Remembrance Walk 2016


The Friends of Holbeck Cemetery invite you to join them on their annual Remembrance Walk on Sunday 13th November at 2:30 pm. Please meet at the main gates on Fairfax Road, off Cemetery Road. We will focus on some of those who served at the Somme , as this year is the 100th anniversary of that event. Each grave has its own story to tell of the lives of ordinary people like you and me.Please help us to remember them.

cross of sacrifice

I thought some of you may be interested in the background to the  Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones which can be clearly seen scattered throughout the cemetery.In fact Holbeck Cemetery has 87 of these stones and they are looked after by the CWGC

HK Banks

At the beginning of WW1, a man called Fabian Ware , too old to serve in the army, arrived in France in September 1914 to lead a mobile unit of the Red Cross. He soon noticed that there was no one in charge of marking and recording the graves of those killed. He reported ,“Many graves are frequently under fire and inaccessible.I regret to say that not only have a large number of bodies been destroyed beyond all recognition   by the enemy’s fire before burial but that the  traces of graves themselves have in a large number of cases been obliterated.”

The Commission decided to use headstones rather than crosses to mark the graves , simpler to produce,stood up  better and had more room for inscriptions.This did upset some people who wanted a cross.Some families wanted to choose their own headstone . The Commission felt that ‘costly monuments put up by the well-to-do over their dead would contrast unkindly with those humbler ones which would be all the poorer folk could afford ‘, and that headstones should be uniform, to honour everyone equally.Overcoming massive problems of lack of manpower, transport and materials ( enough stone  for 700,000 headstones to begin with ) the Commission managed *’ the biggest single bit of work since any pharaohs.’*Rudyard Kipling.

When the USA entered the war, they promised to bring back home any of their citizens killed in action. Commonwealth governments had not made  any such commitment , and in any case , the scale of their losses were many times greater. The Commission decided that ‘to allow the removal ( of bodies) by a few families( of necessity only those who could afford the cost) would be contrary  to the principle of equality of treatment.’ They thought it would be much more fitting if ‘those who fought and fell together, officers and men, lay together in their last resting place , facing the line they gave their lives to maintain.’


When the First World War ended in November 1918 barely half of the Western Front’s dead  had been given a proper burial in a designated military  cemetery. The battle fields were strewn with hundreds of hastily made ‘soldiers’ cemeteries, some little more than clusters of graves in fields , by roadsides or canal banks. Thousands lay in No Man’s Land. Men . Post war  clearance began in earnest in 1919.  Men served in special Graves Concentration  units ( initially volunteers from infantry and labour units) Later it was felt necessary to directly recruit men into the Labour Corps for a limited period of service. As can be imagined this was  a very difficult task for the men employed not only having to work in  a desolate, devastated  landscape but  the additional hazards  from rusting battlefield  debris and unexploded ordnance. These men definitely earned their extra pay’.

More details about the work of the Commissioner can be found on their interesting website , which also feature details of cemeteries throughout the world and details of service men and women who died in service.

Today the CWGC takes care of the graves and memorials of 1.7 million men and women  from across the Commonwealth who died in the two World Wars. In total that is 1,146,918 burials.This gives you some idea of the enormous task that the CWGC  carried out then , and continues today.

CWGC headstone

Commonwealth War grave

NOTE :The Friends of Holbeck Cemetery are grateful to CWGC for their care of these graves  and only recently   when FOHC  found that two  of them had been damaged ( one broken in half and one uprooted ) the Commission  have responded very quickly and are going to repair them for us.


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Heritage Open Day 2016

Join us on Thursday 8th September at 11 am to begin the new Holbeck Heritage Trail.  It is a whole day walk  which will begin in Holbeck Cemetery where we will look at some of the memorials of those innovators and inventors  who made Holbeck the great centre of Industry in the early 18th and 19th century. We will hear about their connections with Mathew Murray, John Marshall , the Round Foundry and others, as well as the   Fairs that took place on Holbeck Moor.

You will hear about the Holbeck inventor of probably the world’s first sewing machine in 1851       ( and it was not Isaac Singer !!)

FoHolcem1cemarsdenHenry Marsden

Learn about the showmen and women who attended the Feasts and Fairs that took place throughout England  and what they did when they came to Holbeck Feast.One of them was known as #a caterer of amusement’ and another as ‘The oldest showman in England’,who often told of how he brought  the first cinematograph show to Leeds.His wife recalled being at Holbeck Feast when they used to hold a race meetings there .

Bailey detail.jpg

Then after a walk from the cemetery down Beeston Road you can eat your  lunch  at The Holbeck club, which opened in 1877, where they will be an exhibition and a chance to chat ,Domestic St 1914

Then the main part of the Holbeck History  Trail continues along Holbeck Moor, St Matthews church and taking in Mathew Murray monument and other noteworthy old buildings in Holbeck and concluding near Templeworks at about 4pm.

