Calderstones Cemetery Today
News

Patrick Burke was presented with The Sir Bert Massie Lifetime Achievement Award at The Brain Charity's 25th Anniversary Awards ceremony recently. Here his friend Lynn tells us about his latest campaign.

Patrick and I have been friends for many years and I am thrilled to learn of this prestigious award which recognises the invaluable contribution Patrick has made. Most recently this has involved not only speaking up for people with learning disabilities who are alive but also protecting the voices of his friends who have passed away.

Patrick, along with 3 friends, is helping to lead a campaign supporting people with learning difficulties and their families who are concerned about plans to build a crematorium on part of the consecrated site of the Calderstones Hospital Cemetery in Whalley, Lancashire. (Calderstones hospital has now been renamed Merseycare Whalley)

The Calderstones graves have been allowed to become derelict and overgrown, with nearly all the gravestones having previously been removed by a former owner of the site after the two chapels on the site were damaged by vandals. This contrasts with the immaculately-tended war graves cemetery nearby, which was also previously part of the hospital.

Between 1921 and 1989, there were 1,171 recorded burials in the cemetery of people with learning difficulties who had been at Calderstones, including 211 people who were first cremated before their ashes were interred in the cemetery between 1977 and 1989. Three other people are believed to have had their ashes interred in the cemetery, while at least 13 babies who were evacuated from Booth Hall Hospital in Greater Manchester during the War also lie buried there.

Campaigners fear that some of the remains of their friends could be threatened by the plans to build the crematorium on the Calderstones cemetery site, which the NHS is believed to have sold to developers in the year 2000.

An application was made to the Bishop of Blackburn to partially deconsecrate the land to allow building work to continue. Patrick and his colleagues produced a short film, which has been viewed over 9,600 times, to help express how they felt to the Bishop and encouraged friends across the country to write to the Archdeacon of the Diocese of Blackburn to express their anger, upset and concern at plans to disturb their friends.

This campaign led to the application for partial deconsecration being withdrawn and we are currently waiting to see what the owners and developers plan to do next, but whatever it is Patrick and his friends, with our support, will continue to fight to #LetOurFriendsRestInPeace and be treated with the respect that anyone would want for their friends or relatives.

Lynn James-Jenkinson,
Chief Executive, Pathways Associates CIC