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Also by Terry Spencer

The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley website:

KNOTTINGLEY CARNIVAL
By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the August Bank Holiday period at Knottingley abounded in fun and frolic with the Feast as the hub of the festivities. The fair was supplemented by community sports and of the sporting element within the town none was more prominent than Knottingley Town Cricket Club.

KNOTTLA FLATTS:
Situated on the southern bank of the River Aire, to the north side of Aire Street, lies Knottingley Flatts. Today, the Flatts occupy only a small portion of the original layout which comprised the greater part of Knottingley Ings.

KNOTTLA FEAST:
The modern image of the fair is one of outdoor entertainment for pleasure seeking people but such a concept is one which has developed over the last two centuries being born as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

HOSPITAL SUNDAYS:
Prior to the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 local people relied for health care in the event of sickness or serious injury upon charitable institutions such as Pontefract Dispensary and Leeds Infirmary.

KNOTTINGLEY COAT-OF-ARMS:
The application by Knottingley Urban District Council for a grant of arms was made to the College of Arms, London, in mid 1942.

FERRYBRIDGE GLASSWORKS:
That there was a glassworks at Ferrybridge is indisputable for it was both documented and photographed. That it was situated on the north bank of the River Aire "..where the Parish of Brotherton merges into the Parish of Ferrybridge" is confirmed by map reference. The doubt lies not in the existence or location of the furnace but with its origin.

NINETEENTH CENTURY KNOTTINGLEY:
The township of Knottingley, situated three miles north-east of Pontefract in the Wapentake of Osgoldcross, developed from a 6th century Saxon settlement in a forest clearing on the south bank of the river Aire. By the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 the settlement had acquired the status of a manorial vill

KNOTTINGLEY PLAYING FIELDS:
As the process of industrialisation and urban development gained pace in the second half of the nineteenth century the provision of public spaces such as municipal gardens and parks for the purpose of public recreation and amenity became increasingly desirable.

CAPTAIN PERCY BENTLEY:
Percy Bentley, scion of a prominent Knottingley family, was born in that town on the 18th January 1891, the son of James William and Helena Bentley, and was baptised in the parish church of St. Botolph on the 11th February.

KNOTTINGLEY WAR MEMORIAL:
On Wednesday, 25th September 1918, a committee previously sanctioned by Knottingley Urban District Council in meeting assembled, met in the Council Chamber at Knottingley Town Hall to consider the form of memorial to the men who had fallen during the Great War.

FERRYBRIDGE WAR MEMORIAL:
No less than the citizens of its larger neighbour, the inhabitants of the village of Ferrybridge decided to honour those drawn from the community and slain in the Great War.

THE 'K' SISTERS:
For approximately a decade from the mid 1940's the 'K' Sisters, Marjorie and Pamela Kellett, were prominent throughout the town and district of Knottingley as all-round entertainers who harnessed their talent to providing public enjoyment and in so doing raised large amounts of money for local charities.

THE PALACE CINEMA:
The new cinema, one of the earliest purpose-built picture houses in the country, was situated on an oblique strip of land some 560 square yards in extent, adjacent to Ship Lane at the junction with lower Aire Street. The hall was designed to seat 600 people: 500 in the area and 100 in the balcony.

KNOTTINGLEY PUBLIC HOUSES & BREWERIES:
In 1752, eighteen residents of the township of Knottingley in company with John Mitchell, the Parish Constable, agreed to be bound over in the sum of £10 each to observe the legal and moral obligations attendant upon being granted a licence as an innkeeper.

KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL CLOCK:
In the Spring of 1994, the recently deceased and much lamented Edwin Beckett arranged for the installation of a clock at the top of the Town Hall turret. The event was celebrated in verse by Mrs Joyce Bell who concluded her eulogy by stating that her mother, Dolly Lightowler, had always wished to see a clock set in the "bare face" of the Town Hall - a wish which had now come true.

STATUE OF THE BLACK PRINCE:
Awareness of a link between my native Knottingley and the Prince's statue came quite recently when Mrs Shirley Bedford of Knottingley informed me that her great grandfather was the master of a barge which had transported the statue from Hull to Leeds in 1903.

KNOTTLA NICKNAMES:
It was in the course of a recent conversation with Roger Ellis that the subject of nicknames arose, following which, in an idle half-hour, I casually began to compile a list of those I recalled. My list quickly exceeded fifty in number and I was seized by a natural desire to list as many more as I could obtain.

