Doug Smith.  The newly set up group The Friends of Houghton Rectory Park also had a stall and members of the Copt Hill Group also show their support.

Despite a few heavy showers during the course of the afternoon the event was a success and was attended by many visitors.  The Friends send their thanks to all those who attended and showed their support. 



Pictured above is Vice Chair, Keith Williams as sells tickets for the tombola prizes.  Also above is Colin and Neil carrying out the tour of Hillside for the visitors to the site.


Pictured above are some visitors sheltering from the rain and also our Committee members Anne and Margaret looking at the stall relating to George Wheatley which even displayed the genuine wooden leg!!!!



More pictures can be found in the Image Gallery


Once again several members of the group took place in the parade at Houghton Feast on Saturday 3rd September 2009.



The annual Litter Pick took place on Saturday 6th March 2010.  This year the Friends discovered that no where near as much litter was lying around as there had been in previous years.  The group are hopeful that this will continue and visitors to the site will take their rubbish home again with them.



At 8.30 am on the 2nd May 2010 the group together with several volunteers headed to a part of Hadrians Wall just outside of Hexham.  Their task was to complete an 8 mile sponsored walk of the wall.  The walk began at 10:00 am at Cawfields and finished at Housesteads. at around 1:30 pm.  During the course of the day the walkers endured very steep cliffs and banks to climb.  It took the walkers in the region of 3.5 hours to complete the task.  It is expected that the group raised in the region of £600 however the exact figure can be confirmed at a later date.  The funds raised are to be used for the betterment of the cemetery and on going conservation.







The Friends Annual Open Day took place on Saturday 26th June 2010.  This years event also incorporated the unveiling of the newly restored monument which is dedicated to those who lost their lives at Houghton Colliery and also those who lie at Hillside in unmarked graves.  Sir Frank Nicholson kindly opened the event and also unveiled the monument.  The Friends obtained £10,500 for the restoration of the monument from SIB and also £500 from the NUM at Redhills for the plaque showing the dedications.  Other funding was raised by the Friends via various sponsorship.  Work was carried out to restore the monument by Durham Stonemasonry.  The plaque was made and attached to the monument by Ian Wood Memorials Ltd.  The stone flower pot was donated by Ian Wood Memorials Ltd.

After the unveiling Sir Frank Nicholson was asked by The Friends if he would consider becoming a Patron for the group and he kindly accepted.  Due to the fantastic weather the event was a huge success, one of the most successful over the recent years.  The banner for Houghton Lodge was also on display during the event.


Pictured above is Sir Frank Nicholson giving a short speach before unveiling the newly restored monument.


Pictured above:  Members of the public congregating for the unveiling of the monument.


Pictured left above are some of the group posing for a picture for the Sunderland Echo.  Pictured to the right is Houghton Lodge Banner.


Pictured above left are the group at the newly unveiled monument.  Pictured right is a general picture of the event.

Further photographs can be seen in the Gallery section of this site.


As in past years the group once again enjoyed the Houghton Feast Celebrations by taking part in the parade on the afternoon of Saturday 9th October 2010.  It was a brisk October afternoon but thankfully it kept dry.  Picture below are a couple of photographs of some of the group while they were waiting for the parade to get underway.




Open Day took place on Saturday 25th June 2011.  As usual after alot of preparation the event took place 12 noon until 4pm.  It consisted of the usual tombola, raffle and refreshments.  However this year the tour was much improved with updated information and was also accompanied by the newly published updated Official Guidebook.  The tour was headed by Colin Jarvis and assisted by Neil Wood and Vice Chair, Keith Williams.

The event was also supported by the recently formed group Friends of Rectory Park, The Knights Templar  and also a display by rock climbers organised by the group's member Ben Laidler who is a keen climber himself. (Readers are reminded the permission to climb at Hillside must be obtained from the Rector and climbers must also have their own insurance).

It was a very successful day and attended by many new visitors to Hillside.  A big thank you to all those who visited and made the event a success.

To make the day even more special, one of the group, Anne Farrow celebrated her 70th Birthday on the same day as the event was held.


Pictured above Anne receiving the bouquet of flowers which the group presented her with for her birthday and also a group picture taken during a photo shoot with the Sunderland Echo.


Pictured left above Colin heading the new improved tour and pictured right the Tombola etc stall all ready and set up ready for the start of the event.


Pictured above one of the Knights from the Knights Templar in full regaliar.  (Details of how to contact the Knights can be found on our Future Events page)

More Open Day pictures can be found in the Gallery.


Once again the Friends took part in the Houghton Feast Parade on Saturday 8th October 2011. It was a cold day but the as usual the parade was well attended by the public. 




For many years the venue for the Easter Passion Play has been St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton Le Spring.  This year Rector Sue Pinnington wanted it to be 'bigger and better' than in past years and so it was decided that Hillside would be the host.  The Passion Play is the story of Jesus' final journey to the cross.  It begins with his arrest and trial and ends with his crucifixion.  The narrator of the play took the form of a journalist relaying the details.  Visitors took the part of the crowd following Christ on his final journey

The event was well attended by around 200 visitors, 


The crowds start to gather before the Trial of Jesus commences.


Sentenced to death Jesus is taken away by guards, dorned with a crown of thorns and made to carry his own cross.


