British Cemetery and English Church

British Cemetery Chapel

Up until the mid 18th century, only Catholics were permitted burial on Madeira and Protestants who died on the island were cast into the sea at Garajau, the site of the Christ the King statue. In 1761, at the request of Britain's Consul General, the government of Portugal permitted the acquisition of land in Funchal for a burial site for British residents of the island, provided it was not within the city. The first burial took place in 1772.

Graves in the British Cemetery

British Cemetery Gates
There was a British garrison on Madeira during the Napoleonic wars and further land was acquired for military burials in 1808. A further plot of land was needed by 1851 and then in 1890 the remains from the original burial site were moved to a further new plot as part of a road construction scheme. Consequently, the grounds of the cemetery are surprisingly extensive.

Although known as the "British" ceremony, it contains the graves of people of many nationalities. Amongst those buried are William Reid (who founded the hotel); George Oruigbiji Pepple, King of Bonny; Lady Sarah Bonetta Davies, God daughter of Queen Victoria and Dr Paul Langerhans.

The cemetery is open on weekdays only. Access is via the main gate (Rua da Carreira, 235) from 10:00 to 13:00. From 13:00 to 16:00 access is available by pulling hard on the bell of the small green gate to the right and awaiting admittance.

The cemetery is (well) maintained by the Holy Trinity Church which lies a short distance away at Rua do Quebra Costas, 18.

The English Church

Church Gates

The 'English Church' as it is known was first mooted during the time of the British garrison but was not actually constructed until 1822 by which time the garrison had left and it proved difficult to find the regular funding needed to support a permanent chaplain from the 700 British residents of the island. Only in 1875 was a formal Association created to ensure the continuity of the church. 

The church has something of the aura of a New England municipal library. At the time of its construction there was apparently a ban on places of non-Catholic worship assuming the form of a traditional church. 

Although still a focus for the British community, the present congregation consists mostly of tourists and the grounds are used for open-air concerts which take place almost daily.

Getting there

Location of British Cemetery and English Church
© OpenStreetMap contributors

If you walk north-east along the Rua Major Reis Gomes which passes the north side of the La Vie shopping centre, you'll come to the Rua da Carreira. Continue north-east a short distance and you'll spot the cemetery gates on the south side of the street.

Travelling in the south-west direction down Rua da Carreira you'll come to the Rua do Quebra Costas. Turn north up this (steep) street (there is a sign on the corner) and you'll see the church gates on your right about half way up.