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Cemetery House and Mortuary Chapel"

Cemetery House, Mold Road, Buckley



by Charles Duckworth



The story of the above Cemetery is very fascinating - it came into being as a result of the Inter-Denominational strife, which took place in our country during the Industrial Revolution Period over the last two or three centuries.

This struggle affected almost every part of the land in varying ways and degrees, even Buckley did not escape the affects of the struggle between the Established Church and the various non-conformist dissenting bodies.

I would like to open the story by illustrating this with details of some events which took place mainly in the 19th century in East Flintshire, which quite graphically illustrate things which happened in the course of the struggle for religious freedom and toleration.

The first person I wish to mention, who was a leader in this fight on the dissenting side, was a Buckley man - who became very well-known in many ways - Jonathan Catherall. In the 1780's he regularly attended the Parish Church at Hawarden as a member of the established church, to worship. One Sunday, after service in church, he walked down the road to the Cross Tree where a Wesleyan Protestant Dissenter was holding an open-air meeting and was very impressed by the speaker so that he left the Anglican Church and became a "dissenter" with the "Independant" Denomination. He recorded this event on a memorial stone which stands in the Congregational Chapel burial ground in Buckley as follows -


" Mr. Sellers of Chester, with a few friends came in a boat to Sandycroft, and then up to Hawarden to preach, where he was shamefully abused and had rotten eggs thrown at him"


John Sellers was a "Wesleyan Minister and Schoolmaster" from Chester.


From this time on he was constantly in conflict with the Church Authorities and the Law which constantly backed up the Church in its persecution of dissenters. An example of this is shown on one occasion when he went to Court to get as he described it - an injunction against "an intemperate relative" who had been disturbing the work at his Pottery on Buckley Mountain and had been threatening his foreman, Aaron Sharratt with a gun.

This relative, out of spite, revealed to Mr. Justice Crewe, the presiding judge during the case, "That Jonathan did give to, and keep in his house dissenting preachers from time to time" which resulted in the "Judge speaking disrespectfully to my mother and myself" but in spite of this he got his injunction.

Another occasion on which he was harassed by the Bishop of Chester and the local clergy was when he bought a Church Bell from a scrap metal yard in Limerick, Ireland and had it installed in a small belfry which he had erected on the small "Independant" Chapel, which he had built on Hawkesbury Road. The Bishop threatened and told him he was breaking the Law and would have to remove it, which he did, otherwise he would be prosecuted. He was very annoyed at this and was determined that he would have and use, his bell to call his fellow "Independants" to worship at his new Chapel, so he decided to build a "Bell Tower" in the grounds of Hawkesbury - this he did and for awhile used his bell much to annoyance of the Bishop and local clergy. The Bishop of Chester, in order to get at Jonathan, refused to grant him licence for the use of his dining room in his new House - Hawkesbury - for the purpose of Religious services and meetings - before moving into Hawkesbury he had a licence for his previous home at Ewloe Place but the Bishop refused to transfer it and because Jonathan continued to worship in his new home he was taken to Court and fined quite heavily. He followed this by going to London and getting an interview with the then Home Secretary -Lord Hawkesbury - in which he pleaded for a licence, feeling that the Bishop was not being fair and just and Lord Hawkesbury granted him his licence, thus by-passing the Bishop and building up much greater antagonism to his " Independent" Worshippers - but he did not mind because he felt he had received justice.


Another example of this intolerance took place at a somewhat later period in the Parish of Hawarden and on Hawarden Estate, then owned by Sir Stephen Glynne. A number of people in the Broughton and Bretton area who were early founding members of a Methodist New Connexion Cause in the area had been in the habit of holding religious meetings and services in houses, barns etc., in the area and these properties belonged to the Glynne's. In the Glynne Papers in the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth, I came across some interesting correspondence between Sir Stephen Glynne {from London} and his family at Hawarden and from the Methodist Connexion Minister who was stationed in Chester and in charge of a group of worshippers in the Broughton/Bretton area. In one letter, in the course of this correspondence I quote the following sections as follows;


" It appears that they {Members of the Methodist New Connextion Cause}

have been meeting for a number of years - I have heard just under forty years - and they have erroneously presumed that they have the sanction of the Landlord……….

