A woman, who was previously distraught at the state of her relative’s grave has been “reduced to tears of joy” thanks to a stranger.

Mary Bowford visits WestgateHill  Wesleyan Methodist burial ground to pay her respects to her great uncle who died at sea while in service with the navy in 1942. However, in the past, she has found that the site has been a “complete mess.”

When she went to visit this year, prior to Remembrance Day, she was “flabbergasted” to find that the burial site was in “the best state it has ever been in.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Westgate Hill burial groundWestgate Hill burial ground
Mary added: “I was staggered  to see it looking so good. I thought it was a band of volunteers, but I was flabbergasted to find out that it is one man on his own doing the work.”

“It is a pure labor of love by an unsung hero, I was staggered.”

Mary thought that due to the pristine condition of the site, it must have been a team of volunteers doing the work, but she soon learned that it was one man behind the job.

Eric Crossley, 76, a retired printer, and keen gardener decided to take on the “challenge” 8 years ago after the former reverend of the church tried to form a group of volunteers to keep on top of it, which fell through shortly after.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Westgate Hill burial ground beforeWestgate Hill burial ground before

Eric said: “I took it on as a bit of a challenge at first, I wanted to make it look presentable, and for my own benefit, it gives me exercise and fresh air which is good for me.”

Before Eric started work, you could "hardly get into the site" as it was so overgrown.

Eric has been tending to the site twice a week for the past 8 weeks. He does not have any relatives of his own buried there.

Eric’s wife, Linda is a member of North Kirklees and Morley Methodist Circuit which manages the site at present.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Reverend Nigel Rogers and Eric Crossley Reverend Nigel Rogers and Eric Crossley

She said: “Eric is a very humble man, he doesn’t want recognition for what he’s doing. Obviously, being a member of the circuit, we believe you should honor the dead and to see it overgrown and in a mess is disrespectful. He goes down there around twice a week.”

The site has been a topic of discussion for many years.

In 2000, the Church admitted to considering selling the plot of land where the graveyard sits, which caused controversy among relatives who had loved ones buried there. 

Eventually, the Methodist Church sold the property , and the burial ground was left to “fall into decay.”

Mary, who has been involved in appeals to get a charity to take on the land, explained that in 2011 Reverend Smith collated a group of volunteers, Eric included who would try to bring the ground back to a reasonable condition, and money was spent, and contractors were brought in, but after a few “tidy ups” the plan fell through. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Eric CrossleyEric Crossley

Eric added that the reason he wanted to continue his work is to ensure that the investment spent, is not lost. 

Mary said “I am so grateful for the work that has been done. I was reduced to tears. It’s the best I’ve seen it in about 20 years.”

For information on how to get involved, contact admin@nkandmcircuit.org.uk