Cars can be parked at the cemetery and number 1 Beeston bus could bring you back from the city centre ( they run every 10 minutes) Parking is also available at the club which has toilets and there will tea, coffee etc.available

If you want to just join us for part of the walk just let us know &  bring your packed lunch, walking shoes . . More details/booking contact Ian on  07830665016


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Remembering the Somme

cross of sacrifice Join us for a Sunset Vigil  July 1st at 7:30 pm

Remembering The Somme Vigil will take place around the Cross of Sacrifice ( near Beeston Road) Please join the Friends of Holbeck Cemetery  for about an hour as they focus on some of the soldiers who are remembered in our cemetery. Please help us commemorate this historic event

On the first day of the Somme there were 57,000 British army casualties including 19,000 dead.

Some soldiers  are listed as  ‘dying at home’which usually means  that they had died in a British hospital.In Leeds the hospitals used were 2nd Northern General Hospital, the former Leeds Training College at Becketts Park or East Leeds Hospital which is now the Thackray Museum.

Richard Bunkall was one of the soldiers to die from his injuries in a Leeds hospital on 9th November 1916. He served with The Royal Garrison Artillery and his father was the foreman of the Leeds Sewerage works at Knostrop. Another soldier, Harry Stead, was  the youngest son of Ezra and Emily Stead  and was only twenty -one  when he died in hospital He was in the West Yorkshire Regiment ( Prince of Wale’s Own)and  he came from a family of stone-cutters and plumbers living at 5 Camden Place ,Leeds.

Two married brothers from Holbeck joined the Leeds Pals in early 1915. Tom Pilkington had only recently married and was working as a butcher, his brother, Arthur was a commercial clerk in the local V, he inegar brewery. While Tom was injured at the Battle of the Somme , Arthur survived after been transferred to the Royal Engineers and was discharged on 23rd February 1919.

Some soldiers enlisted when they were underage and they fought in the Somme . At that time many underage boys were being returned from France but many  remained there  anyway, we will never know whether they realised  that they had this option  or not.

Thomas Paul was the eldest of six children and had left school when war broke out but waited until early 1915 to volunteer. A tall well built lad of sixteen years of age when asked how old he was he had told the recruiting officer that he was eighteen and he had been accepted into the Leeds Pals, where he served alongside his cousin, Alfred.Thomas was wounded in battle and sent to the 2/2nd London Casualty clearing station behind the lines where he died on 22nd September 1916. Cousin Alfred, aged twenty-three, was wounded on the first day of the Somme and returned to a Leeds hospital where he died of wounds on 24th July 1916.

Fred Mortimer , son of Henry and Mary Mortimer of Nineveh Avenue, Holbeck was twenty-one years old when he died of wounds on 19th September 1916 in the same Casualty Clearing Station as Thomas Paul.

One seventeen  year old, Tom Clarkson, died of wounds  in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital , London but was buried in Holbeck Cemetery with full military honours on 17th July 1916

In the same week on the 12th July , Frederick Richard Lewis was also buried in the cemetery . Frederick had been severely wounded on 1st July and a couple of days later had found himself on a hospital ship bound for  Britain but  sadly he had died of his wounds before been able to reach the shore .Frederick was the first Leeds Pal, who had died in the theatre of war,  to be buried in Leeds.

Longley 7

Ernest Longley  was a young gifted footballer , who played for Leeds Grammar School, YMCA and Leeds Yarnbury Club. On the outbreak of war he had enlisted with the Leeds Pals on 24th September 1914 and was killed in action ,on 1st July, at the Somme, where he had been a Platoon Bomber . He was twenty-six years old and came from a wealthy family who owned the Joseph Longley Bedding Manufacturer & Co . The company’s  premises had originally fronted Lands Lane . The building is still standing at the junction of Lands Lane and Albion Place and the name ‘Longley’ can be clearly seen on top of the building .( YEP 25th May 2016  mentions that this building has been sold for £3.7 million ! ) 

Leonard Clarkson( 1st/6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment) was another nineteen-year old who was killed in action and even though his family came from Wetherby he is remembered on a family grave in Holbeck cemetery.

John William Hainsworth( King’s Own Light Infantry) was 24 years old when he was killed and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial  in France. This memorial is to the missing of the Somme and bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the UK and South Africa forces who died in the Somme sector before March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July 1st and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo- French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and was built between   1928 and 1932  and unveiled by the then Prince of Wales in the presence of the President of France on 31st July 1932

Private John Fell, West Yorkshire , Prince of Wales’s Own, is also remembered on this memorial

John William Milner, an Engine Pattern Maker and general engineer who had lived with his wife ,Hilda at 14 Ledbury Street, Beeston Road before enlisting in the West Yorkshire , Prince of Wales’s Own, died on the first day of the Somme  aged 36 and is remembered in Serre Road Cemetery no 3, France.



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Wandering and working in the blossom

Wednesday 11th May was a pretty busy day in Holbeck Cemetery. The cemetery was looking pretty spectacular too with its cherry trees looking their best after the sun and showers that we had had recently.If you want to come and see this beautiful place don’t delay as the blossom will soon be over.