The Law gives me, as owner of the soil, the right to prohibit this congregation, at once and absolutely, from meetings they have been accustomed to. I shall take the opportunity on my next visit home of explaining to them fully that they must desist from this procedure, to which I strongly object……….. after this I am sure they will not expect me, their Landlord to countenance a religious meeting in a state of separation from the established Church and become myself a party to what in my conscience I believe to be wrong and thereby violate my duty to my poorer neighbours. You will have the goodness to make my intention known to them"


Amongst other letters in the collection were one or two written by the Rev. J. Blackwell [on behalf of the congregation] and I would like to quote from one in particular -


"I am a minister of religion, of which a small Society exists in the Broughton area. Both society and Congregation consists mainly of poor people who have met for Social Service in a house for which you, Sir Stephen, are the owner. Not many days ago your agent informed the occupants of the house that religious services must not be held there etc."


Sir Stephen replied -


"My agent acted under my authority in ordering my tenant at Broughton to discontinue the assemblage, lately held in his house for Sectarian purposes. Probably these poor people were, from ignorance incurring the guilt of schism which is undoubtedly the case of separating themselves from the communion of the Church, the divinely appointed channel of grace. It would seem ill become me as a Churchman to sanction the existence of Sectarian Assemblages on my property"


Quite a number of other letters were exchanged along similar lines; however the people of Bretton eventually built themselves a small chapel and became independent of the Glynnes.

I would like to quote on further example which took place in Buckley itself leading to the eventual establishment of the Non- Conformist Cemetery. My research reveals that the first burial ground in Buckley was that of the Independent Chapel built by Jonathan Catherall as mentioned. Prior to this coming into use, interments from Buckley were either at Hawarden or Mold Parish Church graveyards. The next graveyards in Buckley to come into use were those at Buckley St Matthew's Church - built in 1821/2 and Bistre Church in 1841/2 - eleven and twenty one years later.


Persecution of the non-conformists in Buckley by the establishment continued - latterly sporadically - in spite of the increasing tolerance developing in other areas. We find it in Buckley in the 1890's when a new vicar at Bistre Church revealed himself to be a bigoted incumbent. The details of the event appeared in the Chester Chronicle on December 26th 1891 as below -




"The demand for disestablishment in Wales is not only strengthened but being kept alive because again the burial question has been raised by the Rev. T. Hughes - vicar of Bistre Church.

The daughter of James Crofts - a poor man living in a small cottage died and the local Baptist minister appealed to the vicar to allow her to be buried on the Sunday for several reasons. First it was unhealthy to keep her body in so small a house, second, the father had been off work and could not afford to lose another days work and pay, and third, the relatives could attend the funeral better on Sunday than Saturday. To this the lordly Vicar replied by declining to enter into correspondence on the subject and refused Sunday burial without a Doctor's certificate although formerly he had allowed burial on a Sunday with a certificate under the old Act. It is singularly fatuous for Welsh clergy to stir up burial controversies at the very time when an attack on the establishment is being organised."

It makes one ask what kind of Christianity was it that behaved in this way? The examples I have quoted illustrate the state of affairs which existed in our area in the relationships between the Anglicans and the Non-Conformists of all denominations - they were engaged in a constant bitter and intolerant struggle, the Church seeking to dominate and the dissenters seeking freedom from that domination.

When I was young, in the early 1920's there were still traces occasionally of this struggle cropping up from time to time and older people often told me, in graphic terms, of the events which they had witnessed in the latter part of the last century, in which great bitterness was engendered which led to the setting of the Buckley Non-conformist Cemetery. In the last two decades of last century we find a number of ministers and laymen in the area who were very militant with regard to the Church. They all felt deeply involved in the fight for religious freedom and worship. Amongst them was a man named Joseph Davies who actually took the title of Reverend, although I have often been told that he was not a qualified and ordained minister, whether he was or not, he was quite a remarkable man who served the community of Buckley in a great many ways which sought to improve the quality of life in the district - for anyone interested in him, I have written a short biography of him, along with other well-known Buckley personalities, which can be seen at Clwyd Record Office and County Library.