KNOTTINGLEY SILVER BAND:
The origin of Knottingley Band is obscure. In 1980 the Band celebrated its conjectured centenary year, the date being taken from an old letterhead of 1880.  However, a subsequent documentary source has been located which indicates that the genesis of the Band may lie much further in the past.

KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL:
The burgeoning spirit of civic pride found practical expression on 29th October 1864, when a group of prominent citizens of the town formed the Knottingley Town Hall & Mechanics’ Institute Company Limited.

FIELD SYSTEMS AND PLACE NAMES OF OLD KNOTTINGLEY:
The purpose of this study is to consider the topography of modern day Knottingley and formulate a theoretical model concerning the development of the settlement during the medieval and post medieval eras as reflected in the field systems adopted.

GAZETTEER OF KNOTTINGLEY PLACE NAMES:
An A-Z listing of Knottingley field and place names.

LIME GROVE AND THE CARTER FAMILY
One of the most impressive and graceful houses ever built at Knottingley was Lime Grove. The large attached house was the residence of the Carter family and was built to the orders of Mark Carter at Mill Close, Hill Top, about 1808.

WAR SAVINGS WEEKS:
Conflict is fuelled by finance so it is unsurprising that following the outbreak of war in 1939, local savings committees were established to encourage people to curb personal expenditure and invest surplus cash in the National War Savings Scheme in order to assist the cost of the war.

SELECT VESTRY RIOTS 1874:
The township of Knottingley became a semi-autonomous parish in 1789 following the ecclesiastical reorganisation of that period but remaining under the patronage of the Vicar of Pontefract until it became an independent parish in 1846

 
Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History

ASPECTS OF CIVIL ADMINISTRATION AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN

NINETEENTH CENTURY KNOTTINGLEY


By TERRY SPENCER B.A. (HONS), Ph D.

Preliminary Draft May 2005

CHAPTER NINE

DEATH AND BURIAL

Population growth and its attendant urbanisation during the first half of the nineteenth century posed many social problems for the town’s Authorities, one of which, disposal of the dead, whilst not pre-eminent, was to demand increasing attention as the century progressed.

The sole means of disposal of the dead at that time was by burial. From the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century every person baptised into the Christian faith had a common law right to be interred within the churchyard of the parish in which the death had occurred unless the deceased was an excommunicate or suicide. The rites of burial were conducted in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer and undertaken by the parish priest. The development of religious dissent throughout the sixteenth century fostered the growth of nonconformism culminating in adherence to Methodism by a large element of the labouring classes from the late eighteenth century, which rendered prescribed forms of religious observance decreed by the Anglican church, unacceptable, not least of which was the ritual accompanying burial of the dead. In consequence of the schism, burial in consecrated ground was an Anglican prerogative and nonconformist communities looked for alternative burial grounds. The aim was first realised at Knottingley by the Methodists who built their chapel in the Ropewalk in 1845, followed shortly thereafter by the Congregational chapel, erected at the top of the Croft in 1849, both sites providing ample burial space. (1)

Even within the Anglican community pressure to find additional burial space arose by the mid nineteenth century, as centuries old graveyards became filled to near capacity. The impending crisis was exacerbated by the demands of demographic change and was given a further degree of urgency by rising mortality occasioned by urban squalor and frequent epidemic as the effect of the Industrial Revolution changed the pattern of human settlement.

As early as 1828 consideration was given to the enlargement of the churchyard burial ground at Knottingley. At a Town’s meeting held in St. Botolph’s church on the 21st August it was decided that land belonging to the Reverend William Atkinson Wasney which was part of the manorial holding of the township lying between the existent churchyard and the former Wildbore manor house was to be appropriated. The money for the purchase was to be obtained by the sale of the limestone underlying the said land. In order to expediate the conveyance of the land the Curate, Reverend C.G. Smith and seven prominent townsmen agreed to be bondsmen to Wasney, the bond money to be reclaimed from the sale of the limestone. (2)

By mid 1831 the new burial ground was sufficiently settled for interments to commence. Burial dues on new graves 7 feet in depth were 7 shillings compared with charges of 4 shillings for children under ten and 5 shillings for all aged above ten years for graves within the old burial ground. (3)

