Mystery of abandoned Salford graveyard where no-one has been buried for 40 years

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Salford city council, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford and even property giant Peel all say they do not own the site on Peel Green Road.

The mystery surrounding the ownership of a Roman Catholic graveyard last used in 1940, that has prompted an amateur historian to write to the Pope, has deepened after new security gates were fitted.

As highlighted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) last week, history enthusiast Craig Ellis voiced safety fears over how the Barton Upon Irwell Roman Catholic Graveyard was easily accessible and was being used as a drugs den.

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Salford city council, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford and even property giant Peel all say they do not own the site on Peel Green Road, near the old Barton Bridge.

Yet, the rusting gates which last week could be easily opened to enter the cemetery where many priests and entire families are buried have now been replaced and secured with a new padlock.

Craig, a 52-year-old IT consultant, has conducted extensive research into the background of the overgrown graveyard and has been unable to establish who owns it or who is responsible for its upkeep.

The 30 metre by 30 metre cemetery was formerly owned by the de Trafford family, who were big landowners around Peel Green for hundreds of years. But when the family offloaded the burial ground to the Catholic church in the 19th century, the necessary paperwork for ownership to be secured was never completed, meaning the graveyard is now owned by no one.

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Inside the abandoned Barton Upon Irwell GraveyardInside the abandoned Barton Upon Irwell Graveyard
Inside the abandoned Barton Upon Irwell Graveyard

A spokesperson for the Salford diocese said: “We have not put those new gates and it is not our property.”

They said that a lot of the de Trafford land had been acquired by Peel, but a spokesperson for the company said they did not own the site and had not fitted the gate.

Likewise, a spokesperson for the city council told the LDRS: “No, Salford city council didn’t fit the gate.”

Meanwhile, Craig has now dispatched his letter to Pope Francis. It has been seen by the LDRS. In it, he addresses the Pope as ‘Your Holiness’ saying: “It turns out that no landowner is documented for the cemetery – I’ve confirmed with the UK Land Registry – and it’s been left abandoned for 80 years when the local Roman Catholic church stopped funerals there because the cemetery was full.

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“The main issue is the cemetery is abandoned and needing repair…People use the site to drink alcohol and take drugs, which is very disrespectful, especially as Catholic priests are buried there. I have pleaded with the local council to secure the site…The [Salford] diocese has told me ‘it’s not our issue’. I’ve come to you in desperation and prayer to highlight this sad state of affairs.”

Nearby neighbour Peter Mort, 52, said the graveyard had been an issue for local residents for a number of years. You’d think someone would want to tidy it up and look after it,” he said. “It’s such a sad situation.”

A padlock has appeared on the Barton Upon Irwell GraveyardA padlock has appeared on the Barton Upon Irwell Graveyard
A padlock has appeared on the Barton Upon Irwell Graveyard

Salford councillor for Barton and Winton John Mullen and who lives behind the graveyard said he disagreed with Craig.

He said: “Every single day I pass it [the graveyard], and I can assure people that if there were any issues with it, they would be reported very promptly. I have to say I am surprised at the sudden appearance of the gates. I don’t know where they came from or who funded them, but I can assure you it wasn’t the council.

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“I’d be surprised if it was the Catholic diocese because they’ve been in denial for the last 40 years about ownership.

“And in the last 20 years as a councillor, when I’ve been pressing them once a year they still tell me that they have no deeds or ownership documents regarding this piece of land. They do seem to have old records of who’s buried here, though.

Craig outside the graveyardCraig outside the graveyard
Craig outside the graveyard

“I’ve no idea what’s going to happen, but here’s one thing. If someone will step forward and claim ownership of the land, they can then pick up the £20,000 minimum [bill] charges that the council has placed on the land for the works done to keep it in order for the last 20 years, plus we would then have someone we would happily pursue to bring it back up to standard.”

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