What to see

Welcome to St Matthew's Churchyard.

 

As you enter from Wakefield Road, you will see the tower and the outline of the church that was demolished around 1970. But first look around at the old graves many of which lie flat, called ledger stones. The earliest date from 1670s and are seen mainly to your right (East). Some of the carving has survived very well and is well worth looking at. In this area are a few tomb graves, one of which is dedicated to the Guest family. Joshua Guest became famous in 1746 when he successfully commanded Edinburgh Castle against the Jacobite Rebellion (he has a monument in Westminster Abbey). 

Look also as you tour the churchyard at the variety of well established trees; beach, oak, holly, hawthorn and sycamore.

 

 To your left (West) and a few rows in from the path is the grave of William Mallinson who was the stone mason who built the old church in 1788.  (Way over to your right is a large ledger stone in remembrance of the Walker family who largely paid for the building of the church including importing Baltic timbers for the church and his Cliffe Hill mansion.)  

Before following the path round the tower, look at where the church stood. It accommodated a larger congregation than you'd expect as there were galleries above the nave. Ann Walker, friend of Ann Lister, is buried under the nave and we have recently found, inside the tower, a plaque commemorating her and other members of the family.  

 

As you pass by the tower look at some of the tombs and headstones. You will see that most are made of local stone (more exotic materials didn't become remotely affordable until the railway came locally), look particularly at the headstone for Rev William Gurney, the vicar here for many years) but look also at the “cope-style” tomb of Sarah Walton.                    

 

 

Over to the west wall are the family graves including two soldiers who died in the Crimean War – one died in Scutari at about the time that Florence Nightingale arrived.

 

  On the path running North, you are now moving out of the early churchyard into the one established in1867.  Immediately you will notice a greater density of headstones, the majority still in the local stone but some in marble and granite. Along here is the first of the Commonwealth War Grave memorials, a simple piece of Portland stone, in this case dedicated to Gunner J L Brook.

 

Soon after this, again on the right, you will see the first of three areas that we have roped off as a ‘wild area’. We try to reduce substantially such invasive plants as brambles allowing other ‘weeds’ such as nettles and rosebay willow herb to provide a home to many insects, butterflies and moths. Last year there were many species of bees there, and bumblebees had built themselves some nests. Insects like these are important pollinators and are becoming increasingly scarce. Nettles can support over 40 kinds of insects who, in turn, overwinter & provide early food for ladybirds, blue tits and other woodland birds. In late summer, they produce lots of seeds for other birds, moths & butterflies. But there has to be a balance!

 It is worth looking at the images that appear on many of the headstones; an open book representing the bible, clasped hands for friendship, trees of life and angels are just some examples.

 

 

 

As you walk along the broad path, do read some of the inscriptions. In some cases, just bare details of the deceased, in others almost a family history. However there are few indicators of what people did. Soon after the first cross path, and to your right, is a headstone for Thomas Cox, a Headmaster of Heath Grammar School.

 

 

 On the opposite side of the path are two interesting headstones, the first to the Newsome family who lost 2 sons in WW1 and a little further along shows an unusual combination of names for the young child.

 

 Beyond here to the North is the new burial ground with burials dating from the 1970s to the present day. Part of this area drains badly, possibly why there is a bog willow tree here.

 

 Till Carr Cottage was built in 1634 on a site to the West of the church and was moved to its current site around the time that the churchyard was enlarged. It was funded by Evan Charles Sutherland Walker and his wife, the plaque high up on the wall dates this to 1866.

 

Now, as you turn South and head back to the main entrance, on your right is a memorial to William Cook, a former headteacher of the local church primary school though it was a National School at the time.

 You will notice an untidy piles of logs and branches against the outside wall. This, and others like it, have been left deliberately as ‘habitat piles ’which provide shelter for insects and small mammals throughout the year. ‘ Habitat piles ‘ slowly rot down which provides more food for insects and therefore for birds, hedgehogs and and frogs. Letting them rot is much more environmentally friendly than having a bonfire though we do occasionally have the need for a fire.

 It is worth going off the path to your left to see the headstone for Dragoon Guard Joseph Naylor with the sword , who saw service in the Crimean War and is said to have taken his horse and brought it back – an early War Horse story.

 

 

 

To encourage further the wildlife we have installed bird-boxes. Half of these were used last year by nesting birds, a good result in their first season. We've also cut a tree back in a way to encourage woodpeckers but we don't think they've found it yet.

 On the way round you will have noticed many inscriptions to children who died in infancy. Many more from poor families were buried without a memorial, we believe that they were buried between this path and the boundary wall and the ground then re-used in the latter part of last century.

Towards the end of this main path on the left, you will see a “bug hotel” - a luxury Des. Res. with different materials and openings.

 

As you come back to the end of the path, on your right hand side, look for the obelisk memorial partly dedicated to Willie Brooke who died in a railway accident.

 

Finally make your way back to the main gate and you will pass over and through some of the older graves many of which were marked by ledger stones. Many graves prior to 1850s were flat stones rather than headstones. They may not be as grand as headstones but often the carving is more elaborate, hand chiselled and with very different styles to those we know today. Near to the Till Carr wall you may note the family grave of William Walker who endowed the Georgian church.

  Then look for the Holland tomb which is built on top of ledger stones of earlier generations.

 

 A few rows in from here is the chest tomb of the Guest family mentioned earlier.

 

 Just before you leave by the main gate and up against the Wakefield Road wall & near to the noticeboard, do look for Stephen Schofield, the blacksmith whose anvil is now quiet.

 

 We hope that you've enjoyed touring this old and precious place. If you are unable to visit us, please take an aerial trip round the churchyard.

 

Get In Touch

The postcode for the churchyard (for sat navs) is HX3 8TH.

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