Christ Church graveyard existed before Christ Church itself. In 1826 the land was bought from William Greenwood for the purposes of extending the burial ground attached to St. Mary’s, the then-parish church for the Lancashire side of Todmorden, under the larger Parish of Rochdale. St. Mary’s had been going since the 1300s and there was no more room for fresh graves, only space within existing plots. The land between Ridgefoot and Centre Vale was the perfect solution.

However, St. Mary’s itself was falling into some disrepair, and the controversial solution was proposed and pushed through by Rev. Joseph Cowley to build a new parish church. Part of the controversy involved its placement. “This land was bought for burials!”, exclaimed the dismayed parishioners. But careful steps were taken to build around the graves which had already been dug and marked, and the new Christ Church opened in 1835.

Other alterations occurred to the graveyard over time. In the 1930s, a decision was made to carve into the side path on the National School’s boundary line so that they could have more space around an extension which was being built on their property. To make up for it, a new set of plots was created down the path on the church lane side of the yard. This is why all of those first plots include burials from 1931 onward, even when the plot to the side of them was opened decades earlier. In the 1990s, a further piece of the graveyard, this time one with burials on it, was covered over by first a temporary and then permanent addition to the National School, with the stones preserved underneath the building so they could still be accessed at a later date.

Fast forward to 2003, and the reverse of the initial decision occurred – the decision to preserve and use St. Mary’s for the future was taken, and Christ Church was sold to a private buyer, along with a chunk of the original graveyard. The graveyard itself was closed in 2006 to new burials, and now only the Garden of Rest is an active interment site (for cremations). In 2008 the graveyard, church, and surrounding area were designated a Conservation Area.

Calderdale Council have the contract with the Church of England to maintain the graveyard, and our group is here to assist in that and do what the usual constraints on local government budgets do not allow them to do.