Ken blossom cem

Blossom time

The Friends of Holbeck Cemetery  were conducting a tour for the Wednesday Wanderers . It is always nice to introduce new people on our tours . Thankfully the rain had stopped just in time and it wasn’t windy. We had a good look around and heard about the Holbeck inventors who made this area so important during the Victorian age . They were a great group with lots of interesting questions. Because of limited time we only managed one section of the  cemetery and they are hoping to return at another date. They were particularly impressed by the view from the former viewpoint. It is always interesting to see what buildings  you can spot from here and it is ever changing with new cranes indicating even more change ahead.

Other folk busy in the cemetery were volunteers from O2 helping to tidy up the centre path. They were also interested in the history of the cemetery and were excited when they  discovered some numbers on the edging stones. ( FOHC believe that this indicated that these stones had been re-used and had originally been around various graves)

It is really good to see companies putting something back into the community and they were a great enthusiastic  and hard-working  bunch of young people. A big thank you to them for all their hard work , much appreciated .


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Investigating and detecting in the cemetery

Today the 19th April 2016 dawned bright and sunny, just the day to get down to  some investigating, but this time this will be just a bit different.

Instead of helping families who are searching for family plots or hidden meanings in the symbolism of the memorials-carvings , a new person has stepped forward to help with the detecting .

Step forward DCI Banks – yes one of his famous cases will involve Holbeck Cemetery  and the Nosters!!

DCI Banks is a very popular detective series broadcast on TV and today it is being filmed in Holbeck Cemetery. DCI Banks is a British crime series produced by Left Bank Pictures . The series is based on Peter Robinson’s inspector Alan Banks novels and stars Stephen Tompkinson as Detective chief Inspector Banks . In 2013 the series won in the drama  category at the Royal Television Society Yorkshire Programme Awards.

LEFT BANK PICTURES writes ‘The fourth series , (part of which is being filmed today), will feature the usual powerful personal stories for the lead characters,both in their private lives  and in their work environment; a deeper exploration of Banks’ relationship with his parents, further complications in Annie and Banks on/off romance and a personal crisis that threatens Helen’s career.’Annie is played by Andrea Lowe and Helen is played by Caroline Catz.

There will be three stories in this series:- ‘What Will Survive’; ‘Home’ and ‘Ghosts’ We can only guess which one will feature Holbeck cemetery .So keep your eyes peeled for the broadcasting dates  all you fans of DCI Banks , crime stories and especially Holbeck Cemetery


tiring work filming


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Gentleman Joshua Horner Robinson

Gentleman Joshua Horner Robinson 1816-1891

The Friends of Holbeck Cemetery get a great many enquirers from relatives seeking information about their ancestors and some we can help. The other day an email arrived from Helen asking for information about her great, great, great, grandfather and his wife and sons who are buried in the cemetery. Thankfully they feature on FOHC’s limited database taken from the original grave receipt-books from 1857. We also found that the son had also purchased another plot.Another plot nearby is to his daughter Hannah Walker

This led to Helen telling us a bit more  about her ancestors history in Holbeck, with more information promised later. So here is a ‘taster’ based on Helen’s information.

Joshua Horner Robinson lived at Wellington House, Mill Green Holbeck when he purchased three grave-plots, 9433, 9434, 9435, on 23rd September 1880 at the cost of £3 per plot. He needed the three plots together because he was having a grand memorial erected for his family and his wife, Maria , who had recently died  on 16th June 1880.

Robinson obelist1

Joshua Horner Robinson was a wealthy man when he died on 1891, leaving £140,000, a huge sum of money at that time . His elder son, also named Joshua Horner, who was living in Balm Walk at the time of his father’s death in 1891, did not inherit the lump sum and was effectively disinherited . although the money was put in trust for him to have an income from,so perhaps he was feeling a bit better off and purchased a plot of his own .

Joshua senior’s funeral on 8th May 1891 was very grand affair as noted in the daily paper.

The obituary reads:-

The late Joshua Horner Robinson. The internment of the remains of this gentleman took place on Tuesday afternoon at Holbeck Cemetery. A large assembly of relatives, friends and work people were present, and there were seventeen  coaches and carriages in the funeral cortege. Mr Robinson, who resided at Mill Green nearly all his life, was a well-known man of business, though not in the ordinary sense a public man. He had entered his 75th year . He was for many years a maltster and corn-miller, and had recently become connected with the cloth mans’ business. Mr Robinson is reputed to have died a rich man, and left behind him five sons and one daughter  to mourn his loss. The Revd. O Cookson officiated at the graveside.Mr W Swales was the undertaker.

Helen notes that this report was a little inaccurate as he had more surviving children

Robinson WalkerThis plot is for his daughter Hannah Walker

***NOTE-£140,000 in  1891 would be the equivalent of about £16,8000,000 in today’s money. Joshua  was definitely a rich man when he died****

 It would be interesting to discover just how he became so rich; was it as a maltster, a corn-miller or with the cloth mans’ business?Maybe Helen will tell us more tantalising tales of her ancestors

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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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