Any enquiries on existing burials in the British Cemetery should be made to Joy Menezes
In 1761 Mr William Nash, the first Consul-General of Madeira, asked the Portuguese Government if he might buy land for use as a burial ground for British residents. Prior to this time Protestants were not allowed to be buried in local cemeteries and were consigned to the deep off the coast near Garajau. An Order in Council from Lisbon dated 3 January 1761 gave approval for a cemetery in Funchal provided that it was located at the outskirts of the town; so Mr Nash bought a piece of land just outside the city wall, an area of ground centred on an old orange tree and known locally as A larangeira. The first grave dated from 1772 and was that of Mrs Shipcote, the wife of a taverner. Her great nephew, writing in 1841, recalls being present at her burial underneath the orange tree, with the tomb of Judge Miles, the second to be buried, lying alongside.
The New Burial Ground
British forces garrisoned Madeira during the Napoleonic wars from 1807 to 1814, and in 1808 General Beresford acquired another plot of land for military burials: this is the graveyard to the left of the main entrance to the current British Cemetery. As the Old Cemetery filled up, so the Military Cemetery was used for civilian burials and became known as the New Burial Ground. A new Register of Burials was begun in July 1809 showing the first interment to be that of Lady Sophia Bligh.
The Middle Cemetery
In 1851, with both burial grounds becoming crowded, a further area of land was acquired beyond the New Burial Ground - this is the Middle Cemetery.
The New Cemetery
In 1887, the Municipality of Funchal advised the trustees that the Old Cemetery was needed for a new street and approved the use of another plot of land beyond the Middle Cemetery: so, in 1890, the New Cemetery came into being. The gateway to the Old Cemetery was transferred to mark the entrance to this part of what is now called the British Cemetery, and the remains from old unmarked graves were interred in a common grave, marked with a tall obelisk, with the following inscription.
"This monument records the removal to this ground in the month of September 1890, of all the human remains, and memorials from the cemetery, which was acquired by the late British Factory of this Island in the Year 1765 and which was appropriated to civic purposes in the Year 1890 by the Municipality of Funchal. The remains unmarked by memorials were interred under this monument."
The site of the Old Cemetery is now the Volkswagen dealership a hundred metres lower down the Rua Carreira.
In 1854 the trustees erected a small building for use by the custodian of the cemeteries and where the chaplain could change into his funeral robes. This building was converted into the Mortuary Chapel in 1861.
These bare bones of the history of the cemeteries hardly scratch the surface of a fascinating subject. Buried in the cemetery is William Reid, of Reid's Palace Hotel fame; a tablet commemorates the troublesome Reverend Lowe, who caused immense disturbance on Madeira in the 1830s and 1840s and who died tragically at sea; the King of Bonny is buried here, as is Dr Paul Langerhans, discoverer of the Islets of Langerhans; and more recently we have restored the gravestone of Captain William Buckley, VC RN, the first to be gazetted with the award of the new medal, the Victoria Cross, in 1875, who, by living on Madeira for a few short weeks before his death in 1872, gave our cemetery the distinction of his memory.