Bradford – Undercliffe Cemetery

This will mostly be a post of photos from my little visit to Undercliffe Cemetery in the blazing heat of Bradford earlier on in the week.

Bradford’s population increased nearly tenfold during the first half of the nineteenth century, which put an intolerable burden on grave space on the parish church of St. Peter’s, which is now Bradford Cathedral. 426 people died in the cholera epidemic of 1849 and despite the church’s best efforts, there were bones sticking out of the ground. This clearly wasn’t an ideal situation.

The local authorities opened Scholemoor cemetery and this private cemetery was opened at Undercliffe in 1854. And by private cemetery, that means more expensive, so what we have here now are mostly a series of individual tombs and memorials which combine to be a Victorian temple of wealth. There were extra charges to be buried near the centre, in decadent plots, and much cheaper fees to be shoved at the outside or placed in communal company graves. Who says you can’t take wealth and influence with you after death?

The expensive bit is evident still today and there are six listed memorials because of their heritage. Many were owned by mill owners and their families and they’re mostly in good condition, although one is in need of some repair and renovation. The tall 30 foot obelisk tomb belongs to Joseph Smith, one of the least subtle memorials in the cemetery. There’s also a Quaker section to the cemetery as well (which was run in a more equitable manner), with their standard laying down of gravestones.

The company running the cemetery collapsed in the 1970s and for a few years the site was owned by a property developer. However, in 1984, the council purchased the cemetery and a charity has been working hard since then to improve the location. It was evidently very well cared for when I visited, with gardeners cutting grass and tidying up memorials, all very nicely done. Some of the memorials are damaged and most are heavily stained from the years of industrial pollution, but there’s an ongoing effort to repair those stones.

As an aside, I’ve never really watched Peaky Blinders, but this cemetery has been used in the filming for that, as have some other locations I visited this week (more on them later….).