Let me now turn to the facts about the actual foundation of the Cemetery, much of this detailed information coming from the files of "Chester Chronicle" and the first reference is a short report dated October 4th 1890 headed -



A munificent gift by Councillor Joseph Davies


"On Monday evening last, in the course of a speech delivered as Chairman of the meeting held at the Tabernacle Chapel, the Rev. Joseph Davies, County Councillor informed the meeting that he had purchased a piece of land of 2 acres for the sum of £200 which he intended giving to the people of Buckley for a burial ground. The news was greeted with hearty cheering on the part of the audience."


A fortnight later we find a further report - October 18th 1890 in the Chronicle headed -



The Vicar and the Non-conformists


"A vestry meeting was called by the Vicar of Bistre Church - the Rev. H.T. Hughes, to consider providing additional burial ground for the district. The Vicar took the chair. Present at the meeting was Rev. Joseph Davies [County Councillor], Rev. J.V. Stephens [Congregational Minister] and other prominent non-conformist ministers and laymen. Major Gibson said it was only fair that the Vicar should move in the matter of additional burial ground immediately on his appointment as Vicar. The Non-Conformists at the meeting immediately protested and wished to know why the land provided by the Rev. J. Davies was not considered suitable. The Rev. J.V. Stephens moved that the land offered by the Vicar was nor suitable. The Vicar then declined to put any resolutions to the meeting and the Rev. D. Davies [Baptist Minister] then asked why they had been called together?

To this the Vicar replied that he had called the meeting to inform them what he had done in the matter and to be perfectly above board. This led to a long and discursive talk, which to say the least imparted little or no instruction on the matter under consideration. At last the Vicar complained that he evening had gone on for two hour and as nothing had been achieved, he left the chair and this brought he meeting to a close.


These two meetings revealed the antagonism on both sides- the Vicar trying to stop the non-conformists' scheme before it got off the ground and prevent them acting in such a way that it would make them independent of his facilities, showing that they certainly did not trust him - a mistrust which I revealed earlier in this article, when twelve months after these two meetings the Vicar behaving intransigently in the case of the burial of the Croft child in 1891.


Six months after these two meetings we find that progress has been made in the setting of the new cemetery - May 2nd 1891. The Chronicle gave details as follows:-


Buckley Non-Conformist Cemetery.


On Monday last a meeting of the Trustees of the New Non -Conformist Cemetery was held at the Cosy Café when Mr. Thomas Jones [the headmaster of the Buckley Board School] presided and put the following resolution which was unanimously agreed to -

"That the Ministers of the District plus twelve other men, who are members of the local non-conformist churches, be added to the Trustees to form a managing board."


And a second decision was taken "that a Public Meeting be held so that a Memorial Stone should be laid and the neighbourhood divided into districts for the purpose of collecting funds for the maintenance and building of the New Cemetery. It was stated that collectors were already at work collecting"

The Rev. Jos. Davies announced "that the land had cost £200 and that another £170 was wanted to pay the cost of fencing same and to build a chapel on the site."


So the scheme was launched and great interest was taken in the project, so much so, that it was regarded as something to celebrate in quite a big way and with a man like Joseph Davies in the scheme, he saw to it that it was organised to impress the opposition to their scheme. The Chronicle reports this celebration in details as follows -


July 8th 1891


"A New Non -Conformist Cemetery"

A Great Demonstration


On Tuesday last was a very important day in the History of Non- Conformity in Buckley. For in addition to the usual demonstration of Sunday School Scholars [Jubilee Day], this day was fixed for the laying of the foundation stones of a New Public Cemetery for the district. A new burial place for the dissenting branch of the inhabitants of the district has long been needed and this has been met by the generosity of the Rev. Jos. Davies. C.C. [a Congregational Minister] and County Councillor for the Bistre Division of Buckley in Flintshire who gave a piece of land of about two acres in extent, and valued at £200 for the purpose of this Cemetery.

