Friends of Green Cliff Cemetery

Revealing Honley’s history

Did you know that Honley has a cemetery, just off Green Cliff? Until 2017 it was a hidden beneath a tangle of brambles. Today, thanks to the hard work of a group of volunteers known as Friends of Green Cliff Cemetery, families can easily visit the graves and the cemetery is once again a peaceful resting place.

The cemetery, which has graves dating from 1857 (when the site was consecrated) to the mid 20th century, gives a fascinating insight into the Honley’s history and the people who lived and died here. Unfortunately, during the latter part of the 20th century, the cemetery had become neglected and overgrown, preventing families from accessing the graves.

In 2017, a Facebook post requesting volunteers to help clear the cemetery has resulted in an amazing transformation.

Family interest

Pamela Fanchamps and Martin Heap, who’s  responded to the request and formed the group that is now known as Friends of Green Cliff Cemetery. Pamela’s interest in the project was very personal, as she explained:

“I often walked past the cemetery, and thought it was a shame it was so overgrown. The brambles were head-height in places. Although I didn’t grow up in Honley, while researching my ancestry I discovered that family on my mother’s side are buried in Green Cliff cemetery, which gave me a real interest in helping to renovate the area.”

The volunteers have cleared the brambles, created pathways between the graves, all of which has improved biodiversity by encouraging native plants and wildflowers to sprout. Their work has certainly been appreciated as more and more people are returning to visit the graves of their family.

Buried secrets

Many interesting stories are buried in Green Cliff cemetery, which is also the resting place of historian Mary Jagger, who wrote ‘A History of Honley’. Martin Heap, who also has relatives buried in Green Cliff Cemetery, explained why the cemetery is so full:

“Tragically, Green Cliff cemetery has a high number of children’s graves. In Victorian times and at the turn of the century, childhood mortality was high. Childhood poverty and illnesses, such as typhoid, cholera, smallpox and diphtheria, which are now treatable or eradicated, were rife. That generation were no stranger to pandemics either, with the Spanish flu pandemic happening at the time of the First World War.”

There are also stories of tragic accidents. A distant cousin of Pamela’s was burnt to death at the age of 4 trying to take a potato, which was boiling to feed the pigs, from a pan on the fire.

Keeping our history alive

A regular group of volunteers now meet every Thursday afternoon, 1pm at Honley cemetery – weather permitting – to continue improving the cemetery. Now that the vegetation and pathways are cleared, work has started on improving the state and safety of the graves.

New people are always welcome, so if you’re interested in helping to keep Honley’s history alive, come along next to the Thursday Volunteer Group.

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