The English Cemetery in Via Verdi, Livorno

One of the unusual 17th-century tombs in the old English Cemetery, Livorno, clearly belonging to an English merchantOne of the unusual 17th-century tombs in the old English Cemetery, Livorno, clearly belonging to an English merchantKnown in Livorno as the Antico Cimitero degli Inglesi, or the Old English Cemetery, the monumental cemetery in Via Verdi dates from the 1640s and is the oldest of its kind in the whole of Italy, probably in the whole of the Mediterranean area. The people buried in the cemetery were protestants of several nationalities who were living or staying in Livorno and other parts of Italy during the 17th, 18th and first part of the 19th century. Many of them played an important part in the development of the city and port of Livorno. In 1840 the cemetery was closed down following the expansion of the city walls, and a New English Cemetery was opened outside the walls (Via Pera).

The tombs in the old English cemetery contain a wealth of artistic details, like this angelThe tombs in the old English cemetery contain a wealth of artistic details, like this angelMany of the people buried here were merchants in Livorno during the time of great expansion of the city as a cosmopolitan port. Others were brought to Livorno to be buried from PisaFlorence and other Italian towns since Livorno’s protestant cemetery existed long before the ones in Florence and Rome. There are many tombs belonging to British citizens, but also to French Huguenots, Germans, Swiss and Americans. Several American marines are buried here.
Tobias Smollett's tombstoneTobias Smollett's tombstoneThe most famous figure to be buried in the old cemetery in Via Verdi, Livorno, is the Scottish writer Tobias Smollett who died in 1771. He had been staying in Livorno for health reasons.

If you are interested in old graveyards of any kind, this one is well worth a visit. Despite the damage caused by World War II, vandals, and invasive vegetation, it is still a place of peace in the middle of the city of Livorno. It is interesting just to wander around and look at the inscriptions, imagining the lives of these people in the foreign city of Livorno all that time ago.

Some names in the cemetery: (there are about 450 tombs in all).

Tobias Smollett – Scottish writer (d. 1771)
Leonard Digges – the oldest tombstone in Livorno’s English cemetery (d. 1646)
Robert Bateman – English merchant, donated money to have railings erected around the cemetery  (d. 1743)
John Corne – Commander of the Prince of Wales (d. 1718)
George Renner – German merchant in Livorno, friend of Tobias Smollett
Francis Harriman – member of the British Factory, the association of British merchants in Livorno (d. 1763)
George Jackson – collector of manuscripts and merchant (d. 1763)
Thomas Hall – American (Philadelphia) chaplain to the British Factory in Livorno for forty years (d. 1824)
John Webb – English merchant and banker (d. 1829)
Francis Horner – Scottish member of the British parliament, died in Pisa in 1817 at only 39 years of age.
Mary Lane (d. 1790) – the epitaph on her tomb inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - when he visited the cemetery in 1828 - to write his poem Suspiria.

The burial of a young boy who worked on board the HMS IllustriousThe burial of a young boy who worked on board the HMS IllustriousFamous visitors to the English cemetery of Livorno:

James Fenimore Cooper – American author who, on a visit to the English cemetery in Livorno in 1829, found among the American tombs that of Captain Thomas Gamble, commander of the Erie, who had died about ten years earlier. This man had been Cooper’s mate on the Lake Ontario twenty years before, and fate had brought him to stand before his companion’s tomb here in Livorno.

Charles Dickens also stopped here during his visit to Italy to visit the tomb of his countryman Smollett.

Entrance to the cemetery can be arranged by writing to livornodellenazioni@gmail.com.

The non-profit cultural association - Livorno delle Nazioni - aims to continue work to restore and protect the cemetery.
For anyone interested in the history of the cemetery and those buried there, see also Matteo Giunti's website Leghorn Merchant Networks, the result of his many years of research, still ongoing. He also offers a professional genealogy and research service.

There is also a Facebook group dedicated to maintaining and restoring the cemetery.

Because of the many foreign communities that settled in Livorno from the end of the 16th century (see History of Livorno), the city had an astonishing number of foreign cemeteries. Besides the two "English" ones, still surviving are the Dutch-German and Greek Orthodox cemeteries, both in Via Mastacchi, as well as two Jewish cemeteries (one in Viale Ippolito Nievo dating from 1840, and a second more recent one in the Santo Stefano ai Lupi area of the city).

If you would like to visit the old English cemetery, please write to livornodellenazioni@gmail.com

Related articles on Livorno Now:
Jewish Livorno
Strengthening ties between Livorno and Ings
Special English visitors to Livorno's old English cemetery

Related articles elsewhere on the web:
Burials at the Old English Cemetery
Italians unveil long-lost tomb medallion of Scottish MP 

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