BROCKHALL HOSPITAL CEMETERY
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Before looking at the photos of the Brockhall Hospital Cemetery it is useful to spend a little time thinking about the Cemetery's history, why it is where it is, who is buried there, and why 587 men women and children appear to have been hidden in an unremarkable field alongside the pristine and well cared-for cemetery of St Leonard's Church.
It is helpful to understand the society and the context in which the Cemetery was first established in 1939, within the grounds of what was then, in pre-NHS days, the Brockhall Asylum. Attitudes towards people with disabilities have been transformed over the last century but when the major institutions for people with disabilities were established across the country, they were the embodiment of what were seen as the innovative and humane ideas of Mary Dendy. Britain was then a very different place, as an authoritarian but seemingly benevolent society grappled with intractable and endemic social problems and the inherent limitations of the workhouses . It was Mary Dendy's proposals which proved persuasive at a time when the ideas of Francis Galton and his School of Eugenics were being considered by policy makers.
Having been originally designed to provide for the segregated and secluded long term control of people with disabilities; as the decades passed, the huge institutions were to be increasingly constrained by the very designs, structures and practices which had been seen as fit for purpose in the early 20th Century. Set by design, in very large, rural and isolated sites far from the communities they served, the institutions became self-contained and insular small villages where the staff with their families, lived along with the inmates/patients/people. Often ostracised, rejected and feared by the local communities, the institutions gradually perfected by need or preference or both, their ability to be self-reliant and accepted that they were IN rather than part of their local communities.
As evidence of their self-reliance, some institutions had their own farms, reservoirs, railways, generators, workshops, tradesmen, and perhaps inevitably their own cemetery. The neighbouring Calderstones Hospital Cemetery was established in 1915. Twenty four years later, the more recently built and extended Brockhall Hospital established its own cemetery in a part of the Hospital alongside the St Leonard's Church of England Cemetery.
The 587 people who are buried in the Cemetery are all former long term or permanent patients of Brockhall Hospital. They came from communities across the North of England, and a few from farther afield. The Institution was only renamed a Hospital with the introduction of the NHS in 1948, but it would be misleading to compare its function and operation as being in any way similar to a local general hospital or infirmary. Some of the people with intellectual disabilities who were admitted to Brockhall might have had additional physical disabilities but few had physical health problems which needed specialist ongoing medical treatments. What they did need would today be regarded as social care, and it was often only those individuals with the most desperate of social problems who would be admitted to what was expected to be lifetime care. In a "Hospital" of over 70 wards, Brockhall had two wards for its sick patients, a useful reflection of the true needs of the people who lived there. They were called Male General and Female General, and there were also Male Pavilion and Female Pavilion, which may originally have been TB wards, which Calderstones also had. In the pavilions at Calderstones, patients would often be seen in the open, in beds on the verandha. These wards were renamed independent Living Units, a sort of half-way house to the community.
71 of the people buried in the Cemetery were under 16 at death, 23 were 7 or under. These children were some of the hundreds of children who would have been admitted to Brockhall over the years, often because there was simply no other place which would accept them. "Normal" orphanages and local Children's services rejected and segregated those they regarded as being so "different", the officially labelled, idiots, imbeciles, and feeble-minded persons (Mental Deficiency Acts) or subnormals.(Mental Health Act) Where families were unable for whatever reason to care for a child who had a disability, these were the children who were most likely to be"put away" in places like Brockhall and Calderstones, and once admitted, unless circumstances changed and the family was suddenly able to cope, there was little or no chance of that child ever returning to those communities who had initially rejected them.
Once admitted, there was an acceptance that children and adults would be the responsibility of Bockhall for an indefinite period of time, usually a lifetime. Brockhall did not have the option of rejecting these responsibilities and over the decades established systems and routines to look after the up to 2200 people with disabilities who might be living at the Hospital, at any one time. Whatever justified criticisms of institutions like Brockhall are made in today's totally transformed society it should be remembered that it was the same local communities who had banded together to design and fund the institutions, who had then rejected and exiled the disabled, content to abdicate any civic or moral responsibility for their well-being.
So in 1939 the Brockhall Asylum ( later Hospital) Authorities decided to establish their own private cemetery in a part of the Hospital grounds which was duly consecrated by the Bishop of lackburn on the 27th March 1939. Three days later, 47-year old, Florence Craig became the first person to be buried in the Cemetery. It should be noted that not all the people who died at Brockhall would be buried in its cemetery. The majority would have been returned to their families in their home areas.
The Cemetery is divided by religious association into three distinct sections: the Church of England section with 399 burials, the Other faiths (inc Free Church, Non-conformist, Methodist, Congregationalist and Presbyterian) section with 55 burials, and the Roman Catholic section with 123 burials, a total of 587. There are some minor discrepancies in the actual totals, with two relatives who were not patients of the Hospital subsequently being buried alongside their deceased children.
