The Trust was formed in 1991 when it became known that the village’s oldest burial ground was to be sold at the same time as the former mill site that surrounded the burial ground on three sides. Perseverance Mill was created in the late 1800s from the conversion of the original Lowertown Wesleyan Chapel and attached cottage. Over the years the burial ground was completely neglected and overgrown.
In August 1990 the mill, which formed the boundary of the road with no pavement, succumbed to a fire and was demolished the following day due to the danger of collapse. The following year the mill site was offered for sale as building land with the potential for new development. The adjoining burial ground, still owned by the Methodist Church, was also to be sold to go with the scheme. Sisters Dorinda Kinghorn and Norma Mackrell, descendants of Jonas Hey who was buried there in 1807, put in a tender that was accepted. Shortly afterwards a public meeting was held, attended by many local families with connections to the burial ground, that wholeheartedly gave support for the preservation of the graveyard. The Lowertown Old Burial Ground Trust was formed and six Trustees appointed, all of whom had ancestors buried there and all with an interest in family and village history.
Working parties were organised to cut down trees damaging the gravestones and remove the brambles and undergrowth that enveloped the site. Graves and walls have been repaired, a new iron entrance gate provided, bulbs planted and a hedge formed along one of the boundaries. Gravestones that had been covered up for decades were revealed and illegible inscriptions brushed clean.
In 1999 the Trust was able to buy the Horkinstone Baptist Burial Ground with the aid of a generous donation from two descendants of the Crabtree family whose memorial is one of the largest on the site. The name of the Trust was therefore changed to The Oxenhope Old Burial Grounds Trust.
In addition to receiving donations towards the maintenance of the burial grounds, there have been many successful money-raising events. The Keighley & District Family History Society continues to give an annual donation and much appreciated assistance. Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE has on many occasions helped the Trust to raise funds by giving his very popular talks on local history. On such occasions the Trust arranged exhibitions of photographs, memorabilia and family history, and for several years a newsletter was produced containing articles of local history and research into Oxenhope families. Support and donations have come from far and wide, not just from Oxenhope and Yorkshire but also from Devon, London, Norfolk, Cambridge, Ireland, Canada and Australia.
The Trust holds regular working parties, with a programme of restoration and maintenance for the burial grounds, and volunteers are always welcome. With the current popularity of genealogy the Trust often receives enquiries about old Oxenhope families.
In 2007, to mark two hundred years of the burial ground, a book “Lowertown Old Burial Ground and Life in Oxenhope 1807-1908” was written and copies have been sold as far afield as Canada, U.S.A., South Africa, and Australia showing how far some of the descendants of Oxenhope folk have travelled.