Until well into the 19th century ships could come up into the foot of High Street, and maps from that time show a large bay of the Lagan which if it where there today would cover the Victoria Square and a large area to the south of it. This meant there was tidal water on each side of a tongue of land on which the Old Corporation Church stood, the site of St George’s on High Street today. Although the Corporation Church had been replaced by St. Anne’s Parish Church in the 1770s, the churchyard was still used for the burial of the dead. However a clause in an Act of Parliament in 1800 stated “no dead bodies whatsoever shall be interred in the said old church-yard” and instead the “piece of ground above the poor-house” donated by the Marquis of Donegall to Belfast Charitable Society would become the main graveyard under this Act of Parliament.
The Charitable Society had officially opened the New Burying Ground in March 1797, three years before burials officially ended at the Corporation Churchyard, and for generations it’s cemetery was the ‘fashionable place’ to be buried. Here in stone are the names of those who shared in the political and professional life of the town, who created the ship-building and linen industries, its trade and crafts and of those who, in the fullness of time, and promoted by their love of Belfast, founded or worked for its various philanthropic organisations.