Unlike the Caldertones Hospital Cemetery where there are many multiple graves with as many as 5 people sharing the same grave, at Brockhall each deceased individual has their own grave, with the exception of the two who now share with their relatives.
We understand that in later years most deceased patients were cremated rather than buried. In some cases their ashes were placed in small wooden caskets with the individuals name inscribed on top. These caskets were then buried in individual plots on either side of the short access road leading to the Lych Gate. Unfortunately no details of the numbers of those individuals' names have been discovered as yet, but the second photo shows the location of at least two such interments.
As Brockhall Hospital prepared to close during the late 80's the Regional Health Authority and representatives of the Brockhall management made informal contact with the Reverend Quentin Wilson at St Leonard's Church to explore the possibility of transferring the ownership of the Cemetery to St Leonard's for continuing use and management. Reverend Wilson was not in a position to make such a decision but having consulted his diocesan superiors declined the offer.
In 1991, the whole hospital site was sold to a Mr Gerald Hitman who, believing that the Cemetery was included in the sale, set about producing the prominent stone monument to the deceased which is the centre-piece of he Cemetery today. Unfortunately Mr Hitman's understanding proved to be incorrect, as the Cemetery along with the Calderstones Hospital Cemetery, were sold to a Mr Paul (Tony) Walsh prior to auction in October 2000.
After lengthy discussions and negotiations with the Regional Health Authority and Mr Walsh, Mr Hitman subsequently purchased the Brockhall Cemetery from Mr Walsh in January 2002
THE LIST OF BURIALS IN BROCKHALL CEMETERY
THE LOCATION OF THE GRAVES- C OF E SECTION
Graves were established East to West
LOCATION OF THE GRAVES
R C SECTION
Graves were established East to West
LOCATION OF THE GRAVES
FREE CHURCH/OTHER FAITHS SECTION
Graves were established North to South
The entrance to the Cemetery
This is the only vehicular access into the Cemetery, with its original notice on the gate
Name plates identifying interments.
These plates and others were evident in the late 80's but since that time the site, on the right hand side of the access road as you drive in, has become overgrown and unkempt.
View from the left side of the access road
This important photo shows ground on the left hand side of the access road, where it is believed there were some scatterings of ashes. On the left side of the photo some gravestones can be seen behind he trees. These stones are in St Leonard's cemetery which directly adjoins the Brockhall Cemetery on two sides . Taking the central tree as a marker you can see a bush behind, which with the tree e forms the line of the boundary between the two cemeteries. Looking to the right of the tree you can see a small white gravestone and in the distance a single black stone. Both these gravestones are in the Brockhall Cemetery which is on the right of the boundary line formed by the tree and large bush.
Close up of boundary
This close up of the preceding photo shows the corner boundary of St Leonard;s Cemetery from the Brockhall Cemetery access road. The small white gravestone to the right is that of Karen Pearson
The Lych gate and entrance to the Cemetery
The access road leads to the Lych Gate and the entrance into the Cemetery. This photo taken around 1991 shows the recently installed base for what became the Gerald Hitman memorial stone. Behind it can be seen the Gravediggers brick shed containg all the necessary equipment for burials. Behind the single black headstone a number of white gravestones can be seen. These are in the RC section of the Cemetery.
Through the Lych Gate looking West
Looking into the cemetery and towards the west. The boundary on the northern side is the Hospital boundary, that on the left and southern side is the St Leonard's Churchyard boundary..
Looking along the southern (St Leonard's) boundary
The bushes on the left mark the St Leonards Churchyard bounday. The white gravestone on the left is that of Karen Pearson, there is another smaller stone to the right. All this section of the cemetery on the left hand side of the central path as far as the gravediggers hut was known as the Non Conformist section of the graveyard. The former patients buried here would be be either non-conformists or members of religions other than C of E or RC who have their own separate sections.
Looking east across the C of E section towards the staff houses.
This photo was taken standing in the RC section of the cemetery looking over the path crossing the photo towards the staff houses in the distance. This is the C of E section where at least 350 former patients were buried though only a few headstones are visible. The Lych gate can be seen with the central path running from there to form the southern boundary of the C of E section, while the hospital hedge on the left hand side forms the northern boundary.
Looking across the Non Conformist section
Three stones are visible in this photo as you look through the St Leonard's boundary fence into the St Leonard's Cemetery. The flowers can be seen on the grave of Karen Pearson.
Looking diagonally across the Cemetery from North West to South East
This view showing the northern, eastern and southern boundaries of the Cemetery looks across the site of almost all the graves of the C of E and Non Conformist former patients who are buried in the Cemetery.
