Saturday, 26 February 2011


I wandered around Undercliffe Cemetery for a couple of hours
just reading the gravestones and enjoying the peace of the place.  Inevitably there are some poignant reminders of how tough life was in the 19th century.

This ivy-covered stone (right) records the children of Ann and James Hall(am?) (a Bradford ironfounder): William died aged 3 years 6 months in 1861, Arthur, died aged 3 years 4 months in 1864 and three other children - Mary Ann died in 1843 aged 16 months, John died 1847 aged 13 months and James died 1853 aged 13 months.  How tragic. I wonder if they had any children that survived?  
(click the pictures to make them bigger)

Walter Calver (1830-1866), Proprietor of the Original Marionettes, had a puppet theatre that travelled through northern England visiting towns and country fairs.  The theatre seated 1000 spectators!  His puppet theatre performed for Queen Victoria, who presented Walter with a snuff box.  After Walter's death, his son took the show to China and Australia.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
The Smith monument, a 30' high obelisk in a prime position overlooking the city of Bradford, is the resting place of Joseph Smith (1801-1858), land agent. He was the man who sold the cemetery plots and one of the 'perks' of the job, written into his contract, was the privilege of occupying the cemetery's most prominent location! 

There are also more recent graves in the cemetery, including that of Bob Cryer MP (1934 -1994). He was Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Keighley from 1974 -1983, a Member of the European Parliament and then MP for Bradford South from 1987 until his life was tragically cut short by a road accident.  After British Rail closed the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Bob Cryer was one of a group of local people who formed the KWVR Preservation Society, which bought the line from British Rail and reopened it (see my posts from 14 February).  His memorial stone describes him as 'Socialist parliamentarian, iconoclast and life-long rebel'.

Stafford Heginbotham is also buried in Undercliffe Cemetery.  He was Chairman of Bradford City Football Club at the time of the tragic fire at the ground in 1985, started by a discarded cigarette which set fire to rubbish under the stand. It killed 56 supporters and shocked the nation. (In the aftermath, he is reputed to have said: "Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it invariably comes too late.")


  1. All graves have something moving;But when you see so much children in only one family, you can't help imagine the sorrow and the suffering of the parents, the hard life of the mother, and the hard times for everyone in those times..

  2. Felt like I went together with you to wonder into the Cemetery. So sad, all these kids dying so young and what a life to take around a Marionette Theater...
    and impressed by Bob Cryer MP's contribution story you tell us about, allowing me to make connection with all these wonderful KWVR photos!
    Amazed - as usually- by your writing. Thank you Jenny !!

  3. Moving tribute to the passage of time and the lives of people no longer inhabiting this earthly plain. Reminds us of our own mortality.

  4. Headstones are always good for social history, though the ones that list more than a couple of children really bring home how much times have changed. I get more emails about churchyards and cemeteries than just about anything else on the Leeds daily photo.

  5. I like reading old headstones. A couple of days ago you said you grew up next to a cemetary. Me too. On one side was a small Catholic cemetary. Behind us was a paupers cemetary, where the town buried people who couldn't afford their own burial. Across the street was a big Protestant cemetary. On the only side without a cemetary was the town's biggest pond. It spooked some of my friends, but I got used to them . . .

  6. This looks a lovely cemetary. So much history in these places. Every now and again we walk through the Civil War ones around here. The most interesting one I ever found was actually on holiday in Key West where one headstone read, "I told you I was sick!" I might have a quirky sense of humor but it made me chuckle a bit.

  7. Such stories! Very interesting!

  8. Amazing post, nice photos too.

  9. We have an "older" section in our cemetary here that dates back to the late 1700s, but the headstones are not nearly as impressive or ornate as the ones you have there. ~Lili


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