Wool barons’ Valhalla

Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford, West Yorkshire

The best view of Bradford, sitting in its valley bottom, is from Undercliffe Cemetery, which from 1851 was the resting place of many of the great and the good of the booming wool town.

At the vantage point stands a prominent thirty-foot obelisk, commemorating Joseph Smith, the original land agent for the Cemetery Company.

Swithin Anderton, a wealthy wool-stapler, lies beneath a version of the Scott Monument which Ken Powell aptly describes as “scaled down” rather than miniature.

Less luminous but no less interesting characters buried at Undercliffe include Charles R Whittle, the author of ‘Let’s all go down the Strand’, Charles Rice, “comedian…for many years lessee and manager of the Theatre Royal, Bradford”, and David Brearley, an official of the United Ancient Order of Druids whose inscription is distinguished by at least five spelling mistakes.

Undercliffe Cemetery was used as a location in the film Billy Liar (1963).

Stranded by the tide of changing economic conditions and funeral fashions since the last war, the Bradford Cemetery Company went into liquidation in 1976 and the site was purchased for £5 by a developer who went on record saying, “I was very concerned to see the cemetery had fallen into disrepair and I thought it was terrible to see the place being neglected.”

The local newspaper later alleged that inscribed kerbstones were sold for scrap stone, and Bradford City Council, spurred by the small but energetic group of the Friends of Undercliffe Cemetery, took it on in 1984, by which time the chapels and lodges had all been demolished.

Now the Cemetery is well cared for by Bradford City Council in partnership with the Undercliffe Cemetery Charity [http://www.undercliffecemetery.co.uk].  A replacement lodge was transplanted from Bowling Cemetery, Bradford in 1987.  All it needs is for someone to donate two matching Gothic funerary chapels in need of a good home.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Victorian Cemeteries, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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