The land is situated near the Centre of the village and there is to be a Chapel for the conducting of burial services on the site as well as a caretaker's house. The building is being carried out by Mr. R. D. Davies - contractor of Buckley and will be constructed in buff and red bricks to a design prepared by Mr. R. Owen, architect of Liverpool. A committee has been formed with 24 members to conduct the business of the Cemetery and they have been selected from amongst the following denominations - Congregational, Baptists, Welsh Methodists, New Connextion, Primitive Methodists, Wesleyan and Presbyterians.

The money for the new fencing and building etc., is being raised by voluntary subscriptions and collections in the town. The donor of the land is giving in addition a handsome subscription of £20 and all the gifts which have been coming in have been greatly appreciated by the non-conformist residents of the district. Up to date, a considerable sum has already been collected. A sum of £10 has been received from Samuel Smith the County's M.P. and 21/- also from Mr. J. Herbert Lewis.

The day started as usual with the procession of Sunday School Scholars, who assembled at the Cross and proceeded by way of the toll Bar to the Square and then returned to the Cemetery ground. The Schools which took part in the procession and demonstration were the Bistre and Pentrobin New Connextion Methodists, Tabernacle and Drury Primitive Methodists, Congregational, the two Baptist Chapels [Daisy Hill and Nant Mawr], Brunswick and Square Wesleyan Chapels, Zion Presbyterians, Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, Alltami Primitive Methodists.

The procession was under the direction of Mr. Joseph Taylor and he was assisted by Messrs. T.H. Jones, John Lewis, Ed. Williams, & T. A. Astbury. On arrival at the ground the scholars formed into a line around the site of the building and then the stone-laying began. Mr. Joseph Griffiths presided over this event and the first stone was laid by Miss Lilian Taylor [the little daughter of Mr. Taylor of Alltami] and she placed £5 on the stone. The second stone was laid by Mr. Thomas Parry of Mold - £5 also on the stone. The third stone was laid by Mr. James Reney [of Connah's Quay] with 21/- on the stone. Mr. Charles Gerrard [of Ewloe Green] and Mr. G.A. Parry. C.C. laid the next two stones with £5 on each. The final stone was laid by the superintendants of the Sunday Schools and bore the following inscription :-


"Laid on behalf of the Sunday Schools that formed the procession on July14th 1891"


Collections were made by each of the day Schools towards the cost of this stone, who were on the ground at this event. It resulted in a very satisfactory result details as follows:-


Welsh Chapel £1- 17 -5 Congregational £1 - 7- 9

Tabernacle £1- 1- 0 Brunswick 13 -4

Zion 13- 0 Alltami 12- 4 ½

Pentrobin 10- 6 Baptist [Daisy Hill] 9- 6

Square 8- 7 Drury Lane 8-4

Nant Mawr Baptists 3-8


Making a grand total of £8 - 5 - 5 !/2.


Plus £2 - 0- 10 collected in the town during the day. After all the stones were laid the Rev. W. Hobley [Presbyterian Minister] wound up the ceremony with prayer and the procession re-formed and each Sunday Scholl went to its own quarters where tea was served, the proceedings were favoured with beautiful weather. The Secretary of the Committee which organised the event so successfully was the Rev. D. Davies [the Baptist Minister].


In the opening paragraphs of this article I have selected a number of events which took place in the Parishes of Hawarden and Mold when Buckley was divided between these two parishes - religiously and administratively. It was not an independent area in the 18th and 19th Centuries. These events which I have narrated

Were examples of the constant struggle, engendered by the religious intolerance and bigotry which resulted eventually in the establishment of the Non-Conformist Cemetery. I have followed this by reproducing several interesting reports from the files of the "Chester Chronicle" which has graphically described the exciting events in the final struggles during the years 1890/1 when the Buckley Non-conformists defied the established Church in the person of the Vicar of Bistre - Rev. H.T. Hughes. They decided to free themselves from the indignity imposed on them by the incumbent, by setting up their own burial ground.


