28th April 2024:

This is something of a brief summary of what’s happened since our last news update, as written by our Chair and Secretary.

Firstly, the Parish of Todmorden and Cornholme has a new vicar, the Rev. Dr. Catherine Shelley. We met with her in March to discuss what has been happening so far and to talk about next steps. We have decided to temporarily pause our work while we await the problems with the school extension to be dealt with by the Diocese and Consistory Court. The meeting was in parts productive – we finally had someone listen to what we’ve been experiencing, our concerns, and actually discuss and explain things to us as if we were adults – and in parts counterproductive – Catherine had to tell us about a number of complaints she has received “from the PCC, school, and parishioners” about our activities in there, one reasonable (please don’t place astroturf on graves) and the rest frankly vexatious (apparently we have been having parties and committing the cardinal sin of not laying down soil in the middle of the winter so that the bags sat near the side wall for a few months). Going forward, we will hopefully be able to establish a minor works scheme that will allow us to carry out, well, minor works without needing faculty approval, only that of the PCC.

In the meantime we have also removed the gravel and planters from the area near the school path, as apparently this work DID require a faculty. The option was given to apply alongside the school’s faculty application, but we declined. We also decided that leaving it in place would seem provocative, as if we weren’t bothered about seeking the correct permissions while demanding others did. It can always be put back; nothing we’ve done is permanent.

Quiet ensued, while we sought the assistance and advice of the National Federation of Cemetery Friends. Run your own FO group and aren’t a member? Become a member. Seriously.

On Monday the 8th of April, 2024 the PCC met to discuss whether they would approve the seeking of a retrospective faculty to regularise the National School’s irregular extension. We had been saying for months this was impossible.

On Monday after months and months of the retrospective faculty route being touted by various organisations…..the PCC finally agreed with us and decided not to vote to approve the seeking of a retrospective faculty for the school.

FOCC massively big up the PCC body of Todmorden and Cornholme as a whole, they have made the correct and just decision, and we offer our respects to them. We hope you give them the same consideration.

So the retrospective faculty route is dead in the water….what next? We have an idea of what’s next, but will not speculate at the moment until we know a little more. That will be for a later post that we will have to carefully discuss. In the meantime Catherine has been writing to the families of those buried under the extension who were buried after 1941, using the contact details we gathered and passed along to her. We strongly suggest that if you are related to any of the following people and haven’t been contacted that you proactively contact her to establish your interest in what happens next.

Florence Allister

Elizabeth and Amy Dodd

Ada Ireland

John William Richards

Eva Cunliffe Uttley and Arnold and Betsy Cunliffe

Frances Jane Scriven

Richard Hollinrake

Mary Ackroyd/Akroyd

Mary Crowther

23rd January 2024:

New Year, new news! And what news. We alluded last month to clarity and resolution; well, resolution is still some ways away, but clarity has appeared via the Diocese of Leeds regarding the legal position of the gravestones underneath the National School’s extension.

From an email sent on January 4th:

I can, having consulted with colleagues after the Christmas break, add clarity about the processes that will follow. A retrospective faculty will be sought jointly by the PCC of Todmorden with Cornholme and the school. Faculty legislation and the broader Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 govern what can be permitted within the curtilage of church property, particularly section 64 of the Measure in the case of disused churchyards. This is rather than the Disused Burial Grounds Amendment Act 1981, which you have mentioned but which you might have noted states at section 5 is not applicable to consecrated land, which the churchyard at Christ Church is. The “Consistory Court” referred to in the same section is the system for deciding faculties.

Faculty processes include a public notice period in which interested parties are invited to make representations for or against the proposals. Notices are posted up at the site and online for 28 days. Prior to public notices in cases where works affect burials and headstones, whoever is seeking a faculty has to alert (or make reasonable efforts to alert) living relatives of those who burials or gravestones will been affected.

Responses from interested parties are considered before a decision is made about how to move forward. The Chancellor, who is the Judge overseeing the Consistory Court, will look to see that families of headstones affected have not objected and/or that their wishes have been taken into account. He will expect to see evidence of appropriate measures having been taken to contact relatives directly and/or to publicise locally (generally accepted methods are notices in paper and signage in the area of affected headstones.)

The Diocese of Leeds and its officers are working with both PCC and school to ensure that the process is begun as quickly as possible.

And from a further email sent on January 14th:

A meeting was held between representatives of the Diocese and the PCC earlier this week. There is a clear understanding of the next steps that the PCC and the school need to take to prepare an application for a retrospective faculty. The two parties are now planning how to progress this with the maximum efficiency.

One of the queries raised is what will be the coverage of the retrospective application  – that is, the 1990s building and/or the more recent development. This will depend on what can be retrieved from archival files, but the PCC is aware of the importance of contacting families of affected headstones if there is no evidence that this has been done already.

