Bradford Council has confirmed the elaborate mausoleum of one of Keighley’s grandest families was among the Utley Cemetery memorials attacked by stone thieves.
The full extent of the harm recently committed on tombs in the graveyard comprises a depressing catalogue of damage to expensive, carved stonework.
One of the memorials picked on by the criminals was the historic 118-year-old Butterfield Chapel, built for the Butterfields of Cliffe Castle. This mausoleum has had a large statue removed.
Other damage recorded by the district council includes two tombstones pushed over and smashed, at least five other statues removed, and at least six stone ornaments – called finials – stolen or damaged.
As reported in the Keighley News, this latest spate of vandalism was inflicted at the end of January. A Bradford Council spokesman confirmed the stone removed on that occasion had been abandoned by the thieves, and is now in a council store.
Charlie Bhowmick, of Utley Cemetery Action Group, said he has written to senior councillors and officers emphasising the distress being caused by those targeting the graveyard.
Earlier this week, Steve Hartley, Bradford’s interim strategic director of environment and sport, said: “Following on from a meeting with the Utley Cemetery Action Group, we are looking at various options available to make improvements to the cemetery, including what can be done to reinstate these memorials.”
Describing the Butterfield Mausoleum, Keighley historian Ian Dewhirst said: “It’s a very extravagant, ornate mausoleum, and this isn’t the first time it’s been vandalised. It’s appalling – let’s face it, we don’t respect our dead anymore, do we?
“Other things have been going missing from this cemetery over the years. There was a marvellous stone carving of a blacksmith’s tools, and another one of a little boy picking flowers – both of those disappeared many years ago.”
Local resident Matthew Hunter, 35, who regularly walks his dog in the cemetery, said: “It’s heartbreaking to see how much is going missing. And it’s still going on.
“These are things that can never be replaced, and it isn’t just kids having a drink and messing around. This is people who are deliberately stealing stone to sell it on.”