By the late eighteenth century the burial space available to the citizens of King’s Lynn in the collective churchyards of All Saints, St Margaret’s and St Nicholas’ was running out. The establishment of St Margaret’s Burial Ground (now St James’ Park) in 1803/04 went some way to alleviate matters, but even this was soon to fill up as the population in South Lynn expanded from 701 in 1801 to 4,772 in 1851.

South Lynn had already anticipated the town’s need for a cemetery when, towards the end of 1849, the parish of All Saints’ acquired a plot of ten acres on the north side of Hardwick Road as a place for interdenominational burial with a chapel designed of William Brown of King’s Lynn. All Saints’ Cemetery was transferred to the Borough Council of King’s Lynn by Order in Council dated 1st May 1855 at which time the town’s churchyards were closed to further burial.

On 14th July 1855 the King’s Lynn Burial Board asked Aickin & Capes of London to provide designs for two new chapels – one for Anglicans the other for dissenters – together with a mortuary, bier-house, lodge, carriageways and paths. William Brown’s 1850 chapel was demolished, the materials going to build the new ones. In December 1855 Aickin & Capes furnished the Board with a list of trees and shrubs to mark the divide between the consecrated and un-consecrated parts of the cemetery. Tenders were received in the February of 1856 and Sharp of Wisbech was appointed supplier of horticultural specimens.

The cemetery was consecrated on Monday 26th May 1856. On account of the Bishop of Norwich being indisposed, the ceremony was performed in his stead by the Rt. Rev’d Bishop Spenser, the former Bishop of Madras. An account of the event appeared in the King’s Lynn Advertiser of Monday 26th May 1856.

After the Second World War (1945) the Council had all but abandoned maintenance on the chapels and their decline was inevitable. In the mid-1960s a programme of kerbstone and railing removal began, to facilitate less labour-intensive maintenance. Hardwick Road Cemetery was closed to further burials on 30th September 1971 and the chapels were demolished in February 1972.

By the 31st December 2000 the recorded number of graves in the northern and southern sections of Hardwick Road Cemetery stood at 22,777. The cemetery is far from ‘full’, having only reached two-third’s of its capacity, though its use has considerably diminished since 1973. The Friends were established in 2006.

As an enterprise, Hardwick Road Cemetery stands out as being in the vanguard of 19th century burial reform. Its establishment in 1849 marks it out as one of the first parochial cemeteries in Great Britain, anticipating the Burial (Beyond the Metropolis) Act of 1854 by five years. Its importance to King’s Lynn as an early example of Victorian cemetery landscape is immense, and the variety of monuments it has to display is a bold reminder of the Victorian Way of Death.