The meeting also discussed how the affected gravestones can best be recorded: all parties are aware that this will be an integral part of the legal process. Diocesan officers have noted and passed on to the PCC the willingness of the Friends group to share their research, for which we are grateful.

I am also particularly aware from the queries raised, that there are questions about how any concerns from the public will be taken into account, including whether there is an appeal process.  The faculty decision is a legal process by a neutral ecclesiastical lawyer, who is bound by law to take into account any opposition to an application. There is a public notice period where interested parties are invited to make their views known.  There is also an appeal process, which again, will be formally advised.

FOCCT are pleased to see that the Diocese have taken our concerns, which we have been investigating and raising since December 2022, seriously; and that they have taken the time and effort to conduct their own enquiries which were able to extend more widely and in depth than we could accomplish for a variety of reasons. There are a great many details of this situation and concerns which we are not at liberty to publicly discuss, but those following along with us on Facebook will know that we have been the recipients of some hard words from some very high places for our refusal to accept at face value a number of assertions which we knew to be misinformed. We look forward to working alongside the PCC and the Diocese to ultimately attain the goal we’ve had all along, and which we wish could have been achieved in a more cooperative manner: the re-transcription of the stones underneath the school.

Continue to watch this space…

21st December 2023:

Happy nearly-the-holidays to all our group members, casual visitors, fervent read-along-ers, and occasional haters! We’ve finished our first full year as a group and we couldn’t be more pleased. Big things are coming for 2024; more tours, more groundworks, a proper shed, the resolution of some outstanding issues that will hopefully bring clarity to a number of issues around the graveyard (more on that another day), and continued cooperation between ourselves and Incredible Edible Todmorden, who have been superstars in the yard, helping our physical goals become so much more attainable. Thanks also to the host of behind the scenes supporters in the Council, church, and community for their advice, support, and contacts.

21st October 2023: a message from our Chair

LOOK what’s been found.

We at Friends of Christ Church – Todmorden are very excited. Sarah and I are itching to photograph the pages of these books, print them out and begin quartering the graveyard …. and we don’t even care if it’s raining …. Oh no.

This is huge …. Wanna know how huge.

Look at the image with the Blue rectangle.

355 – William Brownbridge. 357 – William Roberts. We know exactly where these two gentlemen rest, we have them on our transcript. In between them at 356, on our transcript is an empty space ….. but we now know Edward Sharples rests there.

Our transcript is soon to get a lot bigger and a lot more comprehensive.

But there’s more.

Many of you know you have relatives buried at Christ Church, but you don’t know exactly where they are ……. give us a month and we just might be able to tell you. Further, we also know there are at least 8 missing gravestones in the yard, and we also know the names upon them ….. these books could tell us exactly where to look to locate those stones.

Yes, it’s fair to say, we are very, very, very excited.

30th August 2023: On Sunday the 27th, we had an important guest in the yard – Councillor Tyler Hanley, who is also this year’s Mayor of Todmorden. He had a great time and willingly and under no duress whatsoever (honest) posed with the FOCCer Pickaxe of Righteous Justice (see below). He has also adopted William Jackson at V5.4, one of the former town Mayors. Thank you Tyler for listening to us and showing a genuine interest in the project and what we’re trying to achieve here and in the wider community.

Mayor of Todmorden (and jolly good sport) Tyler Hanley

27th July 2023: good news! We’ve pinned down our next four events, because we get asked about forward planning a lot. We had to wait for more research to be done before we could begin assembling tour themes so far in advance but are at that point now…so mark your calendars and book via email for these excellent afternoons or evenings out in the yard.

Sunday 24th September: “I Shall Trouble You No More” – Suicides of Christ Church. Join us to learn about some of the many (yes, many) people buried here who ended their own lives. Donations will be split between the Samaritans and Andy’s Man Club. 11am-12noon and 1pm-2pm

Sunday 29th October: Autumnal Apprehension. After the roaring success of our Summer Solstice ghost story evening, we’ll be telling some more spooky tales in the twilight. Bring a chair, a flask, a talisman, and someone who is slower than you. 7pm-8pm

Sunday 12th November: Remembrance Sunday. Some of these servicemen are buried here, and some aren’t, but join us to hear their stories lest we forget. 11am-12noon and 1pm-2pm.

Sunday 17th December: Dead For The Holidays. As we transcribed, we noticed more than a few who died on Christmas Eve, Day or Boxing Day. This is all they have in common, but their stories may speak to you for other reasons, so join us to find out more about the regular people buried here whose only fame might be their badly timed demise. 11am-12noon and 1pm-2pm.

Remember, all our tours and events are FREE – the graveyard is a public space and its history and Tod’s history belongs to all of us, so pay as you feel and support us in other ways if payment isn’t possible for you right now. One way to help is sharing our posters with your nearest and furthest, so feel free to download and share the images below. Thanks! – Sarah