The year of beautiful burial grounds

Wharfedale Observer News

The year of beautiful burial grounds

Highroyds, Photo by courtesy of Mark Davis

Highroyds, Photo by courtesy of Mark Davis

HIGH Royds Memorial Garden in Menston will be joining with the charity Caring for God’s Acre, various experts and other organisations to raise the profile and celebrate the unique heritage within these special sites.

National Conferences will be held to look at the ways as to how these burial sites can create a haven for wild-life to further enhance the environment.

This year coincides with the 10th anniversary of when the local community, here in Wharfedale, became the owners (through the trustees) of the then derelict chapel and neglected High Royds Psychiatric Hospital graveyard on Buckle Lane, Menston.

During the past ten years, with the help of the community and various grants, the Chapel has been restored with a permanent record of the 2861 former patients, who are buried in the graveyard, kept there.

The graveyard itself has been converted into a Memorial Garden which has featured on national TV, won several awards and is officially recognised as part of Historic England.

A recent development (in 2019) saw a Sensory Garden constructed for those who are sight-impaired or have dementia problems. All the pathways now conform to national wheelchair access standards so the garden/chapel is accessible to all.

In addition to the chapel/graveyard the trustees are also responsible for 1.5 acres of the surrounding woodland and the site of the former railway line which was used to connect High Royds Hospital with Leeds.

In an area which is increasingly being developed this area of natural beauty is important and is already home to a variety of wildlife. In 2020, as part of the national campaign, the trustees are looking to develop this further to help with the wild-life and environment.

Local schools have already helped to install bat boxes in the wood and a hedgehog sanctuary has recently been established.

Now, in view of the serious decline of bees, a request has also been received regarding the possibility of one or two bee-hives also being installed. Trustee Ron Sweeney said: “If the person who contacted me regarding the possibility of a bee-sanctuary would care to contact me again we would happy to discuss the possibilities further.

“On behalf of the Trustees/Management Committee our thanks for all the past help in helping to remember the former patients and also in keeping our environment as green and pleasant as possible.


Our National Heritage Weekend.

The 14th and 15th of September was our National Heritage Weekend 

Horsforth Book Club

Above the Horsforth Book Club added a visit the the garden to extend their Saturday ramble.

Heritage 2019- Andrew-JohnAN interesting and thought provoking photograph was taken at a special service held in High Royds Memorial Chapel, Menston, at the close of the National Heritage Weekend.

The Rev Andrew Howorth led a service which focussed on how to learn from the past whilst looking to the future. In the background is a photograph of John Constantine, a former inmate, from the age of ten, of the Ripon Union Workhouse and the North Yorkshire Asylum. John who was classified as “deaf and dumb” was transferred to High Royds in 1899 (then called The West Riding West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum). He died in 1928 after fifty-five years in the institutions and is buried together with 2860 other paupers in the now restored High Royds Memorial Garden.

A spokesman for High Royds said: “The juxtaposition, which was not planned, is an example of how by looking at the past, and learning from it, we can help to build a society for the benefit of all. It was a well-attended, forward looking service and the Management Committee thanks all the many people who contributed to a thoughtful and beneficial weekend.

Thank you for helping

or this oneFifteen people volunteered to turned up to help plant the Sensory Garden and do other necessary weeding at High Royds Memorial Garden last Saturday.
Friends Chairman Ron Sweeney said: “ It was great to see such a turnout.

The weeding and planting was completed before the afternoon rain.
“It is through volunteers that what was once a derelict and neglected three acres of land has become “An Oasis of Peace” with local and national recognition.”

Volunteers wanted!

With all the stonework for the specially commissioned High Royds Sensory Garden, on Buckle Lane, Menston now complete tons of soil/compost has been delivered and put into position.
Much thought has gone into selecting plants suitable for people who are sight impaired or who may have Dementia problems. These will be delivered for planting on Saturday 15th June between 10-00 and 12 noon.
At the same time we will carry out the necessary weeding in other parts to ensure the Memorial Garden is at its best for an Open Day which is planned for Saturday 6th July
In order to facilitate this work, a Weeding and Planting Party will be held between 10-00 and 12 noon on Saturday 15th June.
Volunteers are invited to join in this working group in order to further enhance this three acre site which has become known, both locally and nationally, as an “Oasis of Peace”.

Ron Sweeney
Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden

Work starts on Sensory Garden



Thanks to a grant from the Telegraph & Argus and its parent company, The Gannett Foundation, work has started on a Sensory Garden which will become a feature of High Royds Memorial Garden on Buckle Lane, Menston.
Stone from a local quarry is being used to construct the planters which will then be filled with shrubs and plants to appeal to those who are sight impaired or are having problems with Dementia. The planters will be cared for by volunteers but the grant has enabled professional stonemasons to construct the planters and the surrounds which will enable easy access for wheelchair users.
The Memorial Garden, which has become known both locally and nationally as “An Oasis of Peace” was a former paupers’ graveyard containing 2861 former patients of High Royds Psychiatric Hospital which closed in 1969.
After three years of legal negotiations The Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden started restoration work in 2010 and with the help of many volunteers have created a garden which has become known, locally and nationally, as an “Oasis of Peace”.


Steve Pawson (the offical contractor for the job) and Luke Cruse working hard to finish before the rain starts



On December 24th the Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden & Chapel were informed, by the Telegraph & Argus, that they have been awarded a grant by the Gannett Foundation for their plans to develop a Sensory Garden as part of the restored three acre site.

The restored former paupers graveyard and derelict chapel has become known as an “OASIS OF PEACE” in an increasingly environmentally developed area. The proposed Sensory Garden is being developed to help those who are sight impaired or have Dementia issues thereby broadening its appeal to all sections of the community.
Work on the development will, it is anticipated now commence in the Spring of this year.


On Saturday 3rd of November a Remembrance Service was held at 3.00pm in the Memorial Garden Chapel

DSC05768 cropEmmerson Walgrove, Ron Sweeney and Revd. Andrew Howorth with TOMMY

The service was conducted by the Revd. Andrew Howorth of St John The Divine Church Menston and Chaplain of High Royds Memorial Chapel.

DSC05775Ron Sweeney introduced the Chapels own TOMMY to sit with the names of the High Royds Hospital Staff who gave their lives in the two word wars.DSC05773

Emmerson Walgrove read the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, Quentin Mackenzie read Dulce et Decorum est by Wifred Owen describing the horrors of war, DSC05777and Liz Sharp read the Gospel from the New Testament. Matthew 5:1-12

DSC05778 cropAll attending were invited to light a candle as an act of remembrance for lost loved ones.DSC05783

The friends of High Royds Memorial Garden and Chapel give their thanks to David and Judith Knaggs for bringing the large TOMMY (there but not there) that added a poignant symbol of why we should remember those who gave their lives for their countryDSC05764crop


New chaplain for High Royds Memorial Chapel and Garden

The Rev Andrew Howorth is an associate priest at St John the Divine, in Menston. rev mmgHe is a former chaplain to the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust where he had more than 25 years experience in dealing with mental health issues.
He said: “Even today people are still having to experience the cruel stigma of mental distress which frequently makes recovery all the harder – the Memorial Chapel stands as a proud reminder of all the untold stories.”
Together with Friends of High Royds Memorial Chapel and Garden, he is preparing a service to dedicate an illuminated memorial tribute and plaque to the 14 staff members of the former West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum – later High Royds Hospital – who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. The public service will be held in the Memorial Chapel on Buckle Lane at 3pm on Saturday, November 3Tommy

The Heritage Weekend

The Heritage Weekend went very well so thank you all for the effort and time involved.  Many visitors and did appreciate it as was gathered from the remarks that were passed.

20180916_165333_Burst01Sue Lee, Revd. Andrew Howorth, Emmerson Walgrove, Ron Sweeney, David Lynch

The Service, conducted by the Revd. Andrew Howorth was well received and again from comments he seems to have ” hit the spot”  in his remarks on mental health and our response to it. In particular Andrew put over very clearly how High Royds helped to form a “bridge” from the abuses of the old Workhouse system which lead to the Asylums and now to us as Care in the Community has taken over. So whilst the Chapel and Garden reminds us of the past it also points to the future as our understanding of Mental Health issues increases and hopefully we learn lessons from the past.

Our thanks as usual to the Ladies Please Choir who again pleased!  David’s reading of his poem “2861” was very moving. It received a round of applause and gave us all pause for thought.

All in all a moving, but not sad, occasion as it made us aware of how ” An Oasis of Peace”, which the Memorial Garden & Chapel has become, can help us all.

Again thank you to all concerned.

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