ELHAS Meeting Report - September 2014

Meeting Report - September 2014

Our first meeting of the autumn season got off to a really good start with 62 members and guests attending to hear an illustrated talk about Holbeck Cemetery, and the people buried there.

This was brought to us by Eve and Ken Tidswell and John Leckenby, members of the Friends of Holbeck cemetery. John Leckenby started the proceedings by firstly explaining that the word (which was new to us) for someone with an interest in cemeteries is 'taphophile'. Having educated us in this, he explained the history behind the formation of FOHC which has been in existence since 2001. John told us that it began with just six local residents who were concerned about anti social behaviour in the cemetery, who came together to try and do something about it. The result was a thriving group dedicated to the protection and preservation of this important piece of social history.

Eve then took over, treating us to images of views from the cemetery before showing us some of the more significant memorials which grace this quiet corner of a bustling Leeds suburb. But what amazed us was the fascinating history which they had pieced together of the people the memorials honoured, with people from so many different trades and occupations represented. Eve's stories amounted to a description of the social and industrial history of the area. She explained that the designs and sizes of the memorials varied greatly, and began by showing one of the smallest. Although the memorial might be lacking in stature the man it represents certainly isn't. Adam Paton (1836 - 1893), was involved in the printing trade and he invented the first colour lithographic printing machine which was used by George Mann and Company. Since printing was one of the foremost industries in Leeds, such a step must have been highly significant. Another major Leeds industry was clothing manufacture, and Eve showed us the rather grander memorial to Thomas Beecroft who invented the band knife. Thomas was a supplier of sewing machines to the newly emerging clothing industry in the city. But his invention of a machine capable of cutting accurately through several layers of cloth was to lay the seeds of the mechanisation of the industry.

Victorian politicians were also well represented with imposing memorials to Henry Rowland Marsden, Lord Mayor of Leeds (1873- 1874), William Scopham who became an alderman in 1879, and Joseph Henry who was Lord Mayor in 1918. However, perhaps the most intriguing inscription Eve showed us was on the memorial for Evan Thomas Jones which proclaimed him as "Champion Swimmer of the World" Although Eve explained that she had been unable to find any documentary evidence to back up this claim, she was able to tell us that he was certainly listed in the 1881 census as a professional swimmer. She also explained, much to our amusement, that swimming was regarded as an entertainment and that it featured in stage variety shows where huge glass tanks on stage allowed the swimmers to display their prowess.

We thoroughly enjoyed our glimpse of Victorian life in Holbeck and many in the audience expressed a desire to visit the cemetery to discover the monuments and memorials for themselves.

The next meeting on Monday 27th October 2014 will be an illustrated talk by John Brooke entitled - "A Tidal Wave of Disease" the story of the 1832 Leeds Cholera epidemic.