Cemeteries in Shipley are rather like buses, you wait ages and then two come along at once.So how did it come about that Nab Wood Cemetery and its neighbour, Hirst Wood Burial Ground, both opened in 1895?The question of a cemetery for Shipley had been raised 20 years before. “Meetings were held and a number of gentlemen visited sites in the district and then the matter seemed to rest for some time.“But as the churchyard got full, Charlestown cemetery seemed inconvenient to many, there was a feeling expressed three years ago that they should have a cemetery.”Shipley Council’s search for a suitable site started in Windhill but when they found stone only six feet below the surface, they started to negotiate for a piece of land on Lord Rosse’s estate.Burial lawThey eventually agreed to pay £150 per acre for 19 acres 20 poles, “bounded on the north by the Midland railway, on the west by Cottingley Beck (which is the boundary between Shipley and Bingley), on the south by Bingley Road, while on the east the boundary takes a straight line down Nab Wood to the level crossing over the railway at Hirst Wood.” As a compromise, Lord Rosse’s agent agreed to include all the timber on the land in the price.There was one major problem. Under burial laws, if part of the new cemetery was allocated to the established church and consecrated, the council would have to build a separate CofE chapel.
In addition, they would have to pay the vicar a fee, equivalent to what he would have received for a burial at St Paul’s churchyard, every time that section of the cemetery was used.This the council were not willing to do. At one meeting to discuss it, Mr Townsend summed up the general mood when he said: “In consecration itself there is no harm; it is simply a dedication for a solemn purpose. “But when consecration means that we have to pay cash down to the vicar, clerk and sexton it is different. It is taking the hard-earned money of the ratepayers and giving it to those who did not earn it.”In December 1893 a Home Office official inspected the site and on being given his approval, Shipley sought permission to borrow the £10,000 they would need to purchase the land and build a chapel.The loan was approved in July 1894 with a “period of 50 year for the repayment of the purchase money, 30 years for the cost of the buildings and 20 years for the expenses incurred in laying out.”The council’s unwillingness to allow a consecrated section for the Church of England came up again in an article dated 10 February 1894.
“The proposed new cemetery is still the topic of conversation in this district, especially since the announcement made by the vicar, the Rev A W Cribb, that he has taken advantage of the legal freedom caused by the Local Board being declared no longer a Burial Board, to obtain a site for a Church burial ground.He has arranged to buy six acres of land adjoining the proposed Local Board cemetery in Nab Wood district and steps are already being taken to obtain the approval of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.Consecrated“The Home Office cannot refuse their sanction, if the site is not unsuitable, and the approval of the Bishop may be taken for granted. Hence Churchpeople expect to have a consecrated burial ground whatever happens.”On 28 July 1894, the Shipley Times & Express reported that a letter from the vicar had been read out at a council meeting in which he suggested that the Board should either allow part of Nab Wood to be consecrated or that they should sell the church a piece of the land on which they could make a separate cemetery.In the course of a rather dismissive debate, Mr Rhodes put forward the view that the vicar’s motive was “a question of three letters,” to which the chairman responded “Oh, £ s. d., yes, I think it is.”The Rev Cribb was determined his church would have a consecrated burial ground, the council were equally adamant they would allow no more than dedication at Nab Wood. Shipley was about to get two cemeteries, side by side.