Tour page 1


Welcome to St Matthew's Churchyard. There are records of a chapel here from 1530 and the first burials date from around 1670. There are over 11,000 burials in the churchyard.

As you enter from Wakefield Road, you will see the tower and the outline of the church that was demolished around 1970. The tower, which was also in danger of being demolished, was saved by The Friends of Friendless Churches. 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.



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.

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 of Cliffe Hill, friend of Ann Lister of Shibden Hall, is buried under the nave; the plaque commemorating her and giving her burial as "under the pulpit" was moved to inside the tower when the church was demolished. The Rev Rich Sutcliffe, vicar when this church was built, is also buried under the church.

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. (William Flather and Sam Sharp) William was seriously injured during the Charge of the Light Brigade and died soon afterwards. (check our website for People of Interest under About the churchyard for his history.

As you leave the stone path, on your right hand side is a headstone to Henry Booth and his family. At the very bottom Fred Booth is remembered though buried in Cornwall, New York state. He died a very rich man having been the general manager of a carpet factory founded by "our" Firths Carpets. The village is named Firthcliffe and lies on the Hudson River just north of west Point Military Academy.

 As you walk towards the long path, please look for the 2nd Tour post.

 You might be interested to know that, since 2012, the churchyard has been restored and maintained by the Friends of St Matthew's Churchyard, a volunteer community group. If you'd like to hear more about our work please look at our website.


Gentleman Jack. A number of the characters in the programme are based on real people who were buried here. To look for their resting places, please return to the Wakefield Road entrance and follow these directions.

Samuel Sowden was a tenant farmer at Sutcliffe Wood Bottom on the Shibden Hall estate owned by the Lister family. He and his wife Martha had a large family including Rev. Sutcliffe Sowden and Rev. George Sowden who were both close friends of the Bronte family at Haworth. His grave is 8 paces along the main footpath heading towards the tower then 4 rows back on the left hand (western) side. Samuel is the last named on the ledger (flat) stone – you might be surprised at his age.

Now walk to the tower and, with the bench at your back, head directly to the boundary wall itself. Here you will find 2 ledger stones with the name Washington.

Samuel Washington was land agent to Ann Walker of Crow Nest and then steward to Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. He had a large family of girls. Hannah Washington was the wife of Samuel Washington and so mother to the numerous daughters. Susannah Washington was the eldest daughter of Samuel and Hannah Washington, she died in 1846 aged 21 years.

If you know turn to the north, you will see a prominent rhododendron bush which partly covers a large chest tomb. Captain George Mackay Sutherland was the brother in law of Ann Walker, married to her only surviving sibling Elizabeth, the other co heiress to the Crow Nest estate, Lightcliffe. After Anne Lister died and Ann Walker was removed to York, he lived at Shibden Hall where he died in 1847.

The other side of the rhododendron bush is a ledger stone for John Smith. He came from Scotland to be land agent to the Sutherland family as a replacement for Samuel Washington. He was the agent when the Crow Nest estates were auctioned in 1867 and is credited with the design and build of Lightcliffe (Primary) School. Look at the family tragedy in January 1864.

As you go back towards the tower you will pass 2 more ledger stones this time dedicated to the Wilkinsons & the Fentons. Lydia Fenton nee Wilkinson was mentioned as a friend of Ann Walker in Anne Lister’s diary and then she became Ann Walker’s housekeeper at Cliffe Hill when Ann Walker returned to live there after the death of Anne Lister and then Ann Walker’s own problems. Rev. George Fenton was a vicar near Barnsley but would often visit and preach at our church as his father-in-law, Rev Robert Wilkinson, was getting older. Anne Lister comments on his sermons in her diary. All of the family were friends of Ann Walker.

Buried under the church were Ann Walker, her aunt Ann and Rev Robert Wilkinson. We do not know where the latter two were buried but Ann, herself, was buried under the northern pulpit. If you look you can see the outline of the old church walls including the curve of the apse at the other end from the tower. Her grave would have been a few paces towards the tower from the end of the church and on the right (northern) side.

Ann Walker of Lightcliffe was a young, wealthy co heiress to the Crow Nest estate which included the houses at Lidgate and Cliffe Hill as well as Crow Nest. She became the partner of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. After Anne Lister’s death she remained at Shibden Hall and then had a time in York before returning to Cliffe Hill where she died aged 50 in 1854.

Aunt Ann Walker was the sister of John Walker, Ann Walker’s father. She never married and lived at Cliffe Hill House until she died in 1847 aged 90.

Rev. Robert Wilkinson was the incumbent at St.Matthew’s Church Lightcliffe where the Walker family worshipped. In her diary Anne Lister records asking him if a pew is available at Lightcliffe for Ann Walker and her to use.

On 30th August [1832] a local coal merchant, James Hinscliff, called at Shibden to offer her £150 per acre for her coal-rich land. To find his burial plot go towards the side of the tower and look for Rev William Gurney's headstone. Now walk 12 paces towards the western wall and his ledger stone is a few paces from the wall. The Rev Gurney was the local priest from 1840 so would have known Ann, her friends and workmen.

If you go towards the gateway on Till Carr Lane, you will find the Tour 6 guide post.

If you've enjoyed your time here, please consider making a donation towards the upkeep of the churchyard using the PayPal donation button. Thank you.







Get In Touch

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

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