The creation of the new parish of East Knottingley and the building of Christ Church in October 1848 provided an opportunity to ease the strain on the burial space available at St. Botolphs churchyard by the creation of a graveyard adjacent to the new church. Unfortunately, Seatons Croft, the site chosen for Christ Church, was not sufficiently large to contain a graveyard and consequently interment of the inhabitants of both parishes continued at St Botolphs. Whilst it is true that the establishment of a new burial ground in the midst of a densely housed community could be regarded as less than ideal in terms of health and sanitation, the existence of burial grounds for dissenting sects nearby shows how little, if any, thought was given to such matters, which given the ignorance in matters of hygiene and health at that time is hardly surprising. The fact that burial fees formed an important part of clerical income which was not readily surrendered by the incumbent of the traditionally established parish was also a factor which influenced the decision not to consecrate a space for burials within the new parish.

The physical effect of centuries of inhumation are clearly evident at St. Botolphs where the churchyard with its mass graves is several feet higher than the level of the ground upon which stands the church itself. One reason for the difference in the respective levels may be ascribed to the psychological attitude towards death and burial. As centuries progressed and space within the graveyard was increasingly occupied the bones of previous generations were frequently disturbed, randomly scattered and covered with a new layer of earth, causing a slight increase in the level of the churchyard over time as the existing burial site was used to accommodate each new generation of cadavers.

By the eighteenth century, the advent of a bourgeois mercantile and commercial class of largely self-made men with individualism based upon self-esteem changed the general attitude to mortality. The emergent attitude was further reinforced by the influence of Methodism with its stress on individual sinfulness and its literal emphasis on bodily resurrection. The perceived necessity to retain the body intact engendered a sensitivity towards the dead which influenced all creeds and transcended the age old beliefs and attitudes toward the dead and rendered the randomness of previous ages unacceptable to Victorian society. The changed ethos supplemented by demographic pressures quickened the process of overcrowding the churchyard burial ground at St. Botolphs. In 1843, a number of able-bodied paupers, having applied to the Select Vestry for relief, were employed to fill in that part of the Town Quarry lying along the left side of Chapel Street, and in front of the church in order to make an extension to the burial ground. The Surveyor of Highways was authorised to employ teams of men and horses to lead all the neighbourhood rubbish to the site for the purpose of filling the void. (4) Not all the quarry was utilised for the purpose, however, for a Vestry resolution of November 1843 sanctioned the formation of a committee comprising two Surveyors, Edward Long and Samuel Smallpage, together with Messr John Senior, Thomas Wood and Michael Bentley, to oversee the steps necessary to fill up a portion of the Towns Quarry and make a burial ground in the cheapest and most effective manner. (5) Indeed, part of the Town Quarry was still being worked having been but recently opened following the demolition of the old Wildbore Manor House to facilitate access to the underlying stone. (6) The infill of the eastern portion of the Quarry took about three years to accomplish for in September 1846, the Select Vestry recommended the Churchwardens to build a suitable boundary wall at the west end of the new burial ground. (7) The raising of the level of the churchyard probably dates from this period for in December 1845 the Select Vestry sought to obtain a terrier in respect of all paupers buried in the churchyard, while the following year a new scale of charges for pauper burials was formulated viz:

"For children under 10 years old three shillings for each grave and for persons above 10 years old the sum of 4s only for each grave shall be paid."

However, this has been amended by an inter linear insertion stating

"4 feet deep 3s and 5 feet deep for 4s." (8)

The measure was at best palliative, for with the growth of the developing township in mind it was clear that in the long term, provision of an interdenominational nature was essential.

The periodic but frequent visitation of disease and epidemic which followed on from the great cholera outbreaks throughout the land in 1831, stimulated reform agitation which was given further impetus in 1842, by the Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Classes of Great Britain compiled by Edwin Chadwick. The following year Chadwick produced a supplementary report based upon the findings of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners concerning internment practices in towns. The supplementary report demonstrated the medical and moral inadequacies of current practices and made recommendations concerning the design, construction and location of public cemeteries. The urgent necessity for implementation of the prescribed reforms could only be achieved through the direct involvement of the State. The absence of social cohesion and suspicion of centralised social policy combined with issues of free trade, the repeal of the corn laws and Chartist agitation, to overshadow the more mundane issue of public burial and although a Royal Commission Report of Health in Towns, published in 1845, substantiated Chadwick’s findings, no legislative action occurred until the following decade. The rise of the ‘physical force’ element within the Chartist movement, however, aided by a timely recurrence of cholera, did produce the Public Health Act of 1848, which was a springboard for all subsequent public health measures during the following sixty years.

