The Lowertown Wesleyan old burial ground at Oxenhope is situated on the north or left-hand side of Denholme Road if facing uphill, just above the junction with Jew Lane. Originally the burial ground adjoined the Lowertown Wesleyan Chapel, which had been built in 1805, and they were the first church and graveyard in Oxenhope.
The first burial was that of Mary Greenwood of Shayclough, which took place on the 14th May 1807. Averaging about five burials a year, it became evident by the middle of the century that more land was required and in 1852 a new Wesleyan burial ground was formed in land on the opposite side of Denholme Road. Both the burial grounds were in use at the same, the last burial in the old one took place in 1908 while the new one continued until 1979.
In 1891 a large imposing Methodist chapel seating 700 was opened on Station Road and the original chapel sold and converted into a mill. This was in use for most of the next century, but in August 1990 it succumbed to a mill fire and was demolished the following day. When the mill came down the little burial ground was revealed.
The following year the mill site was offered for sale as building land. In addition, the adjoining burial ground, still owned by the Methodist Church was also to be sold to go with the housing scheme. Sisters Dorinda Kinghorn and Norma Mackrell, descendants of Jonas Hey who was buried there in 1807, put in a tender that was accepted and they bought the graveyard. Shortly afterwards, a public meeting was held at the Methodist Church in West Drive attended by many local families who wholeheartedly gave their 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 and interest in family and village history. In 1999 the Trust also bought the Horkinstone Baptist Burial Ground and the name of the Trust was changed to The Oxenhope Old Burial Grounds Trust.
Since 1991 there has been a programme of restoration and maintenance of the burial ground. 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 Keighley & District Family History Society has also given much appreciated assistance. Dr Ian Dewhirst, MBE, has on many occasions helped the Trust in their money raising events by giving his very popular talks on local history. On such occasions the Trust arranged exhibitions of photographs, memorabilia and family history. With the current popularity of genealogy the Trust often receives enquiries about old Oxenhope families.
As well as being an architectural heritage site of historical interest the graveyard provides an important green space in the village.
This book has been produced to commemorate the two hundred years anniversary of the formation of the Lowertown Wesleyan Old Burial Ground. It traces the history and development of the old Wesleyan Chapel and burial ground at Lowertown, Oxenhope, as well as providing much information on life in the village at that time.
The book contains:
-A history of the first Lowertown Wesleyan Chapel and Burial Ground
-A tour of the Burial Ground, including photographs of each memorial with monumental Inscriptions and extra information on individuals
-Extracts from the Burial Registers
-Map of place names
-A timeline for Oxenhope from 1807 to 1908, giving glimpses of what life was like in Oxenhope during the period the burial ground was in use, with information on many individuals, places and events.
-Old photographs of people and places.
The authors, Norma Mackrell and her sister Dorinda Kinghorn, were responsible for saving the burial ground from closure and redevelopment in 1991 and for the formation of the Trust.
All proceeds from the book go towards the upkeep of the two burial grounds for which the Trust is responsible.