St George's Fields, Leeds LS
St George's Field, Leeds General Cemetery Co.(John Clark, 1835)

By the early nineteenth century, the churchyards of towns like Leeds were rapidly filling up and becoming a danger to public health.  Eventually, local authorities stepped in to provide municipal burial grounds, but before that a number of private cemeteries sprang up to cater for the affluent dead. 

The Leeds General Cemetery Co. was formed in 1833.  As Maurice Beresford put it, ‘The shareholders’ register and the register of burials . . . are a register of the town’s early Victorian élite, including  . . the Baineses, the Marshalls, the Bischoffs, the Cawoods, the Gotts, the Fairbairns, the Heatons, the Luptons, the Rawsons, and the Nusseys’.  From 1853, Dr Heaton was on the executive committee, replacing his own father who had died the previous year.  In 1873 he was appointed as a trustee.

Heaton’s journals for 1878 reveal details of a scandal at the cemetery:

‘At this time, also, the Comee of management of the Woodhouse cemetery had an unpleasant affair before them,– in the misconduct of the Chaplain. . . a dissenting minister, who had long held the office,– an aged man of 77, who had married a second wife only two years ago; his accounts were in disorder (tho’ there was doubt whether he had been intentionally dishonest;) but his intercourse with a prostitute in the Leylands had occasioned much scandal, and had led to his exclusion from member-ship of the Independent “church” to which he had belonged.  Of course there was no other course, but to dismiss him, and make a new appointment.’ (Journal, vi. July 1878).

Interestingly, the official minutes make no record of these salacious details, recording only the chaplain’s letter of resignation which cited (somewhat ironically) ‘failing physical and mental powers’! 

For an image of the cemetery chapel from Leodis, click here.

Further Reading:

Beresford, Maurice (2nd edn. 2012), Walks Round Red Brick. Leeds: Thoresby Society.