I want now to continue the story from 1890/1 - the date of the setting up of the Cemetery - up to the present time. However, unfortunately the records from the beginning have been either lost or destroyed. The only document continuing from that foundation is the register of interments. This book is dated 1891 and is described as the "Record of the names of Persons buried in the Buckley Non-Conformist Cemetery". The present book is not actually the original book but a new one which was brought into being in 1930 by the officials at that time. They were Mr. H. Threadgold [Secretary] and Mr. Ernest H. Davies [Treasurer].

They copied in all the details of each interment starting from the very beginning - a period of forty years and later officials since, have carefully made entries since 1930.


In front of this register are recorded several simple rules or regulations governing the Cemetery and setting out the responsibility of families with graves as follows:-

Record of sites for graves reserved by families and individuals at rear of the book.

Any grave sites reserved, the Committee request the payment of a fee of 5/- or same.

Any kind of Memorial Stones entering the grounds a fee of £1-2-0 must be paid to the caretaker.

Receipts will be given by caretakers for all fees duly received.

The Committee request that all owners of graves in the ground keep same in good order or make provision with the "caretaker" to do so when a small fee will be expected to be paid to him for doing so.

All receptacles for flowers and old withered wreaths to be removed from graves and taken to the bin provided for the said purpose.

Every owner of graves to do their utmost to preserve the order and tidiness of the Cemetery Grounds.


By Order of the Committee


The register reveals that there have been 804 interments - from 1890/1 to 1982 - a matter of 92 years, eight years short of a century and the dates of the first four, with their ages, were omitted - the entries gave name, address and name of Minister conducting the funeral ceremony. The first minister being the Rev. Samuel Johnson, who at that time was the local Primitive Methodist minister stationed in Buckley. I have endeavoured to make an analysis of the interments at the Cemetery based on the register since the opening in 1891 and in doing so have based the analysis on each decade starting from that date, through the 1900's and each decade up to 1982 - the date on which it was transferred to the Alyn & Deeside District Council, who from this year will be fully responsible for the running and maintenance of grounds and property.


Some very interesting facts emerge from this analysis. Figures which should interest Social Workers and Historians, especially those interested in the Industrial Revolution and its effects on people, the quality and length of their life and many related questions.


One fact which comes out of this analysis is the change in the death rate at different ages, from the maternity aspect of life to the old age - in fact it reveals the affect of the new thinking about life and social conditions in the country which resulted from the agitation of people who were concerned to change and uplift the quality and lengthen people's lifespan. Such persons as Shaftesbury, Barnardo, Keir Hardie, Barbara & J.L. Hammond [with their pen] as socially conscious individuals. The results of their efforts is shown in the analysis of the register - which shows the increasing life-expectancy throughout the Community in Buckley. It is very similar to the situation throughout the country - perhaps in Buckley, life was very slightly better than in the big towns and their slums but wherever one looks one finds the same trends everywhere.






Buckley Non-Conformist Cemetery


Decade Babies 7 -15 yrs 16-25yrs 26-40yrs 41-65yrs over 65 Total burials

Up to 6 yrs per decade.


1893/1903 43 6 105 18 13 131

1903/1913 32 0 65 14 18 102

1913/1923 21 0 2 4 1325 72

1923/19335 3 63 25 24 66

1933/19439 1 27 2443 86

1943/19533 1 34 2650 87

1953/19633 1 24 2851 89

1963/19732 0 0 0 2956 87

1973/1981-2 1 0 0 2 1541 59

1981/21 0 0 0 2 2 5

[latter part prior ___

To take over] 804


These figures reveal several very interesting facts which are in line with statistics for each group as follows;





Up to 6 years old - 96 deaths over these decades giving average 32 per decade.

