Over the next few days, Deceased Online will be adding records for the final three sites in its Calderdale Collection. In my latest post, I look further at these West Yorkshire cemeteries and their extensive records.

Sowerby Bridge by Bolton Brow by Malcolm Street, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4026626ion

As you may know from my first post on the Calderdale Collection and the recent update, so far records for the following cemeteries have been uploaded to the Deceased Online database:

  • Brighouse Cemetery, Lightcliffe Road, Brighouse HD6 2HH (1874-1996)
  • Elland Cemetery, Exley Lane, Elland HX5 0SW (1861-1996)
  • Halifax General/ Lister Lane Cemetery, Lister Lane, Halifax (1842-1962)
  • Luddenden Cemetery, Stocks Lane, Luddenden HX2 6PR (1860-1996)
  • Rastrick Cemetery, Carr Green Lane, Rastrick HD6 3LT (1884-1994)
The last three sites to be added are:
  • Park Wood Crematorium, Park Road, Elland HX5 9HZ (1956-1997)
  • Sowerby Bridge Cemetery, Sowerby New Road, Sowerby HX6 1DY (1861-1992)
  • Stoney Royd Cemetery, Water Lane, Halifax HX3 9HR (1861-1995)
These large record sets comprise 137,000 records out of a total of 204,000 for the whole collection. They are wonderfully detailed - often giving names, dates, addresses and occupations - and offer an insight into the social histories of the respective locations.

The only crematorium in the collection, Park Wood, opened in 1956 and is located just outside of Elland town centre. The crematorium, which contains two chapels, featured in the critically-acclaimed BBC television series, Happy Valley, earlier this year.

Stoney Royd Cemetery lies in the large town of Halifax. The site was originally home to a Georgian house, Stoney Royd, but was sold to the Corporation in 1860. The house was demolished in the late 1900s. Opening in 1861, the cemetery was consecrated on 11th September 1862. The southern part was used for nonconformists. The cemetery was designed by Edward Milner and much of his carefully planned artistry is still in evidence today, such as the terracing, obelisks and three gate lodges.

Just over three miles from Halifax is Sowerby Bridge Cemetery, which also opened in 1861.

First page of the Sowerby Bridge burial register for 1861

The name, Sowerby Bridge, comes from the bridge that crosses the rivers Calder and Ryburn. Records show evidence of a wooden bridge as early as the Medieval and Elizabethan periods.Like other towns in the Calderdale Collection, Sowerby Bridge as a long history of textile production, dating from the Middle Ages. Now a market town, Sowerby Bridge developed from a small hamlet during the Industrial Revolution. As with other Calderdale settlements, Sowerby Bridge transformed its fortunes by using its river to power its expanding mills.

This was not good news for everyone, however. Many Sowerby families had been operating small weaving businesses from home. With the advent of the water-powered mills, most were forced out of their homes and into employment by a small number of mill owners. Between 1778 and 1792, the Greenup family set up Yorkshire's first fully-integrated woollen mill complex in Sowerby Bridge.

Into the 19th century, the town prospered as canals and the railway arrived, helping with the transportation of textiles to the wider market..Besides producing cotton and worsted, Sowerby Bridge also milled corn, and housed chemical works, gas works, iron foundries and a number of wharfs. It was not until the 1950s and '60s that the town's fortunes changed. Challenged by international markets, Sowerby Bridge's textile industry declined with hard consequences for its population.

Today, Sowerby Bridge's fortunes are being reinvigorated. Not only is it being used as a setting for television dramas, like Happy Valley, but local people are keen to emphasise the town's heritage and to regenerate the Rochdale Canal for recreational purposes. The town's current tourist industry highlights the beautiful country walks nearby and the high quality of many local restaurants.

Family historians today like to visit their ancestors' graves and to see where they lived and worked. For many parts of the UK, these ancestral tourism visits are not only enjoyable for the visitor but make a valuable contribution to regenerating areas of industrial decline. 

On this note, we'd like to hear from anyone who has visited their ancestors' graves, particularly if they were in the Calderdale area or if you found the records on Deceased Online. Do get in touch with us via the Comments Box below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Sources: History of Sowerby Bridge based on John A. Hargreaves, Sowerby Bridge in Old Photographs (Smith Settle Ltd.); In Sowerby Bridge website


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