Karen Pearson grave alongside St Leonard's Cemetery
This view of Karen Pearson's grave shows the gravestones in St Leonard's Cemetery. Her grave is less than 15 yards away from those others but its a poignant reminder that people like Karen were separated and segregated from the communities around them
Looking West to the RC section
The western end of the Cemetery beyond the gravediggers shed is the RC section. Some gravestones are visible there as you look across the foreground of the C of E section.
The Gravediggers shed
This brick shed contained all the equipment necessary for burials. The pathway shows the boundary between the three different sections of the Cemetery. In the foreground to the left is the Non-conformist section to the right the Church of England burial ground with the area beyond the shed and the path turning to the right ids the Roman Catholic section.
The Gravediggers shed
This sturdy building set into the boundary hedge of St Leonard's Cemetery contained the equipment which allowed the hospital authorities to organise and manage their own funerals without the assistance or external funeral directors and gravediggers.
A poignant hand-made cross
This cross marks an early grave in the C of E section. Individual grave stones were both rare and relatively recently allowed by the earlier hospital authorities in what was previously seen as a lawn cemetery. However, some relatives wanted to mark the grave of their loved one and found their own ways to do so. In the early eighties there would have been 5 or 6 similar wooden crosses marking graves in the C of E section
This cross is close to the northern boundary with the Hospital.
A wooden memorial
A hand-made wooden memorial, believed to be for Brian Kelly who is buried in grave 136 in the C of E section of the Cemetery. He died on 3.9. 1951 aged 5.
This photo shows another wooden cross with a few gravestones in the distance. The photo was taken around 1991 when the Hospital was facing imminent closure.
A pot memorial
This pot memorial marks the grave of Stephen Hindle who died in Brockhall Hospital on 30.7.1964 aged 7. He is buried in grave 330 in the C of E section of the Cemetery
A memorial to Denise
This memorial to MY DARLING DENISE remains a mystery as we have no record of any Denise being buried in the Cemetery. However, it was not uncommon for some patients to be known by a different name within the family, to that which was held in hospital records.
A memorial for Roger
Like the preceding photo, it has not been possible to identify the Roger in this memorial to DEAR SON AND BROTHER ROGER.
KAREN PEARSON'S GRAVE
Karen Pearson's grave is number 572 in the Free Church or Non Conformist section of the Cemetery. Karen was 24 when she died on the 18.3.1986 at Manchester Airport returning from a holiday. She was buried on the 21.3.1986 and flowers are still frequently placed o the grave
A different stone for Karen
This later memorial stone for Karen is inscribed THY WILL BE DONE
The Langho Centre Memorial
This memorial stone can be found in the St Leonard's Cemetery alongside the bushes marking the boundary between the St Leonard's and Brockhall Hospital cemeteries. Langho Centre or Langho Colony as it was known until the late 70's was a large institution providing residential care for people with epilepsy. Located approximately 2 miles from St Leonard's, it was owned and managed by the City of Manchester.
It is not known if the burials of people from Langho were into a communal grave or if the deceased were cremated and it is their ashes which were interred. Further research by Mel Diack should provide a clearer understanding of the situation.
The stone against the fence
This important photo is taken from inside St Leonard's Churchyard. The path used to lead to the compost heap rather than to the Hospital cemetery which was fenced off, intentionally placing a boundary and barrier between the two cemeteries. Looking through the bushes you can see into the Hospital cemetery but there are no headstones visible. Interestingly, apart from the Langho memorial there are no other nearby gravestones in St Leonard's cemetery
St Leonard's Cemetery
A view of the orderly, well maintained and cared for Cemetery with lots of memorials and gravestones in contrast to the neighbouring Brockhall Hospital Cemetery.
St Leonard's Cemetery
This is a view of St Leonard' Cemetery looking towards the boundary with the Hospital Cemetery.
Gerald Hitman's Memorial
This photo from 1992/3 shows the laying of the foundation stone for the collective memorial to the 586 named individuals who are buried in the Brockhall Hospital Cemetery. Gerald Hitman bought the Brockhall Hospital site, including the Cemetery from the NHS and decided to fund a lasting memorial to the individuals who lived and died in Brockhall Hospital and are now buried in its Cemetery
Subsequently Gerald and his two children died. All three are currently buried in the Cemetery, alongside the 586 former patients of the Hospital.
The stone records the names, ages and year of death for each of the 586 people buried in the Cemetery.
Through the Lych Gate
The position of the memorial was deliberately selected in an area where there were no graves, as a mark of respect to the deceased and their families.
The path to the Memorial
The path to the Memorial reminds us of the religious segregation which remained until the 80's. Left of the path, the area is reserved for the Non conformist and Free Church people, to the right are the Church of England people and beyond the Memorial and Gravediggers shed are the Roman Catholic individuals.
Looking from South East to the North West
A final view of the Cemetery as you retrace your steps back down the access road.