The Friends of Holbeck Cemetery are a community group founded in 2001 in response to growing concerns about the gradual destruction of this wonderful area .
We are working towards promoting the area and enabling a positive movement to preserve and protect this valuable green space in inner-city Leeds . We conduct tours and walks on site for various groups of adults, young people & schoolchildren. We also provide talks and presentations at events and conferences, both locally and nationally.
We have also taken part in the annual Civic Trust Heritage Open days and community events at local festivals.
Holbeck Cemetery opened in 1857. The opening coincided with the closing of the graveyard at St Matthew’s church near Holbeck Moor. This was a period when other municipal cemeteries were opening & Holbeck was the third to opened in, the then township of, Leeds after Beckett Street and Hunslet.
Holbeck Cemetery is 10 acres in area and, typical of many Victorian cemeteries, is situated on an elevated site overlooking the city of Leeds, Morley ,Bradford, Shipley and beyond. It cost £7000 to construct which included the cost of two chapels. It also had two lodges of which only one remains ( in private hands)
The original plan was designed by the local Victorian landscape designer Joshua Major. It contains 86 Commonwealth War-graves and many other private memorials to servicemen and women who served their country in the two World Wars.
Holbeck Cemetery contains a great many ‘ guinea graves’ dating from 1857 to the 1940’s.
The Cemetery gained notoriety in 1987 when Beeston-born poet , Tony Harrison , wrote ‘V’. The poem was about his parent’s graffiti-covered grave but its colourful language and its screening as a Channel 4 film meant that it was hotly debated in Parliament.
There are many interesting memorials in the cemetery including famous Victorian inventors and industrialists, Lord Mayors of Leeds,Aldermen, local inn-keepers, chemists, maltsters, corn-millers, farmers, cloth-merchants , gentlemen and many other occupations. Some of the more intriguing monuments are to a ‘mustard-maker’, E.T Jones- World Champion swimmer and Henry Bailey who was a ‘caterer of amusement’.
Our largest memorial is to Henry Rowland Marsden, born in Holbeck in 1823 who made his fortune in Connecticut, USA before returning to Leeds where he became Lord Mayor of the city. The oldest memorial stone is to William Gott, Benjamin’s older brother. Another commemorates a Sewing machine and band-knife inventor , Thomas Beecroft ; Adam Paton who invented improvements in colour lithographer also has a very small memorial here.The latter two having a great influence on the development of factory mass production and the printing industry which was so important to the development of Leeds as a commercial city.
By Car Coming from city Leave M621 at Junction 2a signposted Beeston & Holbeck . Turn onto Cemetery Road up Beeston Hill & as the road bends towards the left notice the Imperial hotel pub . Turn right up Fairfax Road -continue for about 100 metres to main cemetery gates .
Bus-catch the number Beeston 1 bus from Leeds City Square ( every 10 minutes during the day) which stops at Beeston Road end of cemetery , near Cross Flatts Park.
To arrange a tour or talk or request family history information