1963/1981 -2

3 " " "" 1 " "



7 to 15 years old 6 " " " " 2 " "


1 " " " " ? " "



15/25 year olds 18 " " " " 6 " "


2 " " " " ? " "



26/40 year olds 14 " " " " 4 plus per decade


6 " " " " 2




41/65 year olds 43 " " " " 14 " "

1963/1981-2 72 " " " " 24 " "



Over 65's 56 " " " " 19 " "

1963/1981-2 128 " " " " 43 " "



Let us look at what happened over the years and to briefly point out the reason for these changes-


In 1893/1923 - the number of deaths amongst children up to 6 years over the three decades was 96 - an average of 32 per annum. Whereas, in the last three decades - 1963/1981-2 it had gone down to 3 only, or average one only per decade.

The other end of life - the aged - covering the same periods - the over 65's during 1893/1923 - show 56 deaths over the decade, an average of 19 per annum. Whereas,

in 1963/1981-2 there were 128 deaths - an average per decade of 43.


These figures show how the new Social Conscience during this century, with its caring and compassion down the years, has resulted in prolonged and improved life, the quality of life from infancy to old age. In the last three decades only 3 under 6's died and the age at death instead of being men and women worn out between the 40's and 65's they were now living much longer. In fact I found a very high proportion of deaths of over 65's were really over 75 and upwards. This raises a very interesting question - could a reversal of these figures take place in the 1980's because of what looks like an incurable recession, calling for cuts in the ?????? services which have come into being and contributed to the great improvement the figures reveal.


These figures reveal many other interesting points, such as the fact the interments amongst those aged seven to forty years were low right through the whole period - this being the time of life when youth and up to what one might call the beginning of middle age, people were physically at their best. One question of interest is the fact 'Cremation' has become a very established custom these days and this being so, no doubt, if cremation had not become a norm there might have been a great many more interments.


There is not much more to say on this matter -because of lack of Minute and Account Books etc., covering the period - the only minute book started in 1956 and its contents - election of Trustees and the numerous day to day decisions which had to be taken including decisions regarding the property, planning a new lay-out for the burial ground and raising the necessary fund to maintain the property etc.

With regard to the account books these reveal that in the 1930's [when present account book began] it was costing an average of just £30 per annum to run but these running costs have naturally gone up. In particular, recently through inflation, forced the Trustees to persuade Alyn & Deeside District Council to take it over as a very important public service. In 1956 interment fees were fixed as


Interment Fee £2-15-0 Charges for 2nd

Charge for opening £3- 0-0 opening £2-10-0

Grave [1st time] " 3rd £2- 5-0

Purchase site £2 - 0- 0 Stone entrance £3 -3-0

Selection of site £1- 0 -0 fee

Minister's Fee 10-0


£9- 5- 0




I have avoided mentioning, as far as possible, members of Trusts [listing] and other members of the Public who have served in the running and what is most important , in the financing, amongst whom one must remember the ladies attached to the Non-Conformist Chapels who gave yeoman service in financing the Trustees when ever they asked them to raise funds.

Down the years literally hundreds of ministers of religion and lay preachers have officiated at funerals including Roman Catholic priests as well as Anglicans, since toleration allowed this.


I would say in conclusion, the setting up of this cemetery was a great service for the Non-Conformists of Buckley in days when life was hard and intolerant - in fact it has served members of all religious faiths and within its grounds lie several unknown persons.


The final meeting of Trustees was held in the Bistre Methodist Sunday School on Thursday evening January 28th at 7.30pm when all members signed the conveyance which transferred the property and grounds to the Alyn & Deeside District Council. There were only seven surviving trustees all of whom were ageing and the final decision they took was that after paying solicitors for their work the balance of cash left should be sent to the Christian Aid Movement to help its great work.



Author: Duckworth, Charles


Year = 1980

Building = Domestic

Extra = 1980s

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