Cemetery lodges are full of life: Don't be afraid of a graveyard home

Could YOU live in a graveyard home? Residents say cemetery lodges have charm, character… and fascinating histories

Most of us are keen to know our neighbours when moving into a new home. But for Charlotte Goldthorpe, it was a slightly different story.

The fashion lecturer bought her cemetery lodge in 2019. ‘When I tell people I live in a graveyard they always ask if it’s haunted. 

‘Well, no, it isn’t,’ she says, while walking her dog in Sowerby Bridge Cemetery, in West Yorkshire. ‘The neighbours are quiet — well, I wouldn’t want them to be noisy.’

Attractive: A lodge next to Alderley Edge Cemetery was bought this year. Lodges were built for custodians, but are rarely used for that purpose now

Charlotte has lived in the two-bedroom stone house since she purchased it for £250,000. It was built in 1851 as a home for workers tending the graves.

‘I love it,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t even selling my old house, but I was just looking through Rightmove and I saw this place and thought it was a beautiful building. It was cheap and it’s got outside space.’

Charlotte was told burials there were a rarity.

‘Then there were three in the first week. It’s an eye opener. I had never been to a proper funeral before, and now I’ve been to quite a lot.

I don’t pry but after the funeral I’ll go and pay my own respects to the new people who have joined the cemetery — it’s like we all live together.’

Many of Britain’s cemeteries were built in the Victorian era when there was mass migration to towns for employment, and the birth rate soared. 

Lodges were built for custodians, but are rarely used for that purpose now and many continue to be sold off. They make for solid, attractive homes — it’s just how you feel about being surrounded by graves.

Charlotte says her Gothic-style house is like a ‘backwards Tardis’. It looks substantial on the outside, but is compact inside. She installed a wood burner to make it cosy, but it’s the surroundings she loves most.

‘Every time you see someone new and there are the graves of people who lived in the house,’ she says. ‘One lived here in the early 1900s and died on Bonfire Night.’

But it’s a surprisingly happy location, she says. ‘It’s lovely because people come in to walk their dogs and there’s a lady who tends her grandmother’s grave. It’s a nice community and no, nothing goes bump in the night.’

While most homes in cemeteries are former lodges, some more recently built homes have a cemetery view from their kitchen.

At London’s famous Highgate Cemetery — resting place of Karl Marx, Lucian Freud, George Eliot and Russian polonium-poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko (in a lead-lined coffin) among others — a striking mansion is for sale at £7 million with Knight Frank.

The owner, who keeps a low profile, says: ‘The cemetery, in our corner, looks like a Victorian garden, like something out of a novel. When the birds are at their loudest on a summer morning, it’s like waking up in a forest somewhere far more tropical than London.’

The four-bedroom, four-bathroom house has a cinema and glass walls that look out over the tombs, making for an extraordinary contrast with its surroundings.

Another unusual property is the lodge to Alderley Edge Cemetery in Cheshire, which forms a mock-Tudor arch over the entrance. Built in 1906, it was used as office space until David Kaushal, a doctor, bought it at auction for £273,000 earlier this year. 

He is currently renovating it. ‘You can’t get hold of anything in Alderley Edge, property here is like gold dust,’ he says. ‘When I told my friends they were dead excited — pardon the pun — as it’s like you have your own peaceful park.’

And there is a responsibility to keep it peaceful, he says. ‘You’ve got to be mindful of the people who are mourning, and paying their respects. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s spooky and cool and exciting.’

Kate Lay, director for Landwood Property Auctions, who sold the house, agrees: ‘Living in a cemetery lodge isn’t for everyone, but they often offer exceptional value in desirable areas. The only downside is you might find your family are too scared to come and visit.’

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