VIDEO: Uncertain future for group that transformed Bradford graveyard into 'peaceful haven'

VIDEO: Uncertain future for group that transformed Bradford graveyard into 'peaceful haven'

Margaret Gray at Heaton Graveyard in 2003, at the time the group were raising funds to try and regenerate the site.

Overgrown graves in Heaton Graveyard prior to the regeneration project starting in 2003.

Heaton Graveyard pictured during restoration work.

Local schoolchildren take notes during a project at the historic Heaton Graveyard, which dates from 1824.

The Lord of the Manor of Heaton, Christopher Ball, is given a guided tour of Heaton Graveyard where many of his relatives were buried last year.

Heaton Baptist Church building is for sale

Margaret Gray in the Heaton Grave yard her group managed to save

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

A PROJECT that has transformed a derelict Bradford graveyard into a "peaceful haven" for local residents may have to end unless more volunteers can be found.

The Heaton Graveyard Project was founded in 2003 with the aim of returning the graveyard to its Victorian splendour.

The group's survival is reliant on donations and its own fundraising initiatives, but an open day being held tomorrow may be the last event it is able to run.

The graveyard is opposite the former Heaton Baptist Church on Leylands Lane, Heaton, which the organisation has free use of to hold fundraisers.

But after serving its congregation for almost 200 years, Heaton Baptist Church closed its doors at the end of March and the building is now up for sale.

One of the founding members of the project, and its current co-ordinator, Margaret Gray, said she feared that without a venue, tomorrow would be the last opportunity for the team to hold a fundraising event.

"They have been essential in keeping the site maintained, and with no events and money coming in, the project may have to come to a close," she said.

"The core of the team have faithfully given hundreds of hours in time and energy to ensure that the site was regenerated to a high standard.

"But the team has inevitably dwindled, and we are now looking for new volunteers to enable the project to continue."

The graveyard, which dates from 1824, had suffered decades of neglect before the project began 11 years ago, with more than 90 per cent of the graves inaccessible due to the overgrown conditions.

The on-going deterioration had also led to the area becoming a hot-spot for anti-social behaviour and frequent fly-tipping.

Concerns from local residents led to the formation of the group, and Mrs Gray said it would be "devastating" if the site was allowed to fall back into decay.

"Before we started it was in a horrendous state, and a real notorious no-go area," she said.

"There were no pathways, it was unsafe, and you could barely see any of the graves or monuments. It was a real mess.

"Sadly, there is a danger it could revert back to that if we can't get more support to continue the project from volunteers, particularly younger people, who have the energy we need."

There are more than 1,100 graves and, according to the chapel register, 8,630 people have been interred since 1868, with the last burial taking place in April 2007.

The site contains the graves of 45 war veterans, and there are numerous graves in remembrance of people who shaped the industrial activities of the surrounding district.

Mrs Gray, who received a Respect Taking a Stand award from the Home Office in 2006 for her work in tackling anti-social behaviour via the project, said the site had attracted visitors from far and wide keen to trace their Bradford roots.

"If the project stops, it would be a real loss to local history," she said. "We have enquiries and visitors from all over the world, including three different families from the USA recently.

"They were enthusiastic to learn about their family history and ancestry, and it was encouraging to be able to share what we know with them and learn about their stories.

"Also, the graveyard has become a haven in the heart of the village, and a really peaceful place. It would be sadly missed."

Tomorrow's open day, which includes bring-and-buy, book and cake stalls, runs from 10.30am until 3pm in the Heaton Baptist Church building.

Other attractions include an opportunity to trace ancestors in Heaton, a World War One display and the chance to buy a copy of the 2015 Heaton Graveyard calendar.

In the graveyard, there will be a World War One poppy trial, and spring bulbs and plants for sale.

For more information on the open day, or for details on how to support the project, contact Mrs Gray on (01535) 274298 or visit www.heatongraveyard.co.uk.

Comments (1)

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7:37pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Robin of Loxley says...

Why is this area not classed as a conservation one ?

Why is Bradford Council not protecting this invaluable piece of history?
Why is this area not classed as a conservation one ? Why is Bradford Council not protecting this invaluable piece of history? Robin of Loxley
  • Score: 11

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