The Public Health act empowered the creation of local boards of health, subject to the desire of 10% of the ratepayers in any parish. At Knottingley such a board was established in 1853. Once formed a local board was obliged to assume a wide range of powers concerning such aspects as sewerage, drainage and ancillary elements such as water supply, street cleaning, nuisance control, regulation of offensive trades and lodging houses. It was not until 1853 however, that legislative provision was made for the establishment of new public cemeteries. The instrument for such an undertaking was to be a parochial burial board. The law stipulated that when a cemetery was established provision should include Roman Catholics and Nonconformists as well as Anglican interment. Consecrated and unconsecrated sections were to be clearly demarcated. Where financial considerations required such provision, a separate burial rate could be levied on local ratepayers. (9)

As a result, in July 1857, John Carter, in his role as Select Vestry Chairman, together with Edward Hawke, the Churchwarden, summoned a meeting of the inhabitants of the township in the town schoolhouse. The meeting called in compliance with a regulation which enforced the creation of a burial board in any place where the death rate exceeded 23 per 1,000 per head of population, was to determine whether to provide the township with a new burial ground under the terms of the Act of 16th / 17th Victoria, 1853. It was decided to proceed with the project and a Committee of Enquiry was appointed by the Select Vestry to survey and carry out the provisions of the Burial Acts. (10)

Once underway the prime consideration was the choice of a suitable location for a public graveyard. Early enquiries concerned the purchase of a piece of land known as ‘Cock Garth’ from a Mr. Ingham. (11) The land was about 2½ acres in extent and was situated to the north side of the Ropewalk, the western portion of which is now occupied by the Town Hall. (12) The Vestry doubtless considered the Cock Garth an ideal site because of its contiguity to St Botolphs and other denominational places of worship. Whether from financial considerations or from social desirability of siting the proposed cemetery in a more spacious, less inhabited location, the plan to purchase the Cock Garth was abandoned. Alternative sites which were considered included Banks Close, owned by John Taylor, standing close to the present day site of Knottingley Cricket Clubs Banks Garth field, and Wasney’s Field (location unknown) and Park Balk Close, owned by William Moorhouse and located alongside Womersley Road, to the south eastern side of the town. (13)

Meanwhile, at the prompting of the Select Vestry, the Churchwardens called a meeting with the purpose of appointing a body to undertake the management of the proposed burial ground. (14) Held on the 18th January 1858 on a motion of William Moorhouse, a Burial Board was formally appointed. (15) Under the provisions of the Act of 1852 such a body was to consist of any number of members between three and nine. Knottingley Burial Board had the full complement, all nine members being drawn from the ranks of the Select Vestry. The names of the original members of the Burail Board are: - William Moorhouse, John Carter, William Jackson, James Willson (sic), Michael Bentley, William Shaw, Thomas Wood, John Jackson and John Howard. (16) The Act empowered the Board to manage the cemetery once opened, with power to fix charges, pay fees and make all appropriate arrangements. The Board was also empowered to borrow money against the security of the parish rates in order to cover the expense involved in the purchase of a suitable burial site. Empowerment to contract for all work in excess of £100, providing all intended expenditure above that sum was notified to the public, was also decreed. The 1852-53 legislation also specified that the membership of the Burial Board should rotate, with one-third of the number relinquishing office annually at a time specified by the Select Vestry. In the case of Knottingley the proscribed date was the 6th October each year with effect from October 1859. Each member of the Board was, however, eligible for immediate reappointment. Thus Messrs Carter, Jackson and Moorhouse retired and were re-appointed for a further three-year term at the Vestry meeting held on 6th October 1859. (17)

The site finally selected for the public cemetery was that belonging to William Moorhouse who formally indicated his agreement with the proposal, viz:-

"Knottingley Feby 3rd 1858.

I hereby offer my Park Balk Close to the Township of Knottingley, or the board now sitting, for the sum of Five hundred pounds, allowing me the opportunity of taking away the Lime at present set, and the ordinary valuation of the Land.

As witness my hand the day and year above written.

