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Cemetery Trail Boards

Undercliffe Cemetery: Bradford’s Story in Stone

Welcome to the Undercliffe Cemetery Trail

Undercliffe Cemetery is one of the most important burial sites in the country, known now as ‘the Highgate of the North’. It’s the final resting place of the whole spectrum of Bradford society since the mid-nineteenth century. Six of its stunning monuments are so important that they’re listed buildings. The beauty of the Cemetery’s overall design is also recognised in its Grade 2* listed status in Historic England’s Register of Parks and Gardens.

And yet – at the end of the 1970s – it was abandoned, vandalised and facing a bleak future.

The Cemetery was originally a commercial enterprise started by a group of Bradford entrepreneurs, including Titus Salt. It was intended to glorify Bradford’s status as one of the richest municipalities in Europe and pay fitting tribute in death to those who’d spent their lives building the wealth and reputation of ‘Worstedopolis’.

More importantly, churchyards were full, creating an urgent need for alternative burial facilities. With Bradford’s rapidly expanding population during the industrial revolution, and disease rife, there was no shortage of demand. William Gay, the celebrated garden designer of the day, was head-hunted from Leicester and commissioned to produce something spectacular. Using the contours of the land and its commanding position to great effect, he developed one of the great garden cemeteries of the Victorian era here in Bradford, the highest city in England.

The Cemetery was opened to great acclaim and the first burial took place in 1854. After the boom years of the Victorian era however, the Bradford Cemetery Company declined, finally falling into liquidation in the late 1970s. The site deteriorated rapidly, and tragically, all its buildings were demolished. Many Bradfordians were horrified, leading to The Friends of Undercliffe Cemetery being formed. It took four years of relentless campaigning but in the end, Bradford Council were persuaded to compulsorily purchase the ravaged site.

Initial work was undertaken by a Manpower Services Commission scheme. A Charity was then established from members of the Friends and others to run the Cemetery on a 60-year lease. The Charity’s dedicated volunteers continue to manage the site for the public benefit. More than a century and a half later, the beauty of William Gay’s design and the breath-taking position of the Cemetery’s hillside location do not disappoint – a wonderful place to enjoy a walk, appreciate the flora and fauna of the wilder areas and the breath-taking views.

Thanks go to Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority for their grant support, which have enabled us to develop this Cemetery Trail. We’d also like to extend our appreciation to everyone who has been with us on this journey for their support and contributions.

Enjoy the Cemetery Trail: explore and appreciate stories of those who are buried here, and how they contributed to the wider history of Bradford.

Please stay on the main paths and be aware that they can be uneven, and slippy at times. Also be aware that burials still take place.

Map of Undercliffe Cemetery showing the location of the proposed trail boards and the six listed monuments.

If you are interested in purchasing a plot… or trying to locate a grave:
Get in touch – we’re happy to chat! You can:

Call in to the Lodge at the Undercliffe Lane entrance during opening hours
Email: office@undercliffecemetery.co.uk
Phone: 01274 642276

See our website and social media for news, events and how to support us
Website: www.undercliffecemetery.co.uk
Facebook, Twitter (X?), Instagram

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