A man of the crowd following Jesus bears the burdon of carrying the cross.  Jesus face is also wiped by Veronica on the way.


Upon arrival Jesus is stripped and nailed to the cross where he was left to die!


This year the groups Open Day had several new aspects to it.  Not only were the tours once again improved and well attended there were new attractions.  Despite the weather during the week leading up to the event the group did have a considerable amount of visitors to the site.  Visitors were entertained by local muscians and later in the day by a dance troup from Houghton's dance studio Zazz.  There was also a talk given by a gentleman about RMS Titanic.  There was also a mining display about Houghton Colliery, which is hoped to be expanded upon for future years, aswell as one of the group members dressing up as a miner.  The group thank all those who visited and supported them during the event


Pictured left above are three of the group dressed for the occassion and pictured right are visitors enjoying the dance troup.


Pictured above left is David Turnbull dressed as a miner and pictured right is Alastair Bradley dressed in his victorian undertakers costume. 



On Friday 9th May 2008 the group headed off to London to visit both Highgate Cemetery and Golders Green Crematorium.  The weekend they chose in early May was one of the hottest of the year with temperatures reaching well in to the 70's.  A private tour of Highgate had been arranged for the Friday evening and Golders Green was to be visited on the Saturday.

The group arrived at Highgate at 6pm and for the following 2 hours were guided around Highgate.  Highgate is a split site with a road running through the centre.  It has gates on either side of the road and the gates are only open at certain times of the day.  Although accessible some of the cemetery is still very overgrown giving it a very 'ghostly' atmosphere.  The monuments ranged from very small to extremely large.  Highgate is the final resting place of Carl Marx, Mary Ann Cross aka George Eliot & Michael Faraday.



Pictured above are some views of Highgate including the group outside the famous cemetery.  Further photographs can be found in the gallery section of this site.

The following day the group visited Golders Green Crematorium.  This was a total contrast to Highgate with its well mown lawns and vast amounts of well tended flower beds.  It was a serene peaceful place with the only noise being the birds singing.  Truly tranquile.  Commemorations to well known people such as Marc Bolan, Hughie Green & Bernie Winters can be found at Golders Green.



Pictured above are some scenes from Golders Green Crematorium.  Further photographs can be found in the Gallery Section of this site.


On May 16th 2009 the group left Newcastle Central Station to visit Edinburgh.  It was intended that they visit Greyfriars Cemetery in the heart of Edinburgh.  The group found Edinburgh to be a very picturesque city.  Greyfriars Cemetery was located at the top of steep bank.  It was very old but very well kept.  It also had an eerie atmosphere about it with some of the monuments adorning very strange carvings.



Pictured above are some veiws of Greyfriars Cemetery including one of the strange carvings found upon one of the monuments.

The following day the group visited Warriston Cemetery.  Finding it was a task in itself.  It is surrounded by a huge wall that seems to go around in a circle the members could not at first find their way in.  Warriston seemed to be in two halves - a new half which was reasonable well kept and an old half which appeared overgrown.  Unfortunately due to the length of time it had taken the group to find the entrance of the cemetery they were unable to spend any length of time there.




Over the weekend of 5th June 2010 the group travelled to Glasgow in order to visit Glasgow Necropolis.  This is the 3rd visit of its kind that the group have made having visited London in 2008 and Edinburgh in 2009.  The group were given a private tour of the Necropolis which was both facinating and intriguing.  Over 50,000 individuals are buried there and some of the monuments are not only magnificent but enormous in size.  The Necropolis is very well kept and a pleasure to visit a credit to its Friends. 

You can visit The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis website and discover more information regarding the site at 



More pictures can be found in the gallery section of this site. 

LEEDS 2011

In September 2011 several members of the group headed off to Leeds to visit two cemeteries.  The first to be visited was Undercliffe Cemetery on the outskirts of Bradford and the second was Beckett Street Cemetery in Leeds.

Undercliffe Cemetery

Like Hillside Undercliffe is a Victorian cemetery and also has a Friends group.  It is a very large cemetery covering a very wide area.  It not only contained very old monuments but also very new ones and also had a section for Quakers.  Upon arrival the first section the group visited was extremely old and overgrown.  The path through this section soon opened out to a section containing new graves.  The monuments found in these sections were usual size stones.  Further into the cemetery the monuments became larger and much more magnificent.  While at the cemetery the group met with one of the 'park rangers' who informed the group that the larger monuments were usually for business men who came to Bradford and found the industries.




Pictured above are the Quaker graves to the left and the large magnificent monuments to the right.

Beckett Street Cemetery

The second cemetery visited was that of Beckett Street Cemetery in Leeds City Centre.  Again this was a much larger site than Hillside and was a municipal cemetery.  It was opened in 1845 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in Leeds.  It also has a Friends group who the group were able to meet while visiting. Beckett Street contains graves with magnificent monuments to 'guinea graves' to paupers graves.  The guinea graves are found in numerous rows and allowed its occupants to have their names inscribe on a headstone.  Numerous interments took place in these type of graves. Beckett Street is located near to St James' Hospital and in very close proximity to the Medical Museum which in years gone by was the workhouse.  Further information regarding Beckett Street Cemetery can be found by visiting



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