[signed] William Moorhouse." (18)

The offer from Moorhouse was unanimously accepted by the newly instituted Burial Board who agreed that payment for the land would be made three months from the date of Moorhouses declaration. The proposed site was 4 acres 3 roods 18 perches in extent and located on the east side of Racca Field Lane as Womersley Road was then known. (19) In accordance with legislative requirements to ensure the maintenance of public health it was necessary for the Burial Board to report to the State appointed Public Health Commissioner the state of the drainage of any site chosen for use as a burial place. To this end John Bentley, a local land agent and valuer, was appointed to survey the field and draw up a report. (20) Simultaneously, Bentley was engaged to value the tenant right of the ground and arbitrate between Moorhouse and the Board concerning the same. (21)

An Agreement was formally completed by the 15th March 1858, in accordance with the conditions of sale specified by the vendor. (22) To facilitate swift action between parties and thus obviate the crisis of the two decades preceding, the government had provided for burial boards to obtain loans with which to acquire land for graveyards. With this in mind the Knottingley Burial Board appointed William Edward Carter, the Pontefract based solicitor, to write to the Treasury to obtain its sanction for a loan of between £700 - £1000 for use by the Board. (23) In the event the maximum figure requested fell well short of the actual cost and at a Board meeting in July 1859 it was decided to apply to the Select Vestry for permission to borrow the full sum required from the government and thus discharge the financial liability incurred in the establishment of the new cemetery, with repayment by annual instalments over a period of 30 years. (24) On the 14th July the Select Vestry delegated full power to the Board to borrow the total sum of £1,602-19-2½ for the purpose. (25) The Burial Board had also requested the appointment of two auditors to examine its accounts, to which the Select Vestry responded by nominating Samuel Smallpage and Joseph Arnold from its numbers. (26)

State bureaucracy appears to have thwarted realisation of the Board’s financial plans, however, for a few months later the Board resolved,

"That owing to the difficulty of obtaining the money requested by the Burial Board from the Government on account of various obstructions continually presented by Her Majesty’s Loan Commissioners, the present Meeting consider it very desirable and would moreover better promote the interests of the Burial Board to obtain the requisite Loan from some Private Source." (27)

The Board therefore sought to secure a loan from the Pontefract banking company, Leatham & Tew. The approach was rebuffed, however, but undaunted, the Board sought reconsideration of its application and

"…endeavour to induce them…to make such reasonable arrangement..as will obviate the necessity of making any further application to the Government." (28)

In reply the Bank agreed to advance the requisite loan subject to specific conditions being observed. The loan was to be repaid in 15 annual instalments with interest thereon and 15 gentlemen of the township of Knottingley were required to provide security in respect of such payment by means of a signed document. The response of the Select Vestry was to accept the imposed conditions and to make application to the Treasury, seeking power to appropriate the annual sums from the assessed rates of the town. (29) At a meeting on the 28th June 1860, the Select Vestry approved the borrowing on £1,582 by the Burial Board against the security of the Poor Rates. (30) The following month the Board, now assured of Treasury approval, took the decision to obtain the loan on the proffered terms and on the 13th August its corporate seal was affixed to the mortgage deed and agreed that the sum of £105-9-4, being one fifteenth part of the total loan, be repaid to Messrs Leatham & Tew on the 1st October 1860. Thereafter, it became customary to pay the annual amount in two half-yearly instalments for the financial convenience of the township. (31) The debt was finally cleared on the 6th May 1874, when the Board made an order for the Overseers to pay off the outstanding balance of £80-11-2. (32)

The layout of the cemetery was undertaken under the joint superintendence of John Jackson and John Bentley who were designated Surveyors of Work. As the Acts of 1852/53 empowered the Burial Boards to build receiving houses for the dead it was resolved to build two mortuary chapels, one designated for use by the Anglican community and the other by nonconformist sects. The requirements regarding the siting and dimensions of the chapels was most precise. Each chapel was to be 24 feet long, 15 feet wide on the interior and 10 feet 6 inches to the square high, each building having a pitched roof. The buildings were to be erected with one standing at each side of the main entrance at a distance of 60 feet from the iron gates, with a minimum of 45 feet between the two chapels to permit a central walkway to be constructed. In order to minimise cost it was decided to use Knottingley limestone with dressed corners as the building material while sand from the adjacent quarry was to be used for plaster to bond the perimeter walls, chapels and the Sextons cottage. The chapel floors were to be paved with tool-dressed ‘Cromwell bottom’ flags, lying 3 feet above the level of the ground and the roofs covered with Westmorland slate. A cottage, one story high, consisting of two rooms, was to be sited alongside the perimeter wall to the north side of the main gate with the ground raised sufficiently to prevent dampness. The architect was a Mr Parker whose plans whilst generally acceptable to the Board members, were the subject of some difference of opinion concerning the choice of materials for the construction of the chapel walls. The proposal to use Knottingley limestone was questioned concerning its durability, eliciting the response that

"…if choice portions of Knottingley Lime be selected by the Superintendents of the works, the buildings would be sufficiently strong and durable."

The assurance of the architect instilled such faith in the Board that it was decided that an earlier specification in favour of using ‘Pontefract Lime’ be rescinded. However, at a Board meeting held on the 21st June 1858 it was decided,

"That the Chapels be built of good dressed, pressed bricks, walled head and stretcher, that no quoins be used in the corners but at the windows, doors and porches & Co. that Pontefract or Weldon [Castleford] Lime be used and Knottingley Stone foundations."

The rescinding of earlier resolutions may well have been forced on the Board by economic considerations, the traditional use of local limestone becoming displaced by brick by this time due to comparative costs. The chapel walls were to be 1½ bricks thick and the interior woodwork of ‘Petersburgh or Archangel’ deal, with enclosed seating for the mourners. The cemetery entrance was to have a crescent-shaped recess, a dwarf wall, two feet high with palisades and iron gates, six feet high. (33)

Having agreed the specifications, the Board put out the work to tender. John Brown was given the joiners, painters, glaziers and plumbing work, while the bricklaying, masonry, slating and plastering was undertaken by Robert Lister. (34) The work for the palisading of the entrance and the 6 feet high iron gates was given to John Beaumont of Knottingley, Beaumont undertook to do the work with as little delay as possible, observing the financial budget of £9-15-0, 10 shillings per yard for palisading and 10 shillings extra for painting the iron work with a coat of red paint. (35)

The building work was finished by the Spring of 1859 when all outstanding accounts were collected and placed before the Board which allowed the two Surveyors of Works the sum of £21 each. (36)

The layout of the cemetery consisted of an area of consecrated ground some 54 yards in extent, lying between Racca Field Lane and a gravel path to the east. The area, which included the Sextons cottage was designated for immediate use, with the remaining portion beyond the gravel path stretching east to the boundary wall, being reserved for future use. (37) The basic design of a square divided centrally across its length and width with the four quarters sub-divided by narrower walkways to form a grid iron plan, was designed by Daniel Webster who was paid the sum of £6-1-0 for the plan in August 1860. (38)

Fifty notices were printed and posted, advertising the post of Sexton. The position carried a rent free house with an acre of garden. (39) A condition of the appointment was that the appointee should have no family under the age of 12 as the laughter and gaiety of children was considered inimical to the site. (40) On the 6th June 1859, William Cockerham was appointed as the first Sexton of the township and at the same time John Bentley was appointed Registrar at an annual fee of £5, both appointments being for the ensuing year, (41) Cockerhams tenure was very brief, however, for he died within a few weeks of taking up the post and was succeeded by Henry Shay in August 1859. (42) Shay also became the town Pinder in October 1859, thereby setting a trend by which the two civic posts were combined. (43) The cemetery was consecrated by the Archbishop of York and the first interment took place when on the 8th June 1859, a youth of 14 years of age, was buried. (44)

Initially, committal times were restricted with interments between 1st April and 1st September being at 5.00pm and at 4.00pm for the remainder of the year, Sundays included. (45) All orders for funerals were to be given on the day prior to interment and all fees paid in advance. (46) It was specified that all graves be dug to a minimum depth of 8 feet. (47) The digging carried obvious risk to the life of the Sexton as shown by a Board resolution in August 1859,

"That an apparatus be provided…for securing the graves from falling in during the excavation", and Mr Joseph Brown, the Assistant Collector of the Town Poor Rates, was requested to enquire into the most effective method. (48) For graves with a depth exceeding 8 foot one shilling per extra foot was payable and two shillings for every additional foot. In an era of extra large families and given the high degree of mortality in Victorian society such deep graves would have been a common requirement. (49) The imposition of fees reflects the power of the Burial Board to fix charges, pay clergy and churchwardens and sell grave plots in perpetuity or for a limited period of time. The constitution the Board membership continued to reflect that of the Select Vestry with its middle class outlook and values and therefore ensured the perpetuation of social discrimination with regard to the administration of the public cemetery. The fact is evident by reference to the charges levied which were drawn up and by James Willson (sic) a Select Vestry and Burial Board member, for submission to the Secretary of State. While interment of adults cost 5 shillings and that of children 3 shillings, burial was within a common grave, the wealthy who were willing to pay twice the fee were able to purchase a grave space in perpetuity and therefore ensure exclusive use of the same. For the most wealthy, brick vaults could be purchased. (50) One continuing area of distinction was the disposal of paupers who were now buried within the public cemetery but although the graveyard location had changed, the problem of meeting the expenses of death and burial remained the same. Thus in July 1859 it was decided by the Select Vestry that the "Application for a coffin be not entertained for a coffin for the late Ann Masterman." (51)

