Faced with heavy upkeep costs, declining income and increasing vandalism, the Municipal Services Committee decided in 1984 to close the Cemetery, clear away most of the memorials, and grass the site over. A campaign was started, led by Sylvia Barnard, and joined by local residents, relatives of the dead, ecologists and historians who united to oppose this plan, and in 1985 it was scrapped. It was agreed that the Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery, formed by Sylvia that year, would help and advise the officers of Leeds City Council in establishing a Management Plan which would ease maintenance and benefit wildlife in this heavily populated area.
After waiting several months for the north entrance gates to be repaired and re-installed, the decision was taken to put up temporary gates to facilitate the entry/exit of wagons with heavy machinery, needed by the masons. They finally arrived after Christmas, so the area looks much better, but it remains to be seen how sturdy they prove to be.
Lynda has requested that they be painted black (especially the yellow gate-post!) and the top coated with anti-vandal paint.
The latest Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery Newsletter (Summer 2015) has been posted out to our members. Packed with updates and articles including:
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Alun Pugh led a small but attentive group of people on this annual walk through parts of the Cemetery, - it was good to see some new faces. Alun had selected graves linked with WW1, mostly showing names of men who had been killed abroad and remembered on headstones, including 2 sets of brothers. Members of the group took it in turns to lay a British Legion small wooden cross with poppy in front of each headstone.
There were some men who had survived the War, or had been invalided out and are buried in the Cemetery. Interestingly, although most of them were shown on family graves, some were on Guinea Graves and we would never have known they were casualties of war if it hadn’t been for the research by the Family History section of Wetherby’s U3A*. The walk finished at the Cross of Sacrifice where a wreath was laid and 2 minutes silence observed.
(The Friends are working towards a publication showing all those people who died during WW1 and are commemorated on headstones, using the findings of the U3A – the people behind the names.)
*University of the Third Age
Heritage Open Days 2015 runs from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th September. Alun Pugh will be leading two tours, each about an hour long on Thurs at 10am and Sat at 2pm – no need to book, just turn up and meet by the notice board beyond the temporary gates. Do spread the word!
Also open in the area, will be St Agnes United Church, Stoney Rock Lane, almost behind the Cemetery (Fri and Sat 11am –2pm). There are significant links here to the Burmantofts Pottery business, plus some beautiful stained glass windows and a font full of fossils.
For many more local events, look out for the leaflet with a proud Leeds Owl on the front, or see the full list of events in Leeds and beyond at www.heritageopendays.org.uk
Since the Cemetery has been constantly under one threat or other since clearance was first proposed, we welcome new members to the Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery.