DOCKROYD LIVE book review

D Colin Dews, Secretary of the Wesley Historical Society (Yorkshire) has written this book review which will appear in their Spring bulletin. It will also be recorded in the annual Methodist Historical Bibliography published by the Wesley Historical Society.

Andrew R. Heaton, Dockroyd Live: restoration of Oakworth’s Victorian Graveyard 

356p, A4 spiral bound. Copies £25 can buy on

or from the Author, 15 Back Lane, Whixley, YO26 8BG

   Wesleyan Methodism in the textile mill village of Oakworth,  can be traced back to 1779, with the first chapel being built in 1822, enlarged in 1838 and replaced in 1858; its current successor dates from 1960. Its most notable inhabitant, Sir Isaac Holden on his second marriage to Sarah Sugden, from 1869 erected Oakworth House; he was an extremely wealthy Wesleyan mill owner and a Liberal member of parliament. In the nineteenth century the village was a stronghold of Nonconformity, with Baptist, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist chapels; the Anglican Christ Church only came in 1846. There is an excellent account of the village’s Wesleyan community to provide the back ground to the opening the Wesleyan graveyard in 1844. All told there were over 2500 burials. Following the last internment in 1969, with increasing damage from water ingress, it was decided to sell the graveyard as its upkeep was now beyond Methodist means. (What is not made fully clear is that the local authority had no legal obligation to take it over.) Inevitably, it became derelict.

   The author, on retiring from dairy farming, and with many family members buried in the graveyard, purchased it in 2018 and so began a remarkable restoration project. This publication, with a substantial account of Oakworth Wesleyanism, its graveyard and those interred there, along with their socio-economic background, is an important piece of research, using such as the burial registers now at Keighley library, the decadal census returns and information from families connected with the graveyard including those living abroad. It is profusely illustrated, even if the quality is not perfect, including maps and the Sharp family tree. Monumental inscriptions are reproduced and there is a substantial index using the grave numbers.

   As would be expected the graveyard encapsulates a mill community perhaps surprisingly with immigration from Swaledale following the collapse of the lead mining in the 1880s, but also from Shropshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire. What emerges in an inter-married community which can be measured by socio-economic activities, including such textile workers as warp dressers, weavers, and woolcombers, as well as village activities including cabinet makers, drapers, farmers, grocers, and shoemakers. Over ninety members of the Sugden family are buried here, including the Wesleyan mill owner, Jonas Sugden, whose sister Sarah was Isaac Holden’s second wife. That of Squire Thornton is for Sir Issac’s coach driver but despite Holden’s dominance in the village he was buried in a vastly expensive mausoleum in the prestigious part of Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford.  Another is John Judson, architect for a number of local chapels, including Oakworth Wesleyan in 1858.  Some graves reflect infant mortality, accidental deaths and there are a number of war graves.

   What can be determined about the village and neighbouring Methodism?  Some are recorded as being active in the church, such as Sunday school teachers and local preachers, including a Primitive Methodist local preacher from Oldfield. Almost certainly many more than can be identified were Methodist associated, although some seem to have been Anglican, including some baptised by the Rev. Patrick Bronte. It is also noted that funeral services were conducted by local preachers.

   This publication reflects considerable research and should appeal to a wide readership, including genealogists, local and Methodist historians. The author is to be congratulated for publishing such a remarkable piece of research.

D. Colin Dews

At the recent AGM of the Trustees an important item on the agenda was the recruitment of new Trustees. For us to continue the work in the graveyard to the standard the founding Trustees have started, we need new Trustees with skills in planning, finance, fundraising, gardening and technology. The time commitment is not onerous. The benefit is being part of the regeneration of this amazing recovery of graveyard from the state it had got into to a positive amenity for the village. If anyone wants more information please contact any Trustee.

Please help us ensure the graveyard continues to give pleasure to those who pass by and be part of the experience that is the privilege to maintain it.

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Andrew Heaton, one of our trustees has written a new book about some of personalities who are buried in Dockroyd graveyard. This looks in more detail at some of the stories about the influential families that lived in this area of the Worth Valley during the years the graveyard was functioning. This is an interesting and informative addition to the Dockroyd Live book, that tells the story of the restoration and Andrew’s original research into the different families found here. The new book can be purchased directly from The Millstack ( down Providence Lane, where you can also get excellent refreshments and lunches whilst buying it! It is also available by email from or directly from Andrew on 07860611237.

This is the response from the Couffinhal family to the Facebook post Jean Sugden put up about La Toussant day, and the decorations on the grave of Maurice. Makes it all worthwhile. More information in the who’s who section.

Have you any old photos like this?

We have recently received this photo of Jesse Wright next to his grandfather David Wright’s grave in 1886.

This is the earliest photo we have that was taken within the graveyard and has created great interest on our FACEBOOK page.

To find more about the Wright family and others go to DOCKROYD LIVE/WHO’S WHO-A WHOLE LOT MORE

Please have a look in your old photo albums and see if you can match it, we would love to see it, and if you have any stories to match as well that would be wonderful.


All are welcome to visit Dockroyd Graveyard, Chapel Lane, Oakworth, Keighley BD22 7HY between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm on Saturday 10th June 2023.

Visitors will have the opportunity to see how volunteers have restored the graveyard over the last four years. Those who have supported the project over the years are particularly welcome.

Burial records will be available for inspection to help you discover your family history. Copies of the handbook DOCKROYD LIVE will also be available.

The Open Day is part of National Cemeteries Week where it will be seen how Cemetery Friends throughout the UK are involved in keeping cemeteries safe whilst conserving and managing the natural features, restoring significant monuments and encouraging the appreciation of cemeteries.

This photo shows the how the grass has grown and changed the character of the graveyard. Its well worth a visit to see the changes if you haven’t been for a while, or not made the trip yet.

An atmospheric photo taken by Sharon Quinn on a visit to the graveyard, showing the difference the grass is starting to make.

We didn’t pick the best day weather wise to tackle this heavy job in the graveyard today but it was all booked so it had to be done. We’d accumulated several large piles of stone around the graveyard from gravelling the graves and clearing the ground for the grass seed and they had to go.

Chairman and boss man Andrew seemed to enjoy himself far too much on his new toy, hopefully he won’t find another reason we need ‘big toys’ anytime soon. Thanks to Sunderland Plant Hire for their help.

Andrew on the dumper truck.
Andrew on his new toy
The team picking stones to put in the dumper truck bucket
The team stone picking
Andrew manoeuvring the dumper truck
Andrew enjoying himself

All involved expressed a collective sigh of relief from the graveyard recently when we saw that the first sowing of the grass seed has germinated. It’s made such a difference and we are so pleased. Still some areas to sow, but so far, so good. If you are passing, hope you like the progress so far.

Scargill Family visit.

The Trustees were pleased to welcome the family of George Scargill to the graveyard today. Although the family had communicated they had never actually met before, the families had travelled from Derbyshire, Cumbria, Leeds and Sweden, quite a family gathering. It was a poignant time for them to at last see the grave of their ancestors and share their memories. The Trustees are so glad they have helped unite this lovely family.

A group photo of the Scargill family gathering at their ancestor's grave.
The various members of the Scargill family.

national cemeteries week

A view of the headstones in the graveyard, taken by Paul Melling.
A photo of the graveyard taken on the open day, with many thanks to Paul Melling for his permission .

We had a steady stream of visitors on the 7th of May for our first National Cemeteries Open Day. Some old friends we haven’t seen for a while and some new visitors calling in for the first time.  Some were locals and plenty had travelled a fair way to come and join us.  We were able to help some visitors find graves belonging to their families, always rewarding. We had a generous donation of used garden tools, which are very useful.

All in all a very satisfactory day and the tea lady did brisk business, just Perfick!

Gravelling the Gravestones

The first phase of our plan to gravel the graves in Dockroyd Graveyard is now complete. 100 graves have been dug and tidied and almost 10tons of gravel have been used. This was a decision made by the Trustees to both improve the look of the graveyard and cut down on the amount of maintenance both for us and future generations.

It was made possible by a grant from BMDC and a donation from Travis Perkins.

So now the boss! has ordered another 10tons, due in a couple of weeks, there’s going to be a lot more tea and biscuits needed!

We have already spoken to some of those people who ‘adopted’ a grave and continue to maintain it but if you have adopted a grave and haven’t been for a while, you might like to get in touch to let us know what you would like us to do. The Trustees are so pleased the graveyard is now being seen by more people, sometimes just passing through but recently we had a visit from a couple from Elgin, looking for a particular grave and we often see others browsing around, exactly what we wanted. Result!!

loxley cemetery visit

It was really good to meet visitors to the graveyard today from Loxley Cemetery in Sheffield. They had heard of the work done in the graveyard and we had lots of discussion of what has been done here and what ideas they could use in their work at their 10 acre sight. A return visit was arranged when the weather improves.

Loxley Cemetery visit