A little over a year on a contrary decision was reached when it was decreed "The funeral fees of Josh. Heath be paid by the Overseers", probably because the dependants of the deceased were thrown upon the provision of the parish. (52)

Grave markers, which ranged in type from simple headstones to more elaborate monuments, for which, incidentally, designs and proposed inscriptions had to be submitted for vetting and approval by Board members, to mural monuments placed within the appropriate chapel at a cost of 5 guineas. (53) Privilege based on wealth also applied to times of interment which could take place outside prescribed hours upon payment of 12 shillings compared with the standard fee of 2 shillings. (54)

The Board initially limited the size of monuments with headstones confined to four feet six inches and flat stones not in excess of one foot long, for which standard fees of 10s 6d and 1 guineas were charged respectively. Provision existed for larger monuments, however, with a fee of 3 guineas being payable for all stones over 1 foot but not exceeding 3’ 6" in height. Here again, the size specified could be exceeded by "special agreement" and as the dependants of those who died in possession of the greatest wealth invariably exerted the greatest influence, permission was assured. Thus, the socio-economic distinction which had differentiated in life was perpetuated after death. (55)

One anomaly which had previously been the cause of much resentment was the discriminatory treatment practised against non conformists. Not only were dissenting ministers denied access to parish graveyards but even where a rare degree of tolerance on the part of the Anglican incumbent would have granted such access Canon Law stipulated that the parish priest conduct the rites and receive a fee in respect of his officiation. The Burial Amendment Act of 1857 removed the anomalies by equalising the fees payable to ministers of religion for acts of burial. The effect is seen with reference to Knottingley where fees were 2 shillings for ‘ordinary’ funerals and 12 shillings for ‘morning’ ones regardless of whether they took place in the consecrated section used by Anglicans, or unconsecrated ground used by dissenters. (56) It is somewhat ironic that the Consolidating Act which removed the source of discrimination was itself resented by non conformists because of the arbitrary manner in which fees were set by the predominantly Anglican members of the Burial Board.

With the opening of the public cemetery the burial ground of the parish church was naturally less used although families with grave rights and tombs therein continued to use them, one notable case being William Moorhouse who was interred in the family vault in St. Botolphs graveyard in 1865. (57) Infrequent use of the church graveyard resulted in its becoming somewhat neglected and in July 1863 the Select Vestry requested the Surveyor of the Highways to make the old burial ground decent by pulling down the existing fence and building a permanent wall with substantial coping in its place. (58) However, as late as the following April the Surveyor had to be further requested to "proceed with the wall at the Churchyard forthwith." (59)

The wall was evidently built soon afterwards for in August 1864 the Select Vestry decided that it was, "inexpedient to fix palisading on the wall connected with the wall of St. Botolphs church." (60)

Neglect of the wall at the east side of the church yard continued for almost a further twenty years. In March 1882 it was reported to be in danger of falling and at that time the Vicar suggested that part of the defunct Towns Quarry abutting Chapel Street should be filled in and restored as an extension of the church graveyard. (61) The suggestion had first been mooted in a letter sent to Pontefract and District Highways Board by the secretary of the Archbishop of York. The letter was greeted with hilarity by the Board members who regarded the proposed task as a practical impossibility. (62) However, after further agitation the work was undertaken and the churchyard extended on the site of part of the old quarry. The existence of the public cemetery obviated the use of the churchyard extension for burial purposes. A new entrance was therefore constructed at the top end of Chapel Street and in July 1894 the foundation stone of the St. Botolphs Parish Rooms was laid in the reclaimed area. (63)

©2005 Dr. Terry Spencer


| INDEX | INTRODUCTION | CHAPTER ONE | CHAPTER TWO | CHAPTER THREE | CHAPTER FOUR |
| CHAPTER FIVE | CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN |
CHAPTER EIGHT | CHAPTER NINE | CHAPTER TEN |


 

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