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Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery
Cheetham Hill, Manchester, Lancashire County, England
Opened in October 1815 and closed for any further burials in July 1968, the Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery at Cheetham Hill, Manchester was once considered by the wealthy merchants of North Manchester as the place to be buried. However, since it's closure it became neglected, overgrown and vandalised.
In one area of the cemetery there was a mixture of huge fancy memorial stones at the graves of the wealthy, in another there were rows of five foot high stones which were so close together they seemed to form roofless tunnels, and in another area the headstones had been laid flat over the graves after the burials. Eventually the standing headstones became an attraction for vandals who seemed to get some perverted pleasure from pushing them over and spraying graffiti on them. The cemetery became such a burden for the owners that they took the disgraceful decision of allowing the land to be sold to property developers and to help in the disposal of it Manchester City Council gave planning permission for a shopping center to be built on the site.
In 2003 the developers in their greed and against much opposition, went ahead with the exhumation of the remains of 20,000 bodies, which were then re-interred in a mass grave at Bury, Lancashire. Unfortunately those involved in the work also seemed to have little respect as many bones were later discovered at the landfill site where the soil was deposited. It is not known what has happened to the many artifacts that must have been placed with the bodies at the time of the burials. The site manager at the time stated that anything found would be buried with the bodies when re-interred, but as no record was ever kept, who knows? All the headstones have also been destroyed and probably used for hardcore in the construction industry.
This dreadful act shows how some people are prepared to put money before respect for the dead and also how they have a total disregard for the feelings of the living relatives.
The cemetery holds many personal memories for me. From 1957 to 1963 I grew up in an old Victorian house adjacent to the cemetery gates. My father was the grave digger and caretaker there from 1957 until its closure in 1966. Many a time as a small adventurous child I would help my father dig graves, and as we had no garden of our own we considered the grounds of the cemetery to be our own garden, spending much time maintaining it and playing there. The Wesleyan Methodist Church situated about 400 yards away also closed and was demolished.
In addition to the cemetery closing for burials, the Wesleyan Methodist Church situated about 400 yards away also closed and was demolished. That was a real loss to the community; it was a grand structure with a spire. It was well maintained and to me was an example of what a church should be. It was rather like an old Cathedral but on a smaller scale. My father used to look after the boilers there; I remember going with him into the cellar when he stoked up the coal-fired boilers. My mother also played her part, she helped polish up many of the brass candelabras and plaques which in itself was quite a job. As with the cemetery, money was probably behind the reason for the demolition of the church, as not so long after a block of flats was built on the site.
- Les Leggett