In the early 19th century there was a large increase in the population of Britain and Ireland with a resultant increase in the mortality rate. The Westminster Parliament in London recognised that a new radical approach was needed to bury the growing numbers of deceased people, especially from cholera outbreaks in cities.
Therefore during the 1830's the English Parliament established commercial cemetery companies in large urban centres in England and Ireland called General Cemetery Companies to cater for this urgent need.
As a result Sir Robert Shaw of Bushy Park established the General Cemetery Company of Dublin by an Act of Parliament in 1834 during the 4th and 5th years of the reign of King William IV. There were nearly 100 shareholders in this new company with an initial capital of £12,000, subscribed in £10 shares.
The newly formed General Cemetery Company of Dublin initially planned to open its cemetery in a section of the Phoenix Park. This application was turned down by the relevant authorities.
Undeterred the company bought the lands and house of Mount Jerome in Harold's Cross from the Earl of Meath, John Chambre, on the 23rd January 1836. This is the reason why the General Cemetery Company of Dublin became popularly known as Mount Jerome Cemetery.
The first burial took place on 19th September 1836 of the infant twins of Matthew Pollock. Since then 250,000 burials have taken place over the last 170 years. The cemetery started at 26 acres and expanded to its present 48 acre size in 1874.
Mount Jerome was established as a non-denominational cemetery. However it became the Protestant graveyard for the Dublin region in the 19th and early 20th centuries for a couple of main reasons. Firstly Glasnevin Cemetery opened in 1832 and became the main Catholic graveyard on the north of the city. Secondly most of the Protestant population of Dublin lived in close proximity to Harold's Cross.
With the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 and the emergence of new Catholic suburbs close to the Harold's Cross area, the number of Catholic burials slowly increased. Today the number of Catholic burials is roughly equal to the number of Protestant burials.
Because Mount Jerome became established during the Victorian era, the monuments you find here are a materialistic expression of the success of the Victorian middle classes from that period. As a result Mount Jerome Cemetery has one of the finest collections of Victorian memorials, tombs, vaults and crypts in Ireland.
Due to the declining burial numbers in the 1970's, the condition of the Cemetery began to deteriorate as revenues fell. In 1984 it was put into voluntary liquidation. By the late 1990's, it had fallen into a serious state of neglect with large swaths of the cemetery covered in overgrowth.
However with new owners in 1998 and the opening of a Crematorium in 2000, revenues have recovered and the Cemetery has undergone a complete reversal of fortune. The ongoing funds provided by the Crematorium have afforded the Cemetery the means to put in place a proper maintenance program to prevent it falling into decline again.