The Diocese of Blackburn 


The Calderstones Hospital Cemetery is situated within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Blackburn Diocese, though at the time of its consecration in June 1916 it appears to have been within the area of the Manchester and Burnley Dioceses

The whole 3 acre cemetery, including what was to become the Queen Mary's Military Hospital or QMMH cemetery was consecrated by the then Bishop of Burnley in June 1916, a copy of his speech is attached and a full copy of the hand written Sentence of Consecration is available within the Sale documentation.

The Diocese and its predecessor dioceses have never owned or had management responsibility for the Cemetery. While each of the  1172 known burials and interments in the cemetery had an individual religious service of committal provided by a local vicar or priest, the cemetery was never attached to, or part of any diocese.

In January 2018, on behalf of the Blackburn Diocese, after weeks of checking old records, Kirsty Halstead, was able to confirm  that the whole of the cemetery was consecrated ground. This timely revelation proved crucial as at the time (11th January 2018) the Developer had heavy construction vehicles and machinery on site, and construction work had already begun.

The significance of this discovery was immediately evident, as it confirmed that no buildings could be constructed in the cemetery without the permission of the Bishop (via faculty) to do so.

As the original sale documents were subsequently to prove, had due diligence been followed, then the original and subsequent purchasers of the land should have been fully aware of the status of the cemetery. within the sale documents, there are are several references to the cemetery being consecrated, and a full copy of the hand-written Sentence of Consecration is included within those documents

After discussions with the owners/developers, in April 2018, the Rev Mark Ireland, the Archdeacon of the Blackburn Diocese, issued a public notice on behalf of the Diocese, outlining his intention to apply to the Bishop for the partial deconsecration of the cemetery. 

As part of the consultation process which followed, the Friends of Calderstones Cemetery submitted a detailed objection to the proposed order under section 22 of the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991. In this respect, the Friends were guided by the skilled and extremely generous advice of Mr Philip Petchey.

In May 2018, during the consultation period, the Archdeacon decided to withdraw his application for deconsecration as referred to in the Public Notice. This decision was apparently based on the Archdeacon having been persuaded that the Friends had identified the location of the original Garden of Remembrance, which was different to that, which had been suggested by the owners.

The Friends had hoped and believed that the matter might be left there, but in March 2019 the Archdeacon issued a further Public Notice again proposing the partial deconsecration of part of the Cemetery. This application was also challenged by the Friends, again ably assisted and advised by Mr Petchey, without whose assistance, it is doubtful that such a positive outcome would have been achieved. A further robust and detailed objection with supporting evidence was presented, but on this occasion a much wider public and political support was mobilized to oppose the Archdeacon's application.

A substantial amount of evidence including a detailed report by Dr Nigel Ingham which is attached, was submitted by the Friends, responding to the points which the Archdeacon had included in his summary. 

Further research, initially identified  an estimated number of  200-300 "missing deaths" for which no surviving records could be found. These were all people who had died at Calderstones Hospital between 1967 and 1977, and between 1989 and 1992. Later research established that the true figure was double the original estimate, at approximately 612. It has not yet been possible to identify when or where these people were buried or interred  but given the interment and burial records which are available, it seems reasonable to assume that at least a proportion of these 612 were buried or interred in the cemetery. In the autumn of 2019, a relative came forward to say his aunt who died in Calderstones in 1969 had been cremated and interred in the C of E section, but there is no surviving hospital record of that burial. 

In addition to the "missing deaths" there is strong anecdotal evidence of other burials and interments taking place in the cemetery, during the period 2001 to 2004/5, when the cemetery was under the stewardship of first Tony Walsh and subsequently Colin Arkwright. No official register or record of these burials has been found, but the details of at least two individuals whose remains were interred are known. A gravedigger who dug two graves in the cemetery came forward to identify the location of the two graves he had dug, one of which became known as the grave of "the lady in the wicker basket." The gravedigger also believed that from his visual assessment of the settlement of the land there were other unrecorded burials in the cemetery.  

Having carefully considered all the evidence that had been submitted and the many representations made to him, on the 9th July 2019, the Bishop decided to reject the Archdeacon's application and retain the consecrated status of the cemetery.

The papers dealing with the applications and objections are set out below.

The Consecration

June 1916

A copy of the newspaper article reporting the consecration in June 1916 with the speech made by the Bishop

The Bishop's words

                               Whalley and District War Memorials 

                                        George Hardman

This recently discovered newspaper report from the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times of July 7th 1916, is taken from George Hardman's publication of "Whalley and District War Memorials 1914-18 and 1939-1945" and shows that the whole Cemetery was consecrated "from all common and profane uses whatsoever"

The Archdeacon's first Public Notice

The Archdeacon's first Public Notice, issued in April 2018. .

The Friends objection

The Archdeacon's second Public Notice

March 2019

The Archdeacon's second application 

This copy of the Archdeacon's application is highlighted in yellow to show the points which the Friends intended to query or challenge in their submission to the Bishop.

The ?70 relates to the estimated number of urns which may have already been damaged or destroyed, by the Contractor' s construction of a gravel roaday

The highlighted text refers to points which the Friends intended to query or challenge in their submission to the Bishop.

The text highlighted in red is the Archdeacon's unexpected acknowledgement that the Contractor has constucted the gravel roadway through " a significant part of the Garden of Remembrance."

The text highlighted in yellow around that highlighted in red was, and remains contested by the Friends

See above notes on highlighting.

The Archdeacon's recommendation. Page 1

Page 2

Explanatory Note

In fairness to the Archdeacon and to place his comments in context, it is important to clarify that at the time that he wrote this report, the Archdeacon like the Friends, would not have been aware of the existence or significance of the documents which became known as the 1916 Conveyance -see Sale documents section. Had he had prior knowledge of those documents, then it is possible that some of the sections in his report might have been influenced by the significance of what he would have read..

Dr Nigel Ingham's report

The Friends objection to the second Application

The Bishops decision

9th July 2019

The Bishop's decision which was copied to all parties involved

The Bishop's findings

9th July 2019