The Graveyard at St Luke's Church

This Heywood Chapel was replaced by the 
current St Luke's Church.
Not too many decades ago there was a graveyard in the centre of Heywood. It was attached to St Luke's Church, and had probably been there since the early years of the original church, dating back to before 1552.

The first place of worship erected there had been founded as a chantry chapel for the Heywood family, and was rebuilt by Robert Heywood in 1640. During the 19th century it became too small for the growing cotton town around it, and so the current St Luke's Church was opened in 1862. Part of the graveyard there had to be demolished to make way for the new buildings, but a lot of it remained in place and was still used, although quite infrequently since the opening of the new Heywood Cemetery back in the 1850s.

Municipal cemeteries were a creation of the early-to-mid 19th century, and before that time burial grounds were attached to churches. St Luke's was one of several church graveyards in the town, and an 1859 list mentions burial grounds at the Wesleyan Chapel on Market Street, the Baptist Chapel, the New Jerusalem Chapel, and the Independent Chapel. There are also existing burial grounds at the Church of St James, on Tower Street, and the St James Chapel at Ashworth.

As town populations grew over time, most of these churchyards became too full to continue in their function. The graves at St Luke's were exhumed in the early 1970s to make space for new buildings, and the remains were transferred to Heywood Cemetery.

The 'Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerks' website lists 8,424 burial records for this churchyard, dating from 1765-1906. They can be viewed here.

The article reproduced below is from the Rochdale Observer, 20 August 1892, and describes some of the old headstones that used to stand in the church grounds.

The St Luke's graveyard is marked on this 1840s map.


Abutting as it does in York-street, Church-street, and the Market Place, the situation of the above preserve of the dear departed, nearly as treeless and grassless as it is flowerless, and with a church seen from far round to ‘point with taper spire to heaven,’ may seem an incongruity, and incompatible with calm and repose. Not so, however. Far from it. Granted that what with the incessant clanking and clatter of many clogs on footpath and pavement from early to late, and the ceaseless passing and reprising of trams, the old and the new and the still and the stirring jostle each other at every turn so to speak.

Still in the face of all this, such inward reasoning will be suppressed by endeavouring to grasp the sense of the miscellaneous assortment of sermons in stones at St. Luke's. The brevity of life and nearness of death constitute the staple of most of them. Going in by the York street gateway, the first fallen in with witnesseth that the universal Vanquisher accepts no bribe and parleys with none. For, with all its felicity, James and Betty Collinge's wedlock dissolved ere they saw their twentieth summer:
By honest labour lived this happy pair
In sincere friendship and in pious care ;
Hand in hand how happy must they be,
That live in peace and die in unity.
Neither will he sell his victories for gold, as realised by a Pilsworth male in 1809, his epitaph running:
Unthinking mortals, mark it well,
As none their going time can tell,
Nor death's attacks can wealth defeat;
Be ever ready him to meet.
Ann Ogden, through chronic ill-health, had ‘a weary fiddle to play on,’ as the saying is:
With sickness worn and pain opprest,
In hopes of heaven gone to rest.
Nor was Alice Howarth's a primrose path:
A saint her, weary limbs laid down,
The cross exchanging for a crown.
Mary Hyde's road, too, was unevenly paved
Grieve not to leave me in this silent grave,
Oh! oh! what agonies my sickness gave.
The rhyming doesn't ‘hum’ on the stone this is scribbled from:
His time was short, death came with speed,
And gone I know his wife to meet.
Forfeiture of breath is the penalty all must pay;
The bitter cup that death' gave me
Is passing round to come to thee.
What heart has not its crumpled rose-petal? Under the eastern gable Edward Simpson of Bury left behind his best earthly friend in 1852. A paradigm she: 
Stop reader, stop and shed a tear;
Virtue and trust lie buried here.
I weep-my tears revive her not;
I nigh-she breathes no, more on me;
Her mute and uncomplaining lot
Is such as mine should be. 
Anon, a truth as old as the hills, yet as recurrent as the morning newspapers:
Time was I stood where thou dust now,
And viewed the dead as thou dos't one,
Ere long thou'lt lay as low as I
And others stand and look on thee. 
James Longford was followed to his grave in 1804 with the lamentation that 
A sudden change in a moment fell,
& in short time my father bade us all farewell.
Think nothing strange, chance happens unto all
Then was his time, to-morrow yours may fall . 
Awesome and brooding enough to batch a tremor of fear: 
Hark I from the tomb the doleful sound,
My ears attend the cry;
Ye Living men come view the ground
Where you must shortly lie.
Thanks to its antithesis, hope undergoes a revival at Ellen Schofield's bourn:
Ye why knew and loved her, rise
Haste to meet 'her in the skies;
She (o'er whom we shed a tear)
Soon shall hail a welcome there. 
And from an ascription to a boy of three, and which thus perorates: 
Farewell, dear youth, to heavenly regions go;
Thou were too, bright a star to shine below. 
And, moreover, from what was apportioned out to Edmund Kershaw in 1792, surviving sorrowers epitaphing him as 
A youth with patience and good humour blest,
But God's kind love did call him home to rest. 
The world's golden year couldn't be indefinitely postponed with a phalanx of such like in it. Close to them (centrally south) is another examplar. Mary Greenhalgh was 
The best of wives the grave incloses here,
And also tender to her children dear. 
She sank into a wakeless swoon in heir 45th, and Eliza Whatmough, daughter of a Hopwood publican, in her 21st year. Her precept says 
O reader, do beware, beware,
For you are sure my fate to share. 
A little aloof from the foregoing is the largest stone in this ‘field of God.’ It commemorates James Gee (50), and his bevy of juveniles. It is a cenotaph - merely an empty grave. Their real abode was in the old Episcopal Chapel, the rudest building imaginable. Its gallery had to be gained by a flight of outside stairs. Nevertheless, so lately as 60 years back it was the only State tabernacle in the ancient chapelry of Heap. A Lancashire chart for 1543 owns it, but how it originated has not been substantiated outright, and has led to speculation right and left. Canon Raines adjudged it, to have been first of all a chantry contrived for the use of the Heywood Hall tenantry. 

Be that as it may have been, it wasn't till after the Cromwellian term, when an Independent minister (Jonathan Schofield) was ejected, that it changed hands. Then the Rectors of Bury became patrons of the living of Heywood Chapel. That primitive place was taken down in 1860, and in its stead rose the present symmetrical piece of architecture. The inside of the same is exceptionally ornate, even as High Churches nowadays go. It might be more unlike a Continental Catholic Cathedral on a small scale; while for chasteness and elaboration of design and brilliancy of colouring, the stained glass of its ‘storied windows richly dight, casting a dim religious light,’ is not to be outdone anywhere scarcely. 

They were partly presentations by the Fentons, whose set-apart pews were known as the Bamford Chapel. In the chancel aisle's surface is an ornamental memorial brass, whereon is engraven as annexed: 
To the Glory of God, and in memory of the Rev. Joseph Bland Jameson, born 1790, died 1835, Perpetual Curate of the Chapel of Heywood,
whose mortal remains, along with those of the
Rev. James Barton, Perpetual Curate 1742-1774;
and of the Rev. Richard Langford, Perpetual Curate 1774-1804;
were re-interred beneath this, Chancel,
on the re-building of this Church, in 1862.
This Memorial was placed and the Chancel re-tiled
by Joseph Jameson of Heywood Hall, youngest son of the above Rev. J. B. Jameson, 1881. 
The new erection upset or walled in the stones with the quaintest of the epitaphs on. That was in the western exterior dingy to a degree, though not disorderly. Some were left unmolested; one untouched is that of ‘Elizabeth, wife of John Howarth, late of the Royal Artillery.’ An illustration of the ‘Pilgrim's Progress,’ she had here no continuing city:
Farewell, vain world, I must be gone,
Here is no home or rest for me;
I take my staff and travel on,
In hopes a better world tea see. 
Life is a transitory day, but it is a striving day, a preparation:
Our friend is gone before
To that celestial shore,
He hath left his friends behind,
He hath all the storms abode;
Found the rest we toil to find,
Landed in the arms of God. 
Certain evidently cabalistic signs prove to be letters forming:
What I was once some play relate,
What I am now is all men's fate. 
Hereby ensconced, William Nelson besought to be not banished from recollection, exclaiming 
Farewell, dear friends, pray think of me
Who now's lain in eternity. 
And a woman, whose translation was superinduced by old age, whispers an
Adieu, a word that grieves the, heart;
Its importance who can tell
When from a much-loved friend we part,
And bid a long farewell?
Let cypress trees and willows wave
To mark the lonely spot;
But all I ask to deck my grave,
It is forget me not. 
On a similar footing, young Adam, in 1828, was regretful at his prospects being nipped in the bud; 
My days were short and years but few,
I wasted like the morning dew. 
While, to the contrary, a twain below the west window soon tired of life. 
For these little babes just saw the light
Then fled away to realms more bright; 
and, rapidly developing, 
Through orbs of glory now they move,
And praise the God of boundless love. 
At such deprivation some mothers rebel: others kiss the chastening rod. Let one speak: 
Since God to take my child thought fit,
I'll be content to past with it. 
In the same quarter - the south-west - is a portion charged with a message, as after:
Beneath this stone is
buried the body of Alice,
the wife of George Blunt,
of New York.
Died 27th October, 1865, aged 29.
I was like that fair flower
That with ye sun doth rise;
It's bud unfolds, and at
Ye evening droops and dies. 
This, on Rachel Ashton, who was killed on the 24th of January, 1826, is noticeable for setting at nought the capital H in the last line:
My life I lost by accident,
Which makes my parent to 'lament;
But cease your sobs though I am gone,
It was the Lord, is will be done. 
Just by the north-west entrance is an epitaph which, as consisting of three ‘chestnuts,’ is so unique that it ought to be reproduced in full. Of Betty Kay (46) in 1818 it was said: 
She that lies here was in her mortal life
A tender mother and a loving wife,
A quiet neighbour, to the poor a friend;
Happy is she that such a life doth end.
Mourn not for me my children dear.
I am not dead but sleeping here;
My debt is paid, my grave you see,
Stay but a while, you'll follow me.
Afflictions sore long time I bore.
Physicians were in vain,
Till God was pleased to give me ease,
And freed me from my pain. 
Interjacent is a strip measured out for John Fenton (in the churchyard a century to a year) and his wife, and his two sons and their wives, namely: 
John Fenton aged 78
Hannah, his wife, 84
John Fenton, jun 76
Hannah, his wife, 71
James Fenton 79
Betty, his wife 75 
And this prettily worded thing on Betty Partington:
See from the earth the fading lily rise;
It springs, it grows, it flourishes, and dies;
So this fair flow'r scarce blossom'd for a day;
Short was the bloom and speedy the decay.
On the next gravestone but two, John Nuttall (41), doffing this corruptible coil 99 years since, yet dins in our ears that 
In unheard steps death pushes on,
And, ere I thought him near,
His potent arm my life cut down,
Regardless of my orphans' gears.
At morn I rose strong as ye morn,
At noon must faint and die,
At night in another earth inter'd,
With brother dead to lie.
Adam is dead, and you, his sons,
Must soon with us lay down;
This silent house beds rich and poor,
We tweet without a frown.
And as with the tenants of the tomb-houses - as George the Third called them - so with the alive of to-day. Frowns and everything siding with rancour of mood we bury here. ‘When,’ remarks Addison in his essay on ‘Epitaphiana,’ ‘I look upon the tombs of the great every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of a parent upon a tomb my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tombs of the parents themselves I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings by those who deposed them; when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the Holy Men who divided the world with their contests and disputes; I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider... when we shall all be co-temporaries.’ 

Moving from grave to grave, forgetting living fellow creatures for the time being, such, a sensation must come over ponderers generally. The more quickly so if, in room of novelties and singularities, or jejune puerilities, the teaching on the stones is of solemnising purport. Of the latter standard, Mr. Editor, are the epitaphs in St. Luke's Churchyard, Heywood.