ELHAS News - April 2019

Meeting Report April 2019

In April we welcomed Ann Lightman from the Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery who brought us an illustrated talk "Behind the Chapels" Ann was a founder member of Adel History Group and this led to her interest in Lawnswood Cemetery. During her working life she spent many years as a lecturer at Park Lane College, making her the ideal person to deliver this talk.

She began by giving us a brief history of the development of Lawnswood which opened in 1875 to accommodate the expanding needs of Headingley residents when the burial ground of St Michael's Church became overcrowded. The two original chapels , for Church of England and Dissenters were designed by George Corson, well known for designing the ornate Grand Theatre. The site comprises 53 acres and is made up of beautiful parkland with tree lined walkways and is known as one of the most romantic cemeteries in Britain. It is listed by Historic England.

Ann explained that the crematorium was added in 1905 and said that the building features a plaque stating that it was "The first of its Kind in Britain" but coyly did not say what it was the first of. Presumably the powers that be felt that to explain that it was a gas fired furnace, would offend the public's sensibilities.

Accompanied by photographs Ann described the columbarium which opened in 1933 and was designed by Colonel Edward Albert Kirk OBE, reflecting the design of a dovecote . This is not now in use and sadly the building is showing signs of disrepair.

Moving on to show some of the intriguing memorials, Ann showed first a plaque to the memory of Clara Beatrice Mitchell who died in 1947. What was interesting about this was that she had an Msc at a time when few women obtained degrees in the sciences, and the plaque also featured Chinese symbols. Ann explained that she had researched her and discovered that Clara had been a Leeds teacher who emigrated to Canada, but at some point returned to Leeds. The mystery of the Chinese characters was solved when Ann discovered that her next door neighbour was Chinese and so assumed that he must have been responsible for them.

She also showed a postcard of the famous Ethel Preston memorial, erected by her grieving husband Walter in 1911, and designed as a copy of the porch of their home Beeston Grange. Sadly this has now lost its pristine glory and a recent clean has not had the desired effect.

On a local note, she went on to show a memorial to Emmie Keyworth, a casualty of the 1916 Barnbow Shell Factory explosion. This memorial is shared with her soldier brother who also sadly died during WW1. Ann also described many other ornate memorials including the one for Victor Hugo Watson who turned the failing John Waddington business into a successful nationally famous games company and introduced Monopoly to the UK.

The audience were impressed by Ann's enthusiasm and obvious love of Lawnswood and pleased to see how the Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery are involved in many activities to promote and preserve this beautiful place

The evening was rounded off by our annual pie and pea supper, a social occasion much enjoyed by all.

Our next meeting on Monday 24th May 2019 will be an illustrated talk by Oliver Cooper "Fifteen Years of Archaeological Investigation at Thorpe Park".