A CHARITY has been formed to look after the future of the Dockroyd cemetery in Oakworth.

Andrew Heaton, owner of the site, has set up the Dockroyd Graveyard Trust to continue work restoring the Victorian burial ground.

The move comes after months of hard work by Mr Heaton and volunteers from the local community to clear vegetation, restore gravestones, and research the history of its inhabitants.

He said: “The trust will look after the graveyard and raise money in order to continue the restoration process.”

Creation of the trust coincides with the publication of Mr Heaton’s new book, entitled Dockroyd Live, which tells the story of the graveyard, its inhabitants and the restoration project.

Income from sales will help towards the costs of restoring the graveyard.

Mr Heaton said that although not much had been physically going on in the graveyard for the past few months, a great deal had gone on behind-the-scenes.

He this month completed the legalities of setting up the Dockroyd Graveyard Trust, a registered charity intended to assist in the restoration, preservation, improvement, maintenance and conservation of the graveyard, and advance an understanding of the history and heritage.

There are five trustees: chairman Mr Heaton; secretary and treasurer Jean Sugden; vice-chairman John Sugden who is responsible for security; master stonemason Stuart Sharp who will oversee stonework matters including boundary walls and gravestones; and Roger Laird as Sexton.

Mr Heaton said the post of Sexton, whose duties traditionally included grave digging and bellringing, had lapsed since 1955.

He said: “Thankfully Roger’s duties will not entail any grave digging and he hasn’t got a bell to ring!

“However as caretaker he welcomes any volunteers to assist in keeping the graveyard tidy.

“There have been five previous Sextons during the period of the graveyard’s history, the first Sexton being William Ayrey who was appointed when the graveyard opened in 1844.

“His duties were to look after the chapel buildings and act as gravedigger and bellringer.

“Following his death in 1865 Joseph Shackleton took over the duties of the Sexton until his death in 1884. Jabez Bancroft then took up the post and carried out the duties for 14 years until his death in 1898, just before his 53rd birthday, at his home in Chapel Lane.

“His son Arthur Bancroft followed in his father’s footsteps, carrying out the duties for 40 years.

“When Arthur died in 1938 Willie Hodgson took over until the post lapsed in 1955. He too lived in Chapel Lane and his job description was caretaker. Willie is the only Sexton not to be buried here in the graveyard.”

The full stories of the Sextons and all the families buried in Dockroyd graveyard feature in Mr Heaton’s new book Dockroyd Live.

The book’s 350 pages contain detailed information including the history of the Wesleyan Methodist graveyard, and a photo gallery of the restoration project.

Mr Heaton added: “This handbook guides the reader around the graveyard with the complete burial records, all the memorial inscriptions and photographs of every headstone, as well as a Who’s Who family history for all 770 graves.

“The book is recommended to all those interested in family, social and local history.”

Dockroyd Live is available as a paperback book or digital PDF.

Visit heatonfamilyonline.co.uk to order a copy of the book, or call at the graveyard on a Saturday (weather permitting) to talk to one of the trustees.

Anyone wishing to support the trust should email dockroydgraveyardtrust@heatonfamilyonline.co.uk.