Midweek Mysteries: The Cemeteries of Birmingham Jewellery Quarter

This week's Midweek Mysteries will be based on Birmingham, UK - my home town. There are many ghostly tales from Birmingham, and in particular, the historic Jewellery Quarter. In this post I'll be telling you about the ghouls that reside in both of the JQ cemeteries; Warstone Lane and Key Hill.

You get off the train at the Jewellery quarter station and you spot the graves through the platform fence. Curiosity gets the better of you and you feel the urge to wander around the tombstones. You exit the station and walk down the side road to Icknield Street, then you find your way to the cemetery gates. Once you step inside, it seems eerily dark despite the bright daylight outside. The ancient trees block a lot of the light in the cemetery, and you start to feel uneasy.
Right in front of you there is a bench, which has been covered with rocks. There is also a large ring of rocks stacked before the bench. You shudder off the thought that some kind of ritual has taken place here...

You start to follow the path towards the back of the graveyard, noting the dates on the tombs, some of them date back to the 1800s.
You look to the left and spot a crumbling wall lined with arches of inscribed stone and decide to take a closer look. They look like giant gravestones set into the wall and you recognise some of the names. Joseph Chamberlain, mayor of Birmingham. Alfred Bird, inventor of eggless custard. It's an odd place to put a grave marker, you think as you gauge the height of the stones, at least 6ft tall. You think you hear someone else in the cemetery, and quickly glance around, feeling some deep, primal instinct to hide.

There are some loud bangs coming from different directions, and the clanking of metal hitting metal. You peer out from behind the tomb but no one is with you. Maybe it's the spirits of deceased jewellers, you think, before shaking the absurd thought out of your head.
You smell something in the air, the aroma is similar to pear drops, and intoxicating. You suddenly start to feel rather sick, and a heaviness falls over you. You need air.

Warstone Lane Cemetery

You leave Key Hill and walk back down Icknield Street, passing the turning that you came down. You spot another cemetery further ahead, this one has no fence and looks bright and airy. The trees don't block the sun out here. You step inside and see a huge coliseum-type structure towering over you. There is are a few large trees in the middle, surrounded by gravestones. It's rather beautiful, and it looks better maintained than Key Hill.
You walk up to one of the many doors lining the coliseum but they are bricked up. Memorials are inscribed on some of the doors and you suddenly realise what the structure is - the catacombs of Birmingham.

Fascinated, you climb the steps up the two tiers of tombs until you reach the top. Looking down, it's even more impressive. Nature has slowly started to take over and it's crumbling in places but that only adds to it's beauty. You look around at the rest of the cemetery, this one looks smaller than the first. A few locals are walking dogs and you even see a couple of jewellers sitting on a bench eating lunch! There is definitely a more positive vibe here, and the heaviness you felt before has lifted. The smell of pear drops has returned though. "Always smells of bloody cyanide out here" You hear one the jewellers say. "Maybe it's just stuck to your clothes from work, told you that you shouldn't have gone to the plating department..." You slowly wander around the graves, admiring the decorative carvings and glimpsing the dates. There are a mix of very old and more modern graves here, the latest ones you see are dated to the 1980s.

From the corner of your eye you catch site of an interesting looking building, a bit like a gatehouse. It looks very gothic and the charcoal grey brick work only adds to the look. You go to take a closer look. Next to the building is a large rock mounted on a plinth. There is an inscription below it reading:

This felsite boulder was deposited near here
by a glacier during the Ice Age: being at one
time used as a parish boundary mark, it
was known as the ‘Hoar Stone’ of which the
modern War Stone is a corruption

You feel a chill run over you, and have the sense of someone watching you. Looking above the War Stone, you see a lady gazing at you. She looks like she needs help, so you jog over to her. She silently starts to walk away but you follow her through the graveyard, calling after her. She smells of pear drops, maybe she was in Key Hill with you. You shudder at the thought that this woman might be stalking you and stop chasing her. You watch her walk among the graves, her long white dress trailing on the ground. She turns to look at you one last time before she walks straight through a tree and vanishes from sight. The heaviness has returned...

The catacombs in Warstone Lane Cemetery

Key Hill Cemetery (formerly known as Birmingham General) opened in 1836 as a nonconformist graveyard. Many famous people who resided in Birmingham are buried there. There have been many reports of paranormal activity in the cemetery over the years, included the sound of bangs and clanking metal. Some people have claimed to see a soldier smoking in the back of the cemetery. There was even a report of a humanoid kangaroo-like creature jumping out from the graveyard, and stopping a car in the road before returning to where it came from!

Warstone Lane Cemetery (formerly known as Brookfields) opened in 1847 as a Church of England burial ground. It is rich in history. During World War II the catacombs were used as emergency accomodation to house families. They used to be open to the public but have since being determined a safety risk and were closed up several years ago. The catacombs were found to be releasing vapours from the decomposing bodies which caused a smoking ban in the cemetery, as it was believed that cigarettes could ignite the gases in the air. The vapours were also responsible for the Birmingham Cemeteries Act, which requires that coffins that won't be buried, such as in the catacombs, should be sealed properly with lead.
There are thought to be a few spirits residing in Warstone Lane. The most famous one is the White Lady. She is said to be young, and appears in a few different costumes, the most noted one being her white dress. An aroma similar to pear drops (cyanide) follows her around and it is disputed whether she simply worked in the jewellery trade or took her own life with the poison. She has been spotted a couple of times in Key Hill too.

So that concludes our tour of the Jewellery Quarter graveyards. I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love to hear where you'd like to explore next!

Sweet dreams...

Loppy x


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