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Mortonhall Crematorium and Cemetery

A parkland cemetery and crematorium built on part of the policies of Mortonhall House 3½ miles (5.5 km) south of the centre of Edinburgh and operated by the City of Edinburgh Council. Lying next to the Stenhouse Burn, the 5-ha (12.3-acre) cemetery opened in 1959 and, unusually, specifies flat memorials. An area of unmarked graves, including space for the burial of ashes and pauper's graves, lie around a prominent memorial cross. A Memorial Rose Garden provides for the burial of infants and stillborn babies.

Built in 1964, the starkly modernist crematorium was the work of Sir Basil Spence (1907-76) and, in some ways, recalls his design for Coventry Cathedral along with the influence of Le Corbusier. The A-listed building comprises white concrete prisms which rise to a crowning tetrahedral spire above the main chapel. This is glazed on its south side and transmits light downwards into the interior. The white-painted interior of the main chapel is a soaring space with additional natural lighting coming from vertical windows at the rear, set with brightly-coloured stained glass. Domed light fittings hang on long cables. The chapel seats 250 mourners on fitted pine benches, while an organ is located in a gallery above the door, accessed via a spiral staircase. The catafalque is of roughly-hewn concrete, with a crucifix behind and symbols of other faiths above. These religious icons can be hidden behind a curtain as required. The much smaller Pentland Chapel is similarly styled inside but does not have the height or grandeur of the main chapel, seating only 50 mourners.

The first cremation took place in February 1967 and an average of 2800 take place each year, making Mortonhall Scotland's busiest crematorium. Cremations are regulated by strict environmental pollution standards. The grounds include a Memorial Chapel, Waiting Room, Garden of Remembrance and Columbarium, the latter added in 2006. The woodland setting is slightly reminiscent of Erik Gunnar Asplund's Woodland Crematorium in Enskede (Sweden).


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