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.
The latest Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery Newsletter (Spring 2016) has been posted out to our members. Packed with updates and articles including:
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I took this picture on a lovely sunny day. The birds were singing, a couple of dog walkers were exercising their pooches, and Council staff were cutting the grass. This clump of bluebells is one of many throughout the Cemetery, - keen gardeners will notice that there is a mix of the delicate English bluebells and the sturdier Spanish, which are slowly taking over.
I was in the Cemetery to take pictures of some headstones, including that of John Carling, who I have just discovered was my gt-gt-grandfather, a policeman who had lived in Craven Street.
Saturday 30th April at 2.15pm in the Teale Room at the Thackray Museum opposite the Cemetery.
We hope you can join us at this year’s Annual General Meeting, when you can find out what’s been happening during the past year and what’s planned for the year ahead.
Nominations with seconders are invited for Committee members and the specific roles of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, web-site manager and Membership secretary. Please write to the Secretary, Lynda Kitching, 37 Shaw Lane Gardens, Guiseley, Leeds LS20 9JQ.
Our speaker this year will be Lesley Newnam, who we met through Wetherby U3A’s work for us with our WW1 project. Lesley has furthered this by researching musical connections within the Cemetery. Her talk is entitled, ‘The Actor, the Medic, the Singer and the Solicitor’ – sounds intriguing!
Before the meeting, why not take the opportunity to see for yourselves how the Cemetery is looking now? All are welcome as Alun leads a half hour walkabout at 1.30pm. Meet by the North Lodge.
As always, when attending the AGM, we can take advantage of parking cars for £2 and an invitation to look around the Museum beforehand. Hot drinks, lunches and snacks are available from the cafe. Why not